The light haloed around his head, buzz buzz bzzt. His hair glistened. His white robe reflected the light, buzz buzz bzzt. He raised his arms, palms up.
My sons, he said.
Siddown, falsie, said Ted, rising from his chair, all orange-rock-Ben-Grimm-clobberin-time. He bumped the table bearing the cups of water and banged his head on the low-hanging light, buzz buzz thunk.
Blaspheme! said Phil. He kicked his slipper, the one with the faded red stain, at Ted. The slipper smacked the far wall, the one with the decades-old coagulated driblets of baby-puke green paint. Ted wrapped his hands around Phil’s throat, gurgle, gurgle my son, gurgle.
Now Ted, said the Voice, you have to let Phil go.
Gurgle, gurgle, said Phil.
Ted, you should be glad that The Boys are on break. We don’t want a repeat of yesterday now do we? said the Voice.
Then please let Phil go.
Yeah Fathah, said Ted.
Gurgle hack, said Phil.
They returned to their metal chairs. Phil rubbed his throat.
Ted hated this shit and he hated having to prove the capital-T Truth and he hated the metal chairs and he hated the stupid fucking low-hanging light with its buzz buzz bzzt and he hated the mirror because that meant he had to stare at those two assholes twice as much: Phil, fucking falsie with his Richie Havens-wannabe bullshit beard and Roger with his hands in that weird egg-holding thing and his omms that popped out between pack-a-day retired-but-not-really-hooker breaths.
Please continue your discussion in a calm and civilized manner, said the Voice. We can do that, right? Now please. Deep breath. In. And out. There. Now, continue.
I–, said Phil.
–I, said Ted.
Roger said nothing.
Roger, why don’t you start? said the Voice. You’ve been very quiet today.
Roger said nothing.
Yeah, comeongetonwiddit Rogah, said Ted. Settling shit today. Got work todo.
Like what? said the Voice.
Cahpentry stuff, Fathah, said Ted.
Mahpentwy schtwuff, Fafah, said Phil.
Ted rose. The chair squeaked. He bumped the table. The water rippled.
Gentlemen, said the Voice. I think we need to take a minute here, to reflect.
Ted sat. Pause button on clobberin’ time.
Dr. Steve stuck his thumbs into the corner of his eye sockets and rubbed. In the weeks since “The Discussions” started, he hadn’t slept, save for five minute flashes during the two o’clock hour on his office couch, the TV volume low. He worried about reverse mortgages, his testosterone level and if the future version of the Hoveround would, in actuality, hover. He wasn’t sure about the physics of it all, but he doubted that his low-volume afternoon commercials would answer, or for that matter, do anything to allay his futurist suppositions and he knew, he just knew, that Janice was fucking one of the guards. The big one. She stopped returning his calls and he had tried oh how he had tried to play it cool. New approach, new approach, he reassured himself at least once every 45 seconds. New approach. Play it cool. Play it cool while this was going on, the most important work of his life, closing the Three Jesi(i?) file. Close Jesi(i?); get Janice; Hoverround into the sunset at the Grand Canyon. He had the workflow worked out.
Dr. Steve leaned into the microphone.
OK, gentlemen. Why don’t we try the water exercise again?
I like that one, Phil said. He stared at the cup of water. He moved his hands, all late 19th-century conjurer. If he had a poster, he decided, one of those big ones that Mike and Frank paid the big bucks for, it would say Phil the Magnificent and feature a lovely female assistant named Roxy; Roxy with a y, very important that y. No -ie’s for Phil the Magnificent.
Falsie, Ted said.
Come on, pick up, pick up, the Voice said
Ted looked at the mirror and at the heavens and said, Fathah?
Nothing, nothing. Please continue.
Phil threw the water at Ted. Clobberin’ time unpaused.
The Boys burst in, chests puffed out, nightsticks at ready. Flush-faced Numero Uno–that’s right–Numero Uno and don’t you forget it–punched Phil in the nose. Number Two wrapped his arms around Ted and pulled him to the chair. Numero Uno picked up Phil. The chairs squeaked.
Phil rubbed his nose. He looked down. He noticed that both slippers were gone. That disturbed him. The floor was cold, like metal, and Phil didn’t like having cold feet because Phil didn’t like robots, not one bit, and robots had cold feet. The notion that Ted and Roger could be robots had crossed Phil’s mind more than once. He decided that was ridiculous because robots couldn’t talk, at least as we understand the concept of “talking.” The ridiculousness was reinforced when sparks didn’t emanate from Ted, because robots, as everyone knows, do not like water, not one bit; robots, in fact, disliked water as much as Phil disliked robots. He was sure, however, that Roger was a robot. He was in stasis mode. That hand thing. But then again, he didn’t want to say anything. Didn’t want them to think he was crazy.
Speaking of which.
Right on his desk? said Number Two.
Right on his desk, said Numero Uno.
The Boys sat under the bulletin board, the one that had birthdays and Photobooth pictures of the inmates. Birthday hats and balloons. The edge of the bulletin board bothered Number Two when it dug into the spot behind his ear but he wasn’t going to admit that in Numero Uno’s presence. Because, you know, guy stuff.
Wow, said Number Two.
I know, right? said Numero Uno.
Where was he?
Where you think?
Yep. Right in that little room of his. Little Dr. Steve in his little Dr. Steve room.
On break, like just now?
Numero Uno put his hands behind his head.
Wow, said Number Two.
New approach, new approach. Wut we hve meens wl7d 2 me, typed Dr. Steve into his phone, the one he’d had for two years past the upgrade date, the one with the cover smashed and the flippy part that squeaked. He hit send and stared at the purple screen. Janice loved it when he said things like that. He knew it. New approach, new approach.
Phil the Magnificent rubbed his nose. He made sure that Roger was still omming and in stasis mode. He was. Phil grabbed Roger’s untouched flowery Dixie cup. He closed his eyes. He waved his hands. He sniffled. He scratched his nose. A plop. The water turned red, rosé-red. Phil’s eyes burst wide.
Look! he said. Look!
The buh-deep came through the air and the Voice said, No, no you can’t. Not now. Can’t live without you.
I did it, I did it! said Phil the Magnificent. He waved the cup of wine-water in Ted’s face. Who’s a falsie huh? Who’s a falsie?
Ted punched Phil in the gut.
C2nt live wo u, typed Dr. Steve. Send. New approach, new approach.
Numero Uno and Number Two burst through the door and grabbed Phil and Ted. Water spilled to the floor. It soaked into Roger’s slippers, schlurp schlurp. Roger didn’t move. Stasis mode.
I did it, I did it I-! said Phil the Magnificent before Numero Uno’s nightstick offered its salutations.
A rage scream choked by sniffles and snot through the speaker. A chair through the mirror. Shards scattered across the floor. Dr. Steve climbed through the broken window, his eyes bloodshot and wild. New approach, new approach. He lunged at Numero Uno and pulled him off Phil. Dr. Steve and Numero Uno’s feet went into the air, crash splash, they landed in water and mirror shards.
I did it, I did it! shouted Phil the Magnificent.
I knew it, I knew it! shouted Dr. Steve. He punched Numero Uno*. Again and again.
Roger rose from his chair. Squish squish went his rosé-red-water-soaked slippers. Buzz buzz bzzt went the light that haloed around his head.
You guys are fucked up, said Roger.
* and don’t you forget it.
©2013 Tyler Weaver