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Wherever You Go, There You Are

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2015: Carver

Babies, thought Ellis. They are sending me motherfucking, teat-suckling infants. Every year they got younger and younger, these fresh faced new recruits coming to join up. And they looked it, too.

He reached in his pocket to feel the edge on the postcards holding his speech. He had it memorized now, mostly, but it was nice knowing they were there sometimes too. He was supposed to speak in half an hour, be introduced by his sergeant and be all welcoming and shit. He’d even done it that way the first couple times he’d had to welcome the new recruits.

But that was not the Western way. You had to learn to think on your feet here.

So instead of sitting in the back bullshitting with the other officers until he went up and spouted off bullshit platitudes, Ellis was wandering the huddled masses, listening to them wonder and bullshit and goad each other, noting those few who noticed him.

Up ahead was a group of five or so, they looked older than the others, more like adults than prepubescents.

“No man, I bet I make rank before I’m thirty,” said the woman in the group. She was grinning though, light. Bullshit then, not an overconfident asshole. Carver could work with that.

He slid his phone out of his pocket, making sure to stand so that the random pillar in the conference room obscured their view of him. Didn’t want to make it too easy to tell he was scoping out the recruits.

“Yeah, you’ll be running this place in no time,” said one of the others, a bit shorter than the rest, even the woman. His grin was huge though, all bright teeth. “You a black dyke, obviously they’re gonna give you rank. Affirmative action and shit.”

Carver thought about Kima, still toiling away in Homicide. She would have made rank years ago though, if that was she was after. Some people had the sense not to be too tangled up in this political muck.

“You are a motherfucking charmer, aren’t you?” she asked, obviously not taking it too seriously. She was grinning anyway.

“I’m not gonna deny it, now am I,” said the so-called charmer. His fellow recruits were all looking at him respectfully even as they laughed. Another one to watch then. It was useful to know who they respected. Made it easier to break them in.

“You convinced the sarge at the academy to let us off the hook after we all missed curfew, I thought for sure you were gonna be busted down for that.”

“It was nothing,” he said, shrugging expansively, like it really was nothing. Ellis knew John, he was a tough sarge. This guy must know how to talk.

“Shit, you’re gonna be running this place, aren’t you,” said one of the others.

“Well, I’ll just have to find our new CO and discuss my prospects with him,” said the charmer, “I expect he’ll hand me some new insignia just as soon as I have a chat with him."

And really, that was far too good a cue to pass up.

“Well I have been charmed by much slicker snake oil salesmen than you. So why don’t you listen and learn” said Ellis.

Ellis tapped the double-bar insignia on his shoulders, before turning and walking up to the podium. “Starting, perhaps, with rank symbols. Watch and learn, charmer.”

 

2008: Randy

Charming, Randy reminded himself. It was easier than he thought it would be to slide back into that costume. You learned easy how to do that, when you were young in the system, how to smile and compliment and convince them to pay attention to you out of all the faces in the room. It was a skill that served him well now, making nice with Namond’s shiny new family.

He smiled real big and said, “Thank you for dinner, ma’am,” the way Miss Anna had taught him. Namond nudged Randy’s side and mouthed, ‘ma’am’ back at him. Randy just kicked him back though, because he had even meant it. Lady could cook.

And the charm had worked because Mrs. Colvin was smiling back at him over the table, pleased. “Now you don’t ma’am me,” she said all indulgent-like as she watched them tussle, just a bit. She stood up from the table, clearing off dishes.

“Nay, you got any homework?” she asked, voice raised over the clatter of dishes being set into the sink.

“I haven’t see Randy in months,” said Namond, not even trying to lie. It was clear his heart wasn’t in it to object too hard. There was no whine, just a calm acceptance. Randy had heard all kinds of whining and complaints come of Namond’s mouth over the years. But he had never heard this voice before.

Too much fucking distance between them these days.

“You want any of this boxed up for you?” Mrs. Colvin asked, ignoring Namond’s complaint entirely.

Randy considered it. The food had been good, but Randy was full to the point of bursting, and there wasn’t any point to bringing it back with him. It wouldn’t last long, become a victim of the summer heat or, more likely, Amare, who hoovered up any food left out like it was his right. And if he didn’t get to it, well, there was a line of hungry bellies in the home. And them fuckers didn’t deserve no home cooked leftovers.

“I’m good, Miss Colvin. Thank you,” said Randy, making sure his voice was sweeter than the pie. It was easier to stash food in the winter when his room was a refrigerator anyway, and it wouldn’t do to think she shouldn’t offer again.

“All right them. Namond, upstairs, homework,” Bunny’s voice rang out from the corner as full of warmth as it was command. But then he turned towards Randy and his eyes were cool. “I’ll show Randy out.”

Randy reached an arm out towards Namond and was reeled into a hug. Randy tried to relax into it, but every bit of him objected to someone that close in his space. But Namond hung on, all puppy enthusiasm. Randy stood it as long as he could before pulling away. “I see you around.”

“You better,” Namond’s voice echoed as he turned to walk up the stairs, “Don’t be a stranger.”

Randy shook his head a little, safe since Namond couldn’t see him. They were already strangers, now. Namond was still child sweet here in his new home.

The air outside was a wet blanket, suffocating Randy’s skin the second he opened the front door. He shrugged his shoulders as he walked out, trying to roll out the crick and maybe trying to shake off his bitterness at Namond’s second chance. Some fuckers had all the luck, while Randy’s had all been blown up a couple years ago.

Ha paused, shoulders still raised up into a weird hunch when he heard Bunny call his name. Bunny followed Randy out the door, then reached back and very deliberately slid it shut.

“Yeah?” asked at Randy, dropping the fake sugar tone. Bunny was police. Sure he was all in the lovey dovey ‘let’s help the less fortunate’ social work game now, but when it came down to it, he was police, and he was starting at Randy like he knew exactly what he was. And he sure as fuck didn’t like it.

“I don’t want Nay to have to give up any more than he has.”

“You don’t want me coming around no more, huh.” said Randy. It wasn’t a question, either. He had seen that look in people’s eyes before, the one that said, get away. Seen it in the eyes of parents coming to look at kids and cringing when they saw him rather than some cute little shorty. Seen it in the eyes of women crossing the road to get further from him.

He couldn’t blame Bunny either, protecting what was his own. Part of Randy wanted to just reach out and say ‘Nay was mine first. It isn’t fair. You don’t get to protect him from me.’ But what the fuck was fair anyway.

Bunny just stood there for a second, starting at Randy like he could read into his head like one of them superheroes Namond liked to read about.

“I didn’t say that,” he said, his voice mild, like they was back inside breaking bread. “You are welcome back, but that is not.” He was nodding down at Randy’s ankle. At his piece.

“Same thing,” said Randy, because it was. He wasn’t no sheltered school kid no more, who could choose to go upstairs and do homework. He had to survive, and that meant he had to carry all the time. Couldn’t just drop his gun somewhere safe and expect it to be there when he got back. The world didn’t work that way.

Bunny just sighed, his voice heavy with the weight that all grownups seemed to have when they talked to Randy these days. “I can’t have that in my house,” he repeated.

And it was OK, Randy had had worse refusals. He could maybe see Namond anyway, maybe outside the high school, before he had to retreat from the monitors and rent-a-cops there to keep the kids safe. So he didn’t say anything. He just walked away, feeling Bunny’s eyes following after him, judging him, or maybe making sure he really left.

Fuck him, Randy thought, fuck him and his opinions and the way he chose to save Namond, the one who already had a family. Fuck the way he looked and saw Randy as something not worth his help.

But Bunny did help him, later on. His eyes were even sterner then, the day he stood up for Randy in full uniform; the day he asked the judge to offer him a deal and send him to the Army rather than tossing him in jail.

 

2015: Carver

Ellis pulled his arms out behind his back, cracking bones that had grown far too old. He had only been giving a speech to new recruits, not walking the beat. It made no fucking sense how tight his muscles were. He was old as dirt though, at least in comparison to the bright eyed fuckers sent over to his district.

He dropped into his chair, with its carefully cultivated ass grooves. He smiled up at Sergeant Morrison, who had been trailing him since the speech. “Did you see those green ass fuckers?”

“They were very shiny,” replied Morrison. “Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, you might say.”

“Oh, we will take care of that soon enough,” said Ellis, grinning at the prospect. It was always a fucking delight to break in the new recruits, even if his position meant he couldn’t give them shit directly. “By next week they will be as fucking downtrodden and bitter as your soul, I guaran-fucking-tee it.”

“Well, those that last, maybe,” said Morrison. “Have you seen some of the records on them? You must have pissed off Regan something fierce to get stuck with the bunch of fuck-ups he sent up our way.”

Ellis gestured around his office, which was less of an office and more of a forest of processed trees. Supposedly they were going paperless these days. It was about as effective as many of the other initiatives radiating out from that monument to bullshit known as City Hall. “Let’s just say I haven’t been able to locate them.”

“Of course you haven’t,” grumbled Morrison, with absolutely no cause, or at least any that Ellis was willing to confirm. After all, why admit to fault when you could just bullshit?

“I walk the streets, Sarge. I pound the pavement the way a police is meant to do,” said Ellis, letting his sincerity shine through. Nothing like using the truth to aggravate.

“Uh-huh. Lovely sentiment.” Apparently he wasn’t in mood to just shoot the shit then. Ellis started running through all the things he could have done to piss him off lately. Morrison reached over on top of one of filing cabinets and pulled out a stack, seemingly at random, and held them out to Ellis.

“I feel like you doubt my sincerity,” said Ellis, even as he took the files from Morrison, walking them over to his desk and setting them on top of the piles with a flourish. “But I swear I will look them over immediately, starting with the snake charmer.”

“Oh, Wagstaff? You think he’s gonna be a problem?” asked Morrison, watching Ellis flip through the stack. “From what I recall, he had a good rep in the academy. Army vet, I think.”

Morrison was speaking, but Ellis’ brain had crashed at the name, files sliding out of his fingers and words losing meaning, like Morrison was an adult in a Charlie Brown cartoon. Ellis was usually pretty quick on his feet, you had to be to survive the fucking bullshit operation that was the Baltimore police force, but now his thoughts were molasses slow, just a slow chugging repetition of shit, shit, shit

One of the folders clanked against a coffee mug like a bell, and all of a sudden the world was double-time. Ellis snagged the files, pulling them towards him, hunting down the one clearly labeled, ‘Wagstaff, R.’ He flicked it open, and stared down at Randy.

Ellis wanted to say he recognized Randy’s eyes. After all, that was always what they said in the movies, right, eyes were the windows to the soul or some shit like that? But while Ellis could have guessed their color, more guesswork than fact, after the years his memories of Randy had distilled him down to an essence of braids, baby fat and disappointment.
The picture on his desk showed plain brown eyes, like any other. Randy had a fade now, under his regulation cap, and his face was slimmed down, baby fat melted away into solid planes rather than the roundness of his youth. It was a picture of that fucking snake charmer. And he hadn’t recognized him.

What Ellis really recognized was the DOB.

In those awful days and weeks of trying to do fucking anything to keep Randy out of a group home, to adopt him, he had had to write out Randy’s birthday, over and over, on each form. It was ingrained in his memory now, seared into his brain like his home phone number from when he was a kid, worn in by repetition. Ellis had sent a card every year he could ferret out an address, stuffed with whatever cash he had on hand.

Ellis had lost track of him once he was eighteen and the system dropped Randy like he was a hot potato.

“What the ever-loving-fuck are you doing?” asked Morrison in a soft drawl, like he was talking to a spooked victim.

Fuck that. Ellis had been the agent of his own fate in that fucking disaster of a situation, and yeah, he hadn’t been allowed to make it right, but it was his fuck up in the first place.

Ellis carefully flipped the folder shut, cutting off his view of this new Randy. “I know this kid,” he explained, trying to keep his voice light. He didn’t say what he meant, which was, ‘he was my biggest fuck up.’ “You said he was in the Army?”

 

2012: Randy

Randy dropped his shoulders down, hunched over since the top half of his body was just too fucking heavy to lift up now. The sweat that pooled in every divot of his body was starting to cool into a sticky mass. Fucking disgusting.

It could have been worse, though. Last week Will had just about passed out when they were drilling in full gear. Randy had been an idiot and tried to help that scrawny white boy out, but had blacked out at the end himself from the double weight. Now at least he was conscious, at least until he got horizontal.

“What the fuck are we doing here?” asked Will, his voice still not quite back, leaving it more gasp than actual words.

“You mean, what the fuck are you doing here? I know exactly what I am doing here," said Randy, after a moment to gather his breath. He even managed to pull himself up a bit, closer to a stand. He was still more over hunched than was natural for someone his age. He even managed to throw a grin in there.

It didn’t do to seem weak here. Though really, didn’t do to seem weak anywhere, not just this fucking pit of over-excited, over-exercised and undersexed young men. But it was still better than Baltimore.

Randy levered himself up so he was standing straight as a drill sergeant then extended Will a hand to pull him up from where he was sprawled. Wouldn’t do to have him be called out again, not after last week.

Will nodded his head in thanks. Randy thought this was a fucking ridiculous acknowledgement of his weakness, but no skin off his neck. "Yeah, and what would that be," said Will.

"Serving my country with my life and service," said Randy, keeping his voice sincere.

"Fucker," laughed Will.

"No, I am doing my job.” Randy wasn’t even joking, not really. Sure, his legs felt like they were about as sturdy as a fiending junkie’s, but he felt settled in a way that he hadn’t since Miss Ana and the Fayette Mafia crew.

"Yeah, you like doing jobs, dont’cha," said Miguel, coming up to them. He was fucking walking already. Probably smart of him, to stretch it out, but fuck if Randy was going to move any quicker than he had to after that run.

"No, I do though,” said Randy, too tired to try and come up with a funny line. “Not a cocksucker like Will, here. I just like this."

“You like running til your drop and and angry motherfuckers yelling at you 24/7?" asked Miguel.

“Better here than there.”

Will laughed like Randy had been joking. “Oh, man, you should go into recruitment."

Randy thought maybe he would like that, no matter that they were joking. He like selling things, always had. Liked the hustle and satisfaction from getting that yes and he knew by now no way he was ever gonna get his own store. "I never got recruited, actually. Just walked in and signed up all in about 15 minutes,” he said.

"No song and dance for you?" said Miguel skeptically like he couldn’t tell if it was the start of some joke.

Randy considered for a moment before he spoke. He knew he should probably just laugh it off, tell them that he volunteered to fuck their mommas or something, but he liked them.

Maybe that is why he said, "not exactly voluntarily. I got picked up for some stupid shit. The judge thought I should be doing something more productive with my life."

It hadn’t been quite that clean cut though, and it hadn’t been nearly so tight. Randy sees that moment in the court sometimes at night when he shuts his eyes. He had been in lots of courthouses over the years. He had spent far too many days surrounded by sad fluorescent lighting and the stink of people that almost rivaled Dukie’s stench.

It had just been a stupid move that had brought him there. He wasn’t no Baltimore soldier. He couldn’t be with the snitch tag on his back. He pulled a knife on some skinny dude in an alley, trying to scrape up money for a ticket out of town. He’d had a bit of cash already, from Carver’s guilt card. And there hadn’t been no place for him in Baltimore no more.

Miguel let out a whistle. “So you saying you’re some tough guy, then. You so gangsta they decided they drafted you into fighting for Uncle Sam?”

"Nah, I mean, that would be against the rules. They can’t offer you no quid pro quo exactly. The army don’t let you do that.”

The judge had been very clear on that, laying it all out in small words, like it hadn’t been Bunny’s plan in the first place. He’d gone over it with Randy in the chill of the holding cell long before he saw the judge. "It was more like a gentle suggestion."

“They suggest you there in cuffs?” asked Will. His blue eyes were wide. He was a good kid, but so fucking young sometimes, even though he was older than Randy.

"Let's just say I didn't walk into the recruitment station by myself,” said Randy, forcing out a laugh to make them think he was kidding.

Bunny had kept an arm about his shoulders the whole trip down. There’d been no real force in it, just the solid weight of his presence. Some folks might even find that sort of thing comforting, even.

"So what, you think now that you're here? You rather be in jail," asked Miguel.

Randy paused and pretended to consider it. "Only when I have to see both of your ugly faces."

"You cut me to the core there, Wagstaff."

"Uh huh, I'm sure I just broke your white trash heart, Will."

"Don't worry son, I got your back," said Miguel, “In every way.” He reached around and goosed Will, who was all sorts of pink now. Randy hadn’t known a white dude could get that dark without some fake tan.

But beyond the blush, Will ignored him to ask, “So what would you be doing if you had your way, no jail, no Army?”

"I was gonna open a store, make bank selling candy bars and strawberry sodas to corner kids," said Randy automatically.

"A bodega boy, huh," said Miguel skeptically, “What the fuck happened to you?”

"Life, motherfucker, what do you think."

 

2015: Carver

“You wanted to see me?”

Ellis, had in fact, asked to see Randy, who was hovering in the doorway, escape route ready. And yet all he could this to say was “I- Yes, I did.”

Randy took that as his cue to actually enter the office. He came to rest just to the side of a chair, like he couldn’t quite decide if he should sit. His postures was stiff and tall, pure parade rest soldier bullshit. Or maybe he was just trying to compensate for his lack of height.

“Sit, please,” said Ellis, gesturing at the chair. But no, that wasn’t what he wanted at all. “Wait, sorry, no. Lets go for a walk.”

“A walk?” asked Randy, his voice breaking a bit out of the recruit respectful tone.

“Preamble, stroll, hike. You do know what these words mean, do you not?” Ellis cringed a bit, internally. Too many fucking layers right here for joking. He was already fucking this up. Though in comparison to the earlier, bigger fuck-up, that Randy represented, well, it was just a drop in the well.

Randy ducked his head down a bit, even snorted, “Nah, I know what you meant, sir.” So maybe not such a fuck-up after all, this time.

“This isn’t-” Ellis paused his words as he pushed past Randy out into the hall, heading vaguely in the direction of the exit. “This is not an office or ‘sir’ sort of conversation.”

“That’s why we’re walking,” said Randy skeptically.

“Give the boy a gold star.”

“This isn’t part of that whole ‘where you are’ crap, is it? Like from your speech,” said Randy.

No respect for knowing their location, these kids. It was even worse these days, with smartphones in every pocket. “That speech is a time honored tradition. Bunny Colvin gave me that speech on my first day here.”

“He’s a good dude.”

Ellis looked sideways at him, just a quick glance. “You still in touch?”

Randy shrugged. “Not so much now that Nay is out of college.”

And Jesus fuck, wasn’t that a kick. The first time Ellis had seem Namond he had just been this skinny corner kid with more hair than sense. “I am an ancient man. I mean, you being here, a grown-ass adult, is one thing, but Namond Brice out in the world a college graduate is another.”

“He’s still young though,” said Randy, eyes locked down onto the faded linoleum of the precinct floors.

“Dare I ask what he’s doing, out there in the world?”

Randy shrugged, “He got a degree in History, of all fucking things. Thinks he’s gonna change the world teaching, at least to start out, then maybe go back for more school, or maybe politics.”

“Glad I never had to actually collar him then.” Ellis pushed open the door, feeling the blast of cold air rush past him like a river. Washing away his sins, he thought mockingly. If only. “You think about going back? They have deals for that, don’t they, from the Army?”

“I’m not much for school,” said Randy. Ellis believed him, based on the shitty progress reports he had bullied out of Randy’s high school instructors a couple of times before the guilt was far enough removed to let him breathe.

“Oh, I get you there,” said Ellis. He shrugged, looking up at the roof for lack of anything better to do, then exhaled, “Fuck.”

“What?” asked Randy, eyes following Ellis’ upwards.

Ellis shrugged. No point in lying. “I really want a beer right now.”

“I’m driving you to drink already?” cracked Randy.

“You have been driving me to drink for years,” replied Ellis quickly. Too quick. Fuck. “That wasn’t funny, sorry.”

Ellis wished he could see more of Randy’s face than a sliver of his profile as he drawled out, “Nope,” said Randy

“Oh man, are you regressing into a teen, because back at the welcoming ceremony I heard tell you were a charmer.”

Randy shrugged, finally turning back towards Ellis. His eyes were just hooded holes, shadows, yet for the first time, Ellis saw him again, that tear stained kid in a uncomfortable chair. “I don’t know what we’re doing here.”

“We’re clearing the air, all right?” He really did mean it as a question, too.

“Crystal clear,” said Randy, grin breaking out on his face. Of course it happened once Ellis started being serious.

“Smart-ass,” he said. But he did want to make sure he got his point across, so he continued, “You don’t get any special privileges.”

“For what, knowing what a fuck up you were?”

“Well, no more birthday cards for you, then.”.

Randy looked back up at the roof, tilting his body away from Ellis. He wondered if it deliberate or just some instinctive reaction. “I never asked for those.”

“Yeah, well, you fucking got them,” said Ellis. Fuck he would have been a horrible parent. “I’m sorry.”

“For giving me birthday cards,” said Randy. He nodded his head a bit, though he kept his eyes trained up high. “Thanks.”

“I do mean it. That was fucked up and I messed it up from the start. I want you to know that.”

“The cards full of cash did that,” said Randy, before pivoting on his heel towards Ellis to start and wheedle. “I mean if you’re really feeling guilty-”

“I got a nice card already picked out for you for this year. There might be ponies involved. Possibly some glitter.”

“As long as it doesn’t sing,” said Randy.

“And it won’t have money in it. I’m serious about the favors thing, though. I’m not gonna pretend we don’t know each other, but you need to respect my rank. You can come to me, though, if you have questions, need a rabbi,” said Carver.

Randy looked him dead in the eyes. “You gonna look out for me, Carver?”

Only one response to that. “I’m going to try.”

"Ok you do that," said Randy, smiling.

"Well, if I have your permission then." Ellis dropped the bullshit from his voice. "Thank you."

 

2013: Randy

“Thank you for your fucking service,” Randy grimaced. “Bull-fucking-shit. Once you’re done it is like it never fucking happened. No one tries and helps you” He wasn’t being serious, he was getting some help, but sometimes the gulf between the structure of being and this endless realm of choices was wider than he could handle.

And fuck it, he deserved to whine a little bit, after his 4 years of active.

“So I shouldn’t give you a salute?” asked Nay after taking a long pull of his beer, smirking like the smartass he had become.

Only one response to that: “Fuck you.”

“I’ll just pour some out for you instead then,” said Nay, making to water an already sticky bar floor with some of his brew, but pulling it back before a drop fell. He pushed back in his stool, up onto two legs, back steadied by the wall. His hair was bunched up behind him like a fucked up halo. “Nah, I’m just playing. But what are you going to do now? For serious.”

"You think I know?" asked Randy, leaning forward and bracing his elbows on the table, looking down at the whorls in the fake wood as if it could give him answers.

"You got to plan ahead, my man," said Namond, nodding like he had all the wisdom in the world, his college degree making the world mold itself to his will.

But Randy had known it didn't work that way for years, and maybe, long ago, so had Namond. The world was a fucked up place that didn’t follow anyones plan, from Miss Anna’s to his platoon sergeant’s. But fuck it if he was getting into it with this stay puff marshmallow man, no matter how tight they had been when they were shorties. Not when he could plan and expect it to happen.

"That would make me as soft as you then," said Randy, feinting a punch towards Namond preemptively as he spoke.

But Namond didn't even put up his fists, just laughed, bright. "I'm not soft, just smart."

"You saying I'm not smart?" asked Randy, shading his voice with bullshit, pulling up an eyebrow even as he kept his fists raised. "Well, fuck you."

"I'm just saying soft can be better sometimes. Look at us then, we're standing here just shooting the shit when Michael-" Namond cut himself off. It was better that way, sometimes, to keep them held in rather than tossing them out into the world like they were real.

But in this case, Namond was just wrong, so Randy just said it, "You are a fucking idiot if you think us being here and them not being around no more, being wherever they ended up has anything to do with soft or strong or smart or fucking stupid."

He felt rage run up in him, that hard edge that still surprised him, like it was an alien taking him over rather than just an emotion. Maybe if his life had followed some logical plan then he would think that too.

Randy thought about Dukie floating around on the street, a fucking ghoul in search of something to feed on. Dukie had been smart, even if he smelled like the inside of a latrine.

Thought about Namond with his fucking polo shirt crisp and his new model Honda, a model of middle class. And maybe a little bit about himself, a respectable fucking citizen now. The difference wasn't how fucking hard they were.

Thought about Bunny standing tall in court, about Mrs. Colvin's admonishments to get homework done. Thought even, a little bit, about birthday cards full of cash, allowing him to keep from turning to fucked up schemes earlier.

"It didn’t matter if we were soft as fucking pillows or hard as my dick, the fucking difference was that we got help," he finished. “You got your second family and I got a way out.”

“This is too fucking deep man,” said Namond, backing off. “It was a fucking joke.”

Randy couldn’t help himself, he laughed. After all this time Namond hadn’t changed at all, still bowed down low to the slighted pressure. “Wasn’t a very funny one.”

“Nah, I’m just funny looking, right?” cackled Namond.

“That was the worst joke. No, I don’t think you can call that a joke at all.”

“But for serious, what are you gonna do?” asked Namond.

Randy thought for a second, but really there was only one answer he could give. “Try.”