used to love her
Jet decided he would be Chuck. He didn't know why either. He just thought it sounded honest. You trust people named Chuck. Good ol' Chuck Brownstone. The kinda guy who'd cut your mom's lawn for free. You know. When he wasn't doing crystal meth.
As for the rest of the kids, they predictably picked flashier names.
"Lee?" Faye questioned her hubby's choice in moniker.
Spike smiled. "Yeah. As in Bruce."
"What are you 14?" "As if Scarlet is a conservative choice."
Faye puffed up a bit at the sound of her new name. "Frankly, I don't think enough people in this world are named Scarlet."
Ed chose the name Spot. No one bothered to argue.
In fact, the check in staff down at the Institute of Well-Being quickly learned that it was best not to argue with Ed when it was revealed her "suspicious package" did not contain weaponry of any sort, but a dog. A terrified and seemingly claustrophobic dog. There were no dogs allowed in IoWB. It detracted from the feeling of human one-ness. But Ed also made it clear that she only marginally qualified as human, growling maniacally if any of the security folk came within a two-foot radius of Ein.
"Do we need to sedate her?" the receptionist asked her "family," who had so far just watched all the goings on with horrified amusement.
"Uh, no," Jet shrugged. "Just let her keep the dog." Duh.
After much hushed discussion, it was agreed that Ein may stay as long as he does not for any reason leave the confines of their cabin. Ed was appeased, and the rest of the group wearily investigated their new quarters. The staff took the rest of their bags for inspection, however. They would be returned to them before the next morning.
"Shot gun bed," Faye said casually as she strolled in and plopped down on the kinger that was obviously intended for the happy couple.
"You can't shot gun a bed," Spike argued.
"I just did," she ho-hummed as she inspected the pamphlet resting on her pillow. It was a listing of all the "courses" they would be taking in the next few days. She looked up to see the rest of her partners going over their own pamphlets with similar expressions of terror.
Spike whistled. "I say we get moving on this, like, now. Pin this Kahn guy against the wall, beat the info out of him and get the hell out," he spoke his plan with a certain amount of panic that didn't usually register in his voice. "I don't wanna do all this shit."
"Yeah, all right," Faye sighed. "And how are we gonna do that? Just go storming through the halls?"
"Faye's right, Spike. Checking in was already a horror show. I mean, these people have the right to declare us mentally ill. We don't want to be fucking with that, you know? I think we should chill a bit. Don't want to draw attention to ourselves."
Ed took this moment to walk by on her hands, her feet wobbling precariously in the air. "From this day forth, Ed will be known only as...UPSIDE DOWN GIRL!" she declared. She then made a sharp turn towards the end table, picked a coin up with her feet, and proclaimed, "Upside Down Girl shall now purchase a sodaaaaaa!" She then proceeded to go down the hall on her hands to the vending machine.
"Uh...I think drawing attention to ourselves is an inevitability," Spike observed. Ed paddled back in, drank her soda, and then joined Ein in the bathroom to sleep.
The three of them stared at each other for a second, and then back at the pamphlet. The first course would be an introduction to family dynamics. Suddenly, all three of them had the strangest feeling that they didn't really know the other two at all. Jet hit the light and they all immediately rolled over, not sleeping but pretending to.
* * *
The next morning, the Brownstones paused to admire themselves in the mirror. "We look kinda normal," Faye shrugged. She was wearing blue jeans, a long sleeve T-shirt and Keds. Her hair was tied back in a bandanna. "Do I look middle class enough?"
Spike and Jet both shrugged. "I have no idea," Spike admitted as he grappled with the collar on his Polo shirt. He looked like a tool. Screw that. He was the whole toolbox. He unbuttoned the buttons and untucked his shirt out of his pants before lighting up his fourth cigarette that morning. Normal people don't inhale four cancer sticks before nine o'clock.
"Good morning, everyone," a woman greeted them with a voice that was inhumanly cheery for this time of day. Her perkiness was repaid with some scattered grunts from the other families. "My name is Dr. Harlow. Before we begin, I would just like to ask if anyone has some questions or concerns?"
Spike's hand shot up. "Yeah. Where's this Lessep guy?"
His partners both shot him a look that asked him to please, please, please not be an ass. Ed was chewing on her own toenail and did not seem concerned.
"Dr. Lessep does not hold circle groups. However, he is on hand to..."
"Well, I wanna meet him. I mean, it's his name on the pamphlet, right? Don't we have the right to speak to him?"
"I can assure you, Mr. Brownstone, that every one of us are specially trained..."
"But I want to meet him. How do I know he's not a kook?" Spike stood up defiantly.
Spike was backed up by some other mutterings of the group. Dr. Harlow remained unfazed. "Mr. Brownstone, I detect a little skepticism. In order for this to work you must try to keep an open mind."
"Please," Faye suddenly sniffed, causing Spike to spin around on her sharply. "We practically had to hog tie him to get him to come. He could care less about the welfare of this family," she cooed, cranking Vulnerable Faye up to 11.
"Give me a break," Spike murmured under his breath. He was annoyed with the speed in which she went in for the kill more than anything else.
"Excuse me Mr. Brownstone?"
All eyes were now firmly on Spike. "Umm...nothing," he said quickly, plopping back into his seat.
"He's always like this," Faye kept up, dabbing her eyes for effect. "When I told him about this program, do you know what he said?"
"What did he say, dear?" Harlow asked in a soothing tone of voice.
"This should be good," Spike muttered, earning him another a seething glare from Harlow.
"He said the only thing that could save this family was the sweet release of death."
The room reacted with an odd mix of gasps and knowing snickers. Spike bit his upper lip. So much for the Pillar of Virtue. Well, since he was already the husband form Hell he might as well just kill her. He had only spared her life previously on account of the mess, but they had housekeepers cleaning the room here.
"Well, Mr. Brownstone, hopefully we can change your outlook, or at the very least, your self-destructive attitude. You see, in time, blah, blah, blah, blah...."
Spike was drowning her out entirely and was instead staring at the back of Faye's smug little head. He thought if maybe he concentrated hard enough, he could actually will her head to explode. He had seen it in a movie once. His half-assed attempts at psychokinetic mayhem were interrupted when he was hit in the forehead with a flying shoe.
He looked down to see Ed staring up at him sheepishly. "Spot don't like shoes either," she whispered.
Spike sighed and put his finger to his lips in an attempt to get her to shut up. He looked around quickly but it seemed no one had noticed. It also seemed that the circle group had commenced. And then he did something he never figured he'd do. He listened.
It suddenly occurred to him that it was very strange listening to people who were actually living the lies they had tried to cook up for themselves earlier. He heard all their tales of addiction, adultery, and abuse. He particularly took interest in the kids. All of them were pissed off, mad as hell, etc. Almost all of them had the right. And almost all of them seemed to be more together then their fucked up, sorry excuses for parents who whined and complained about being unappreciated and disrespected between bong hits. Spike always thought there was something a little off in that whole Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother thing. The other Commandments were all right, he thought. He wasn't much of a follower but he can see the potential. But this whole idea of respecting someone who arbitrarily gave you life seemed ridiculous. How difficult was it to have sex? Not very, in his experience. Just about anyone can do it. So just cause Ma and Pa Yokel decided to hit the barn dance with a faulty condom, Little Bobby Joe has gotta put up with their shit for the rest of his life? Spike had never been so happy to be an orphan. He came and went as he pleased and never had to answer to anyone. Sometimes it was a little lonely, but it sure beat this crap.
"Ok. Now it's time to meet the Brownstones," Harlow smiled suddenly at them and Spike snapped to attention. "Which one of you will be the spokesperson today?" she asked blithely.
Spike and Jet immediately looked at Faye. "You seem to be on a roll today, Ms. Scarlet," Jet grinned. "Why don't you take the reins?"
Faye smirked in evil triumph. "Well," she oozed. "My name is Scarlet. And that hairball with the person sticking out of it is my husband, Lee. We met at a rodeo in the summer of 2060. I was a nurse there and he was one of the clowns. He had gotten it hard in the ass and was sent into my care, and it was shortly after that he knocked me up." Faye took a moment to allow Jet to stop chortling in the background. "We had a shot gun wedding, literally, and soon his brother Chuck moved in."
"I mow lawns," Jet added.
Faye raised her eyebrows at him and then said, "And apparently he mows lawns. Though you wouldn't know it from all the money we get from him. Or should I say, lack of."
"I mow lawns for free. I'm just that kind of guy."
Faye almost lost it in that moment, but managed to revert back to a faŤade of total despair. "Soon after, our child was born. We named her...Spot."
"Spot...what an unusual name. Is that short for something?" Harlow asked.
"Spotilla Loquacious Maria the Third!" Ed proclaimed.
Faye shrugged. "It's a family name. Anyway, since the rodeo accident, Lee hasn't worked a single day. He spends all of his time on the couch drinking whiskey and watching reruns. I tell him that we need money. That we can't afford to raise our daughter in this pigsty..."
"Oink! Oink!" Ed added for effect.
"But he just tells me to shut up. He's trying to watch his stories," Faye chose this time to melt down into a river of hysterical sobs, which prompted Ed to imitate her. Everyone was staring at Spike like he was the scum of the universe, which he found interesting, given all of their own tales of woe. What was that about glass houses and rocks?
"Do you have anything to add to that, Mr. Brownstone?" Harlow asked in what she had intended to be a gentle voice, but sounded a little harsh over the blubbering of the women.
"Not really, no," Spike shrugged. What the hell did he care what Ph.D. thought of him anyway?
"Are you sure? Because I'm really very interested in what you have to say," she prodded.
Again, all eyes were intently on Spike. He simply looked Harlow straight in the eye and said with a frightening evenness of voice, "Well, when I feel like talking, we'll be in business."
The doctor and her patient squared off for a moment in a mental showdown. Finally, Harlow relented without exactly surrendering. "Very well," she said tightly. "We'll simply move on to those with the courage to seek help."
* * *
"'I mow lawns'?" Faye asked Jet as she blew smoke rings up at the ceiling. "What was that about?"
"I dunno. I just felt my character would mow lawns," he said simply.
Faye giggled. "Your character? What are you, workshopping or something?"
"You're one to talk. You were practically whoring for an Oscar out there," Jet smirked. "You really tugged the ol' heart strings." He was teasing her but he was actually quite impressed. She made up a totally ridiculous story on the spot, improvised like a pro, and managed to play the room like putty in her hands. One thing about Faye, she always managed to surprise him.
Faye gave a small bow for her performance and then looked over at Spike. He was sitting on the couch of the cabin with his nose in a magazine for a good hour. Faye would be lying if she said this didn't greatly disappoint her. She had expected Spike to come at her swinging after her little monologue in circle group but he barely said a word to her. She noticed he had been a little off since they got here. Whatever. Spike was never one to show all his cards and he certainly wasn't worth the gamble.
Ein suddenly barked from the bathroom and Jet poked his head in. "Got something, Ed?"
Ed was sitting in the empty bathtub, Tomato balanced carefully on the edge. "Flooooooor plaaaaaaan," she sighed. Architecture always bored her. "Bebop-Bebop gonna snoop?"
Jet looked over her shoulder. "Hmmm...maybe," he said as he inspected the plan more closely. "I just wish I knew what we are looking for."
"Well, its lights out by 10," Faye suggested, looking over her pamphlet. "I figure by one, we'll pretty much have free range to investigate."
Jet nodded. "All right then. We go snooping at one. Got that Spike?"
"I said, we're gonna go poke around at one."
Faye and Spike then proceeded to have an entirely silent conversation. She narrowed her eyes and shrugged her shoulders slightly, which was translated by Spike into, "What is your problem?"
Spike waved his hand as if he was shooing a fly. This meant "Nothing."
Faye repeated her previous gesture but in a more severe degree, which of course meant, "Are you sure?"
Spike put his magazine over his face and flipped her the bird, which meant, "Yes."
And Harlow said they had trouble communicating.