“Shit,” I say, taking back the second empty gift card from the glaring barista, wondering whether I should bother trying the third because I think it had something on it still but I may kind of be holding up the line.

I mean the line is only Perry, who thinks this is hilarious, because she’s horrible.

And anyway, it’s a moot point now, because I just put both of the empty ones back in with the one I’m not sure is empty. Fuck. I hand over my usual credit card, hoping that it’ll go through, because that Keurig might have put me over the limit, but, look, it’s a really long way from my office to the break room, okay.

The barista just raises an eyebrow at me.

I hand him my backup card.

It gets declined. Of course it does. There’s going to be a fraud hold on it now and I’m going to have to call my bank because the last place I used it was back home and not since last month. And my backup-backup’s expired. Goddamn it.

“Look,” the barista says.

“No, no, just give me a minute,” I tell him.

Where the hell is my debit card?

Oh, motherfucking shitbeans on toast. I left it at home. This is what I get for making fun of Perry forgetting her wallet, honestly, this is some instant karma right here, this is why she’s laughing so hard. I hate her.

I have exactly a dollar fifty in cash and then I won’t be able to get anything from the vending machine. Perry, as it turns out, has thirty-seven cents. I need an ATM.


“Sir,” the barista says, still glaring at me, “you’re going to have to–”

“It’s okay, I’ve got this one.” Tony! Here to rescue us!

I know I need coffee, because I’m pretty much ready to hug him around the knees and weep at his feet. Praise Tony, savior of the Almighty Bean.

“Get some cash, pay me back later,” Tony says.

“Tony, you don’t have to,” I say.

“No worries, Fox, I know you’re good for it,” Tony tells me, with a grin.

Which makes me grin back all the more sheepishly as I hand over my currency of last resort, and add, “no, I mean, you don’t have to, I have another card.”

He shakes his head at me as he takes it. “And here I was trying to help with your cash flow problems. But it turns out it’s just exactly the same on the other side of the fence.”

I rub the back of my neck. It feels staticky where the fuzz is growing back in at the edges; I need to trim the back again. I probably also blush a little, but not that much, and it’s not like anyone can tell except maybe Perry, but she’s laughing too hard to notice any of my tells and anyway she’s one to talk.

After that, Tony gives me a funny look and talks to Perry about cats for a while.

I kind of sip at my coffee and try not to look anyone in the eye. Judgement. Waves and waves of judgement. I don’t need to be an esper to tell that. I swear, the minute I hear something about food stamps, I’m out.

“You forgot your pain au chocolat,” Perry says, setting it on my head.

I let the bag slip off and catch it in my field, floating it around in front of me, and slipping the pastry out without touching it. If someone wants to make something of it, let them. I’m in no mood to deal with their bullshit today.

My pain au chocolat is delicious.

“We finally get to start filming,” Perry says. “I’m actually pretty happy I’m not still on vacation.”

Wait, filming what? “Wait, filming what?” I ask.

“You know, the tiny,” Perry makes some complicated motion with her hands.

I try to mimic it.

“The little model town, Fox, I told you about this,” Perry says.

“The little,” I repeat. “Right. Yes.”

“You know, you were asking if they made it train scale?” Perry adds.

“Yes,” I agree. “For ease of trains.”

“There aren’t any trains in the movie,” Perry says.

“You don’t know,” I tell her, “they might add one last minute.”

“Seriously, Trav, there aren’t any trains in the movie,” Perry repeats.

I shake my head and sigh. “Oh, well. At least there are little model storefronts and all.”

“Oh, it’s great, we had a real landscaper in and everything,” Perry says. “A lot of the foliage is actual plants. Teeny-tiny, very smol plants.”

“How does that work?” I ask.

“I have no idea, but tomorrow we’re going to set it on fire!” Perry gushes.

“Ooh,” I say, “real plants so they burn like real plants.”

Perry nods enthusiastically.  “Tara’s built all these itty-bitty tracks for the cameras, and little tiny replica cameras, because you know Tara, it’s great, we’re doing behind-the-scenes.”

“Behind what scenes?” I ask, because she’s dying to tell me, I just know there’s a whole thing here, whatever this is. I hope they don’t have an action figure of me out yet.

“Cardboard cutouts, mostly,” Perry says, “popsicle stick puppets. We’ve put all the cast on them – magazine photos – and we’ve been reenacting scenes.”

I laugh. I laugh harder when she pulls one out of her purse with her face on it – complete with a little yarn hairdo – and starts walking it around.

“Behind-the-scenes, see?” Perry says. “Puppet-me has to get puppet-people to their puppet-places, puppet techs have to set everything up, puppet hair and makeup does the yarn, you know?”

“That’s amazing,” I tell her, staring at this gallery quality photo of her, shrunk down and pasted onto a half-cent piece of wood, with its carefully combed soft woolly hair.

Perry snorts into her coffee, almost choking. “We’ve got pretty much the whole movie re-recorded – we’re using rehearsal audio for most of the actual script – set for co-release with theatrical.”

“Please tell me you’re going to sell this in hi def,” I beg her.

“Absolutely,” she agrees. “We’re going to see what we can salvage after we burn everything and make some kind of post-apocalyptic sequel, too.”

“A whole TV series, please, I beg of you.” I clasp my hands in front of my coffee.

She pulls another popsicle stick out of her bag. This one has my face on it – I recognize that photo; it’s from the beach – and tiny little yarn curls.

I stare at it. “Why is my hair purple?”

“Oh, we had too much purple left over after we did the lighting guys,” she explains.

I sort of stare at her, wondering whether I’m missing a pun or something.

Perry flips to a picture on her phone, and, no, she meant that as a factual statement. “It was some kind of solidarity thing. For what, I did not ask, but, yes, they literally all have purple hair now.”

“And me, too, apparently,” I add.

“Look, if you want purple hair, my god, yes, I encourage that,” Perry says, “I encourage you to grow it longer before you purple it, for optimum purplitude, and get some maybe lowlights in something darker, royal purple or something, some highlights in – I forget what I was saying.”

“I think you were saying it was just for funsies,” I tell her, “but honestly, Perry, you’re kind of freaking me out with how much you want me to have purple hair now.”

“One of the hair peeps does temporary dye,” Perry tells me. “Extranormal dye. 48 hours exactly, absolutely no side effects. Think about it. Think about it.

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