Psamurai #22



Self Help

A stout man entered a crowded bank. His scalp, under his stringy combover, glistened with drops of flop sweat that ran down to the round end of his bulbous nose in fat beads that hung for an inordinate amount of time before dripping onto the belly of his bulky pullover sweater. His pudgy hands were driven deep into the pockets of his long wool peacoat. His bulging blue eyes swiveled under his round, thick-framed glasses that made him look like an old time socialist philosopher. He dawdled near a round marble stand where a disheveled man, who looked like he just rolled out of bed stood in a red flannel robe, filling out a deposit slip.
He opened his mouth and a wobbly peep emerged. The raggedy man grunted in amusement.
"Was something funny?" the sweaty man asked.
"Everything is if you're paying attention," the robed man replied.
The round man scowled and took his place in line behind a blond woman who looked like she had come from a photo shoot for a Sears catalog from 1978. He closed his eyes and cleared his throat.
"I have a bomb," he shouted and held up his hand in which he was holding a detonator. A wire lead from it under his sweater.
A shudder of panic rippled through the crowd as a wave of realization of what the man had said rolled over them. They all began to scatter accept for the woman in from of him. She turned to face him with a dismissive smirk.
"A bomb, huh?" she said. "Are you going to blow up a bank full of people because you haven't gotten laid since 1982?"
"Was that the last time you bought new clothes?" the man smirked back.
The disheveled man, still struggling with his deposit slip, chuckled. The woman looked over the bomber's shoulder at him and glowered.
"So what's your grievances, Oliver Hardy?" she asked the bomber.
"Why don't you sing me 'Heart of Glass', Debbie Harry?" he replied.
The woman's mouth dropped open as the ragged man giggled again.
"Now you know what it's like," the robed man said.
"You shut your face," the woman barked back.
"Look, all of you get where I can see you," the bomber said. "And nobody try to be a hero. I'm watching you and I don't miss a thing."
"Don't miss a thing?" the ragged man said, drawing a sword and plunging it into the bomber's hand. "Then you would have noticed I'm not the type of person who has money to deposit into a bank."
The bomber's fingers went limp and the detonator dropped into the woman's hand. She examined it and laughed.
"Is this made from Legos?" she asked.
"No," the bomber protested.
"It is, look," she showed it to the swordsman. "The button is a one pegger."
"I oughta make you take your shoes off and step on it," the swordsman growled in the bomber's ear.
The woman followed the wire up the bomber's sweater and lifted it up, revealing a belt of C4.
"The bomb's the real deal, though," she said, turning the man around. "Walk," she pushed him toward the door. "Let's get you away from all these nice people."
The bomber dug his heels in and tried to grab the detonator from the woman with his still working hand. She tossed it to the sword man and held up her hand rippling with electricity.
"I will fry your synapses so hard you forget English grammar," she said. "Out."
"Hunt? Cher?," a black haired woman said, entering the bank. "Are you guys done doing boring stuff. I want to get some ice crea...holy cow, that guy has a bomb."
"Recap brought to you by the High Priestess, ladies and gentlemen," Cheryl said.
Hunter made the bomber wave to Sophie with his sword which was still pierced through his hand.
"Hunter, gross," Sophie said.
"This bank stole my house," the bomber yelled. "My wife left me."
"I can think of a million other reason why that happened," Cheryl said.
"You burned the sympathy card when you threated to blow up innocent people," Sophie said.
"Nobody's innocent," the bomber said.
"Oh for fuck sake," Cheryl groaned. "Get your ass outside."
"Let's go," Hunter dragged him by the hand with his sword. "Or I take the sword out of your hand the messy way."
"Hunter, take it out," Sophie grimaced. "I'm gonna throw up."
Hunter slipped the sword from the bomber's hand and wiped the blood off his blade on a stack of deposit slips.
"Thanks?" a nearby security guard said, looking at the bloody paper in disgust.
Hunter gave him a salute and followed Cheryl and the bomber out the door.
"Sorry," Sophie said with a pained smile, waved and ran out.

Hunter, Cheryl, and Sophie returned to Bart's basement. As Cheryl slung her bag off her shoulder and dropped it on her workbench, Sophie noticed her finger was wrapped up in bloody toilet paper and scotch tape.
"What the heck happened to your finger," Sophie said grabbing her by the wrist and giving it a close examination.
"Careful, it's sore," Cheryl said.
"What did you do?"
"I was messing with it."
"Messing with it how?"
"I...installed something."
"Installed something?" Sophie let Cheryl's hand drop, "What did you do to yourself?"
"I'm fine."
"That's what you say right before you explode into an uncontrollable ball of lightning."
"It's just a small device. It's not going to go off and take out a block."
"You know what kind of people perform surgery on themselves? Crazy people. Like Simon Vyx."
"I'm not Simon Vyx," Cheryl said, glaring at her.
"Yet. Please tell me you were at least blackout drunk or stoned out of your mind when you did it."
"Soph, you know me. You know I know my shit."
"Yeah, in electronics, not surgery. How do know that won't get infected?"
"If wanted a ton of shit, I'd call mom."
"I should call mom. Maybe she'd talk some sense into you."
"It's just a device for interfacing with computers and shit."
"You need it in your finger."
"It's handy."
"It's fingery. Just tell me this is where it begins and ends and you're not going to go off the deep end with this."
"The deep end?"
"You cut open your own finger and put something in it," Sophie shivered. "It gives me the willies. I've had enough butchered human anatomy for today."
"Don't you have other shit to do?"
"Hunter and I were going to get lunch, but now..."
"Okay, then. Run along with your goofy boyfriend, because I do have shit to do."

Sophie sat next to Hunter who was slumped on the couch jabbing at a remote control, staring at the television.
"When you said Netflix and chill you meant that literally," Sophie said.
"Does that mean something else?" Hunter asked.
"You're so out of touch it's almost adorable."
"Almost?"
"It gets close, then I notice you're wearing flip flops."
Hunter held up his feet and made his flip flops slap against his heels.
"Ugh, exposed toes," Sophie covered her eyes. "And cut your nails, criminy, when was the last time."
"Twenty aught six."
She stuck her tongue out and slapped him on the shoulder. She curled up next to him and laid her head on his shoulder. She let out a sigh.
"That wasn't your contented sigh," Hunter said. "That was your heavy shit on the mind sigh."
"Cheryl," Sophie said. "Did you see her finger?"
"Yeah, but I only ask her questions when I'm curious about what name she'll call me next. I assumed she caught herself with a soldering gun or some such."
"Elective self surgery."
"She needs a minder."
"She needs a girlfriend who can handle her crankiness. Or something, I don't know. Somebody she won't chase away. She needs more stability than just me. Someone who can take her crap and successfully throw it back at her. I probably shouldn't be diagnosing her, but she worries me."
"Have you talked to her?"
"How do think that went?"
"I'm fine. I'm fine," Hunter barked.
"It's like you were there."

Hunter descended the stairs into the basement. Cheryl was working at her bench among a hail of sparks and smell of solder. He flopped down in a chair behind her and hummed to himself.
"Sitting on a park bench..." he sang. "Eying little g..."
"What do you want?" Cheryl asked.
"Me?" Hunter said.
"Are you here to infuriate me? You accomplished your mission when you stomped down the steps. You can leave with a sense of satisfaction at a job well done."
"I was curious..."
"Going for bonus points?"
"So what's up with the old digit, there?"
"Oh, you're looking to win the world championship."
"I figure once you exhaust the sports metaphor we can get down to brass tacks and talk about your little self experimentation."
"How about, none of your business? Does that cut through your purple haze?"
"I'm on the team. It's kind of my business if one of us going off the deep end."
"Deep end? That sounds familiar. Who was up my ass earlier and used the same phrase? Did Soph give you a scratch behind the ear, throw you a bone and tell you to check out the trouble down at the old mill?"
"Not to feed into your dog metaphor, but it's gnawing at her. Which gnaws at me."
"So your not getting any and now you're bothering me?"
"One of the benefits of being in my 'purple haze' is that I see past the masks people wear. It's like it's always half off. Under yours, I see an insecure child who's never happy with herself."
"Which makes me different than?"
"Most people don't slice themselves open."
"No, they have people do it for them. Ever seen a Kardashian?"
"You're worrying your sister. Unlike most people, she seems to give a shit about you."
"That's always been her problem. Giving a shit."
"Empathy is a problem?"
"It's a distraction. It's going to get her hurt."
"By you."
"Why don't you get your nose out my relationship with my sister? Just because you two are..."
Hunter leapt to his feet and put his face in hers, "I don't care what you do to yourself. You can turn yourself into whatever it is you think will make you happy. Put all the band aids you want over all the mental fuck ups you have. But I do care about what you do to Sophie. And this shit's doing a number."
"Satisfied yet? Can I get back to work?"
"Yeah, all I had to do was try. I knew how it would go."
"Speaking of going," she gestured toward the door.
Hunter walked out.

Helen Burns was glued to her favorite new reality TV show. She sipped her tea with her eyes fixed on the drama unfolding between the main characters. The corners of her mouth couldn't help but curl into a contented smile. The show had only been on for a week, but she was addicted and it only just started getting good. She leaned forward at the edge of her easy chair cradling her tea cup. He husband, Samuel walked in with a newspaper rolled up under his arm.
"What did I miss?" he asked.
"The brunette is worried about the blond and her boyfriend is confronting her," she answered.
"Confronting which one?"
"The blond and she's pissed."
"So what's the brunette worried about?"
"The blond is apparently installing her own cybernetics."
"Hmm. There's a perfect opening."
"You should get in touch with her, offer your services."
"Exactly what I was thinking."
"A woman like her is one ego trip away from cerebral implants. You could put in anything you wanted."
"We've always been on the same page."
"Simon would be so proud of you."
"Perhaps. He never really had the temperament for vengeance. But, for my part, this will be immensely satisfying."
"And with all the tension..."
"Ripe for exploitation. Divide and conquer."
"This is exciting."

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