In the darkened living room of the Super-Hero Shared House, a digital clock, bookshelved by an ashtray, empty beer cans, and discount comic books, flashes from 2:25 to 2:36. The front door opens, and a haggard Aecca Decca enters, and closes and locks the door with studied concentration through unfocused eyes.
He passes through the kitchen with a staggered cadence, opens the fridge, stares, pulls out a bag of soft tortillas, removes one and a bag of shredded cheddar. The cheese is spread on the tortilla as if rationed, and then thrown in the toaster oven. Decca throws the cheese back in the fridge, pours a pint of water, takes a long, deep pull, and goes to the bathroom.
Reemerging, he snags his toasted quesadilla, heads into the pantry room in the back of the house. A torn piece of cardboard from a beer box hangs above the doorway, "CHAMBER OF REFLECTIONS" scribbled in thick permanent marker. Aecca/Decca closes the door behind him, sheets of red transparent plastic taped to its outward-facing side, behind him. He bends over and plugs a cord into a socket. Outside the door, X-mas lights blink the words "IN USE."
Aecca tugs at a shoelace overhead and an overhead bulb, also covered in red plastic bathes the room in crimson. Sitting down at the desk crammed in the back between an expired case of canned vegetables and a stack of old skin mags, he keys open a drawer and removes a spiral notebook.
"War Journal" is written on the cover. He opens to a tabbed page and fishes a pen out of a broken coffee mug. He begins to scrawl and scribble furiously.
Five minutes later, Mudman, Jerry Rig, and El Humidor arrive home, a couple 12 packs of cheap swill in tow. Mudman tosses one box in the fridge, while Rig opens the other on the coffee table in the living room. Humidor tinkers with the CD player, which is leaning at a 45 degree angle against the wall because the tray is messed up. After a few failed attempts he fishes an cassette out of a shoebox, looks at the faded hand-written labels, shrugs, and pops it in the 'deck. Nodding in approval when some metal begins to emerge from the mismatched speakers, he snatches a beer out of the box and perches on the nearby chair.
Rig's on the sofa. Mudman, as is his style, on a wooden barstool, a foot on the coffee table. Rig and Mudman are talking about the night's events: the merits of tipping a full`dollar even when just buying the cheapest beer; mocking the "amateur" drinkers while wishing the cute female ones would stick around longer; recounting the evening's bouts over the jukebox and the pinball machines. As all three of the 'mates delve into their second beer and the verisimilitudes and vagaries of the nights pinball matches the IN USE light goes off and Aecca exits the Chamber of Reflection.
Plopping down next to Jerry Rig, Aecca/Decca cracks a beer and tries to tune into the conversation in progress. El Humidor was just saying...
"So you are telling me there are, in fact, two additional episodes in the original sequencing of the Evangelion?"
Rig, nodding, "yep. First time I saw that series, it was on the VHS on borrowed from a friend who had borrowed it from a friend in some valued possession swap resembling a hostage trade. Like, 'you can borrow this but I'm gonna need something equally special to you in collateral,'" solemn nods around the coffee table at this time-proven tactic, "and that series of tapes ended with a two-part final episode that's basically a series of stills and a ton of voice-over postulating what happens."
Mudman, now, "so the movies basically replace those episodes in the canon?"
Rig, again, "exactly, or that would seem to be the intent of the creators, as later DVD releases of the original TV series simply drop those two episodes altogether."
El Humidor tacks a slightly different direction, "I knew this guy once, he would buy VHS sets of anime from the mall store, take them home, make a copy, put the copy back in the packaging, re-shrink wrap it, and return it for trade value, and then get another box set and run the whole scheme again. Shelves upon shelves of unboxed anime, glistening black plastic."
"The re-shrinkwrap scheme's old, but I've never heard of swapping the tape for a copy," opines Rig, "ballsy."
"Is this bullshit what you guys were yucking it up about the whole time I needed your help?!" Aecca/Decca suddenly cuts in.
"Uh, what is this you are talking about?" queries El Humidor.
"Dudes," Aecca looking around at all of them, "I was totally cornered, and needed you guys to give me an exit strategy, and you totally left me hanging!"
"What are you talking about?" asks Rig.
"You were talking the bartender," Humidor exhales a puff of smoke.
"The Ogress..." intones Mudman.
Rig and Humidor, together, "what?"
"He was in the net of an Ogress," clarifies Mudman. Then, "a she-ogre".
"Uh," says Aecca, "kinda, yeah, she was totally a she-ogre."
"You were talking? To a woman?" bewilders El Humidor. A pattering of chuckles.
"So," Aecca's demeanor shifting to oratory-mode, "we were all sitting at the bar, then Humidor and Mudman went and played pinball. Me and Rig keep chatting for a bit, remember? And then you went and put quarters in the jukebox, and then started watching their pinball game. I chat with the bartender for a bit, and then he goes away, and I'm sorta staying put, finishing the beer I'm on so I can get another and thinking about getting up and playing some pinball, and the person next to me, who I haven't paid much attention to me, says something. Hey, gimme one of those."
El Humidor tosses Decca a cigarette, brings another new one to his lips, "who was sitting next to you, I cannot remember?" he muses, picking up his lighter.
"Older barfly, I recall," offers Rig, "but not a regular."
"She-ogre," repeats Mudman.
The cassette deck noisily clicks to a stop before the song on the mix tape has ended.
Humidor and Aecca light up, the space above the coffee table shadowed in blue smoke, Decca shakes out his match, ashes a few times and continues, "so I says, 'sorry,' and she says, 'you're cute!'"
"Heyyyyy! Yeah!" says Humidor. Rig seems lost in memory.
"So now I'm actually making eye contact, and she's like, 40? Maybe a real rough late 30s? Her hairs all mussed. She's got too much make up on. She looks kinda wasted."
"Your type, through and through, Humidor!" chortles Jerry Rig.
"Kiss my ass, Rig," counters Humidor.
"And she's got a lazy eye, though maybe that's the drunk thing. She tells me I'm cute, again, slurred, and I notice her`lips are kinda permanently in a sort of snarl, which gives me a good look at her snagly teeth."
"Good. God. Jesus," swears El Humidors, his faces recoiling with disgust.
"Now I remember her," says Rig, shuddering, "when you were talking to me she was ogling you, but you couldn't see cause you were looking at me. It creeped me out!"
"You're telling me!" agrees Aecca, pulling the second to last beer out of the box, "I was like..." he holds his hand up in front of his face, a few inches from his nose, puts on his best terrified expression.
"I'll be honest," testifies Rig, looking around the table, "I went to the jukebox to get away from her. I could tell she was on the prowl. I was hoping by being by yourself you would follow over to the pinball or the jukebox."
"Yeah, that was stupid of me," Aecca, shaking his head.
Humidor cracks the last beer, "so, how did you respond to zee advances..." swirling his cigarette in the air, as if hoping to lasso a word, "of dis, dis... 'she-ogre,' as Mudman describes her." When the evening begins to lapse into early, early morning, El Humidor, twice-saddled by exhaustion and intoxication (he and his co-hort housemates have been drinking steadily since late afternoon), begins to slip into a bizarre accent, possibly entirely of his own invention.
"Well," Aecca Decca swigs more of his beer, "hey, while you're up?" at Jerry Rig, who's headed to retrieve a new beer from the second twelve-pack from the fridge. "Well, I do, after all, want to be respectful to, um, my (ahem!) elders," pauses for effect, looking about. Rig deposits the second box of beer on the coffee table. "But I'm trying very hard to not`let her get too close to me, cause I'm totally freaked she's gonna try and plant a wet one on me."
Decca exhales, butts his cigarette out, takes a drink. The room is oddly quiet.
"So I'm trying to exit the situation gracefully, and to be polite, but without making too much eye contact, and after finishing that first beer and getting the second, I'm finally able to jingle some quarters in my hand (which I received as change for the second beer) and join you fellows at the pinball."
"The veery definition of tactful retreat, yes," nods El Humidor, now slouching, arms partially crossed across his torso. The clock flashes over to 3:11. They always do this, buy too much beer right after bar o'clock, get the "after-party" rolling strong, then flame out quickly.
"So yeah, I kept the corner of my eye on her for a game or two and she kept looking over at me and then she finally left."
"A bullet dodged," concludes Mudman.
"Yeah, like, thank god, y'know. Man, that face," Aecca shudders, somewhat.
An awkward silence. Everyone's tired, but no one wants to admit it, or to surrender the night.
Jerry Rig snaps his fingers, "I've got it."
The other three arch eyebrows, swivel heads in Rig's direction.
"What?" El Humidor fishes the last cigarette out of its crumpled pack.
"I know... who she, the 'she-ogre,' is."
"If you met herr before," Humidor, lazily lighting his cigarette in fully reclined position, as if a Roman emperor, "how could you forgeet a face like that, no?"
"She works at the Safeway!" declares Rig loudly, sending a minature robotic wardrobe, previously hidden under an endtable, scurrying across the floor and into the kitchen.
El Humidor, who has never liked Rig's "furnimircobots," startles, attempts propel himself up from his slouchy recline on the floor in front of the sofa. Cursing, "ah, jeezhus, fugging little dollhouse freek things," he manages to bang his knee mightily into the coffee table.
A cascading cacophony ensues: the half-dozen plus empty beer cans, two ashtrays, assorted cassettes, lighters, bottle openers, empty boxes of cigarettes, tv remotes, and the box with the remaining full beers all scatter off the table and onto the floor. Lunging, the housemates swear and snatch at 'wounded soldiers' spilling their stale innards out on the floor or at unopened cans beginning slow rolls into the bathroom.
The effect is immediate. The after-party is over. As spilt beer is swabbed up of the already sticky floor, lazy obscenities and tired accusations spark dully about the room. El Humidor, in a sulky huff, goes out onto the porch with the un-spilt remainder of his beer for a smoke. Jerry Rig flips the TV on to catch whatever animated nostalgia is available. Mudman quietly slips away to his basement abode.
As the clock blinks over to 3:35, Aecca begins to trundle up the stairwell, to kick off his shoes and collapse into bed, when he is intercepted by Humidor, returning from his nightcap smoke.
"Hey, so what did happen, to the Ogre-lady?" Humidor asks.
Aecca shakes his head sleepily, "Top it all off, I think she stole my hoodie."
Words & drawings by D.D. Tinzeroes