“What’s with that concrete trough?”
“They used to fill it during the winter and use it as an ice rink.”
“Doesn’t it melt?”
“No it doesn’t melt, Arizona boy. Come December, this place hardly ever breaks twenty degrees, let alone thirty-two.”
“Damn. How did you deal?”
“Bundle up. You get used to it. Ice on the sidewalks is tricky, but you learn.”
“God. I’ll take shorts and flipflops over long-johns any day.”
“Summers in Arizona aren’t exactly a picnic.”
“A/C baby. It’s how we do.”
“My dad taught me to ice-skate here. I still hate this place. Let’s go.”
His life had been depicted as an utter failure of self-will, an utter collapse of self-respect, even of essential humanity.
Of course they hadn’t told him before he signed the contract.
“We want to share stories of medically obese for our viewers,” were the exact words they’d used.
“We’ll be extremely respectful.”
And they had been while they filmed him recumbent in the extra-duty recliner that served as his bed, his chair, his platform for viewing the world through his laptop and television.
When the show had aired, he was appalled.
The low-angle shots of his face particularly grieved him.
Briggs stepped out from the sally-port and released the pressure valve of his already-fogging helmet. It came off with a little hiss and he breathed in the moist and verdant air. He peered around, speechless.
Colonel Wright smiled. “Pretty amazing, eh?”
“How does all this stuff stay alive?” Briggs asked.
“I keep forgetting you’re not another scientist. Put simply, it’s a biosphere. It maintains itself. The original idea was to make the whole planet like this, but you know. Politicians.”
Briggs peered through the glass at the blackened rubble of the once-great city. “Too bad they couldn’t figure it out.”
At first it was OK. The FBI provided me with a little house and a job working nights in the mall. “Keep to yourself and it should be fine,” they told me. “In a few years, they’ll forget all about you. Statute of limitations.”
Right. No such thing with a 100k contract on your head.
Thing was I couldn’t stand the boredom. I had to get out. I took my paycheck to the Horseshoe and parlayed it into enough to buy the RV.
Now I move around, never staying too long. “My name’s Frank,” I say.
No last names ever.
“I don’t get why it has to be a full seven days.”
“Read the Book of Job. That’s where sitting Shiva comes from.”
“I’ll get right on that.”
“I don’t appreciate your tone.”
“I just don’t understand why. It’s not like you’re orthodox. And who was she to you anyway, that you need to sit by her body for a week?”
“She was my mother’s oldest sister. You never met her.”
“I haven’t met anyone in your family aside from your mom.”
“I know you haven’t.”
“You think they won’t approve of me. Is that it?”