1. AFTERNOON. YESTERDAY.
"Why is there no beer?"
"I did the dishes."
"Well. I purely, sincerely and thoroughly do not give one shit about the ass-diddling dishes, being that I haven't any desire to cook right at the moment...but I surely do have a desire to drink a beer...and thus do I append one complaint to you, sir: I do wish you had not finished drinking all the beer."
"Dishes needed to be done." A shrug. Akka/Dekka left the kitchen oblivious to the narrowed eyes and knotted neck muscles brandished by Jerry Rig. Rig inhaled, shudderingly, exhaled furiously: "This. Ain't. Over."
El Humidor's face appeared at the window, wide-eyed and disheveled. A general air of pleading. Distracted, "What's up with Humidor?"
"He's locked out."
Mudman shambles in from the front. "Why is the front door unlocked?"
Dekka, uncharacteristically philosophical, "Well, he thinks he's locked out."
"Should I go tell him the door's open?"
"No, 'Man! If we do that, he'll never learn."
From the living room, an ironic "Tough but fair."
This wholly unacceptable mention of fairness caused Rig to remember his rage and storm into the living room, launching a salvo, "Anyways, what's this bullshit about dishes equaling beer?"
Shaking his head, Mudman made his way downstairs, to drink from a private reserve of cellar-temperature brew.
"I cooked for everybody yesterday. I did dishes for everybody today. So I helped myself to 'everybody's' beer."
"How do you mean?"
"I cook all the time. Nobody does my dishes. I don't take anybody's beer."
"Yeah, Jerry...but you don't cook for other people."
"Nobody asks you to cook. Nobody asked you to do the dishes."
"You eat the food I cook."
"That doesn't obligate me to clean the dishes you freely dirtied."
"Whatever. Bitch all you want about not having any beer, but you're bitching with a clean kitchen and a full belly."
There are some battles that must be postponed. On his way out the door for a sixer, Rig spat "Don't think you're taxing any of these beers for some imaginary debt..."
2. EVENING. DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY.
Akka/Dekka stood at the stove, his posture erect, his face a chiseled mask of intensity. His tongue jutted from his mouth's corner as he worked his multi-tool's can opener around the lip of a can.
"What are you doing?"
Dekka's history remains largely a matter of conjecture. What was then known was that he was something of a survivalist, certainly no boy scout but generally prepared. And in that house, he was by far the finest cook.
Rig mused, not for the first time, "Somebody should really buy a can opener," as Akka/Dekka slit open a brick of Velveeta. He deposited same like a buoy atop a sea of recently decanned chili, and set the burner on stun. By way
of stirring, he'd poke at the slumping, miry cheese with his knife blade. Rig and Akka/Dekka loafed and leaned at their leisure as the cauldron heated.
No overt greetings were issued upon El Humidor's arrival. This was not to be taken as reflecting any lack of affection or esteem; men such as these knew, always, that their bonds would ever be mysterious to the undisciplined rabble they were sworn to defend. When their dire tasks were accomplished, why, then there would be time aplenty for revelry, relaxation, and for the unfettered commerce of pleasantries offered and accepted. Such times, however, were scarce and desired, therefore precious, and this time was decidedly not such a time.
In an even tone, perhaps clipped and harsh to a civilian, Dekka said merely "Did you meet with success?"
Excitedly, for he possessed an energy and surging ebullience no propriety could constrain, "I did!" Humidor held a sandbag aloft. "The tater tots are here!"
"And the chips?"
"Tortilla chips. For the nachos."
"You're making nachos?"
"Not now, Jerry. Humidor, I asked you to pick up some tortilla chips. I specified this--we agreed that potato chips are delicious but that tactically speaking, on an operational level, at this time, tortilla chips were the best option."
"I...I must have misheard you." The depths of El Humidor's chagrin knew no bounds. The duration of his chagrin, however, was bounded by the limits of the last sentence he'd uttered. Brightening--much as a star brightens when it goes nova--"They were on sale! And this will probably work too!"
"You... misheard 'tortilla chips' as 'tater tots'?"
"Not now, Jerry," quoted Humidor with an immense air of satisfaction.
"Well, needs must as the devil does." Humidor and Rig exchanged bewildered looks as Dekka bent to the oven controls. "We shall press them into service. A cook goes to the kitchen with the ingredients he was, not the ingredients he might want to have, or the ingredients he might wish to have."
"Give it here." Akka/Dekka tore open the bulging sack with his bare hands, and scattered the tiny cylinders across a battered baking sheet. Somehow more like depth charges consigned to hostile seas than an aerial bombardment.
"Well. This is something I know a little about." Rig turned his cap around so that the bill faced backward, always his response to a situation's descent into chaos, where he was most comfortably effective.
A plate nearly clean was shaken free of crumbs and set atop a moraine of...crap on the kitchen table. The fridge, larder, and cupboards were accessed. A small daub of fancy mustard was sprinkled with some bar's pepper shaker, liberated in a campaign forgotten by all who weren't there. This hillock covered in hot sauce, then adorned with a curling squirt of store-brand BBQ sauce.
Dekka watched with the clinical eyes of a seasoned veteran, understanding the rationale of every move even as it began. Whatever his faults, Jerry Rig had ideas of undeniable flair, Akka/Dekka admitted silently to himself. And it was beginning to look like his panache was going to salvage another dicey situation. Hardly the first time a skilled operator on the front lines had neatly circumvented a
logistical foul-up, and surely not the last.
"I... do not think this will be a soup I will enjoy very much."
"Maybe not. But as a dipping sauce for tots, it'll do."
Yes, thought Dekka. This was a unit you could be proud of, a unit to get things done no mater what came. I hope there's still beer, though.
3. YESTERDAY. EVENING.
The living room. Jerry was sprawled across the couch, toying idly with a warm beer. Akka had a ten-speed upside-down, and frowned at the bike chain he was cleaning with a toothbrush. Spatters of road grime, WD-40 residue, and orange cleaner mostly missed the magazine he'd opened under the bike seat, soiling the putty-colored carpet. Shifting on an overturned milk crate, he said "We going to the 'Box tonight?"
"No dinero. Prolly just watch Smackdown. Jesus, Mud, you suck at Contra."
"I think that controller's fucked."
"What's fucked is watching this guy flail around with reflexes like... a field of corn."
"Shut it. Give it here. You may as well use the code."
Long minutes passed as Rig stabbed at the controller pad, attempting to conjure the fabled thirty lives of Konami. Rig's stubby fingers barynya'd across the controller's face.
"The whole point of the game is the one! Hit! Kill! One hit! So you have to not get hit! You have to know where the hit is going to be and then you have to not be there!"
With a tight squeal of indignant frustration, he flicked the controller to the ground, somewhat near Mudman, and sliced his way from the couch. From the kitchen he sniped "I think that controller's fucked."
Akka rose and clumsily flipped his bike over. Leaning against the pile, he toed the magazine shut. "High Society. Nice. I ever tell you guys about my buddy whose girlfriend was in Gallery?"
"Maybe once. Maybe every time you wear your Gallery shirt."
Shrugged, settled his bulk into the room's comfy chair. "Heya, 'Man, look like you got it going pretty good there."
In truth, Mudman was playing well, exercising those two primal urges experienced by every man: the urge to move right and the urge to deal death.
"We should get a PlayStation or something. I'm sick of these games." Rig's words hung in the air like a zeppelin. No one cared to respond to his characteristic displeasure with the NES and their paltry game selection; no one dared to respond to a suggestion of fiscal extravagance along the lines of "We should clad our bikes with golden armor after we finish building that second helicopter pad."
They sat for some time in that strange reverie, the satisfaction of watching somebody else play video games. The sun set, somewhere outside. Eventually, Mudman initiated the console's power-down sequence, and rose, exactly like the slime monster what killed Tasha Yar. Silent and solemn, he retired to his basement rooms, where he would draw dungeons on graph paper until sunrise.
El Humidor burst through the front door (no, not "just like Kramer") to no acknowledgement whatever. Shortly, the queer clickings and beepings from the kitchen gave notice that he was renewing his ancient engagement with his great foe, the microwave. Its strange glyphs entranced and baffled him, and no amount of patient explaining could impart to him the difference between "cook" and "defrost".
Minutes, thumps, and beeps later, El Humidor wafted into the living room with a steaming Hot Pocket and two inches of a 40. Empties littered the squalid space like shell casings in a besieged pillbox.
"We're out of beer. Jerry, you should wrangle the empties and go get some refreshments before Smackdown."
Deadly, grating: "I beg your pardon?"
"I cooked. You clean."
Words by C. Collision, drawings by D.D. Tinzeroes