AGONIES meeting tonight, and in a place I don’t particularly like.
Alvarez and I chatted a bit while waiting for the others to arrive, and he presented me with a round piece of purple, soft plastic with a thumbprint-sized indentation and filled with some kind of metal that made it much heavier than it appears it should be. The non-indented side sported a holographic sticker with the image of a gecko’s front paw. He said it was mine if I wanted it, whatever it was.
"Dude, this is a slammer! You’re supposed to slam it down on a stack of milk caps and knock as many off as you can with it. Thanks!"
Alvarez nodded and smiled. Neill appeared, scanning the room and scowling slightly. Olig came in and sat down in a squeaky, old office chair and put his booted feet up on the table with a sound that was a mixture between a grunt and a sigh. The door swung open and Iris walked in just before Eban, who had pushed it forcefully, shooting cool Autumn air down the derelict aisles of the building. Everyone got settled in as we waited for the last of us to show up.
"Goris is too busy to make it tonight, so we will have to have this meeting without him," Neill spoke, moving to the far end of the table. He did not sit.
"That’s something I was going to bring up. What’s going on with Goris these days? All I see every night is skunks, opossums, deer, rabbits, armadillos — you know what I saw the other day in front of the apartments on the East side? Gopher tunnels! What gives, Neill?" I had seen a couple of others shift in my peripheral vision, getting ready to speak, but I was too irritated to wait any longer.
Eban muttered some shit about me never working — I sneered at him and pantomimed jerking off, knowing he becomes increasingly sheepish the more people are about. Alvarez sat back in his seat with his serious look on. Iris seemed not to react in any way whatsoever. Olig nodded, and seemed about to say something when Neill looked at me sideways like some kind of fucking intern.
"If you are so concerned about it, Spike, then why don’t you help shoulder some of Goris’ workload? It is not as though you have anything on your plate right now, after all." I always feel like punching Neill when I hear his voice; this epitomized that feeling in me.
"Shoulder some of his workload?! I shoulder extra work when I need to, Neill, because that is my function. But I have seen neither hide nor hair of Goris in months now, and the animal traffic is mounting. Am I supposed to handle all of his work as well as the runoff from each of you?" Before anyone could say anything, I went into filibuster mode.
"Alvarez. Four summers ago. You had that hang-up and had to go away for a while. For two months I held down the fort for you. Kept everything clean and working well on your end, and those kids still greet me warmly any time I see them out in the day." Alvarez smiled and nodded.
"Olig! Last winter when that tree fell on your leg! You were out for almost two weeks, and was there a single sinkhole corpse, forest fire, or reservoir infestation waiting for you when you returned to your duties?" He had been scowling, but it turned to a toothy but checkered smile as he shook his head slowly.
"Iris…" I stared into her eyes for two silent seconds and her composure cracked. Color washed into her face as she averted her gaze downward. At this Eban stood up, rage welling up in his eyes.
"Sit down, Eban! Or do you forget who was there to help you when that dumpster fell over on your stupid ass? I even saved the cat!" Iris took his hand and pulled him back down into his seat.
"And Neill, I know it’s a sore spot for you, but without my vigilance, you wouldn’t be here. I’m sorry about what happened with your chest, but I did as much for you as I would for anyone. The fact that we don’t like each other doesn’t factor into that." Neill did not cease staring at me dispassionately.
"That brings up the first issue of the evening," Neill began, apparently disregarding and diffusing everything I had just said, "Spike’s productivity. I do not think I am the only one who feels that you should be pulling more weight around here. While it is true that you have done a fair job as an on-demand monkey wrench, you could do far more to supplement our work on a day-to-day basis, given you have *such* a gift with all of our skill sets." Incredible. Just when I thought I couldn’t hate the sound of his voice any more, he outdoes himself.
"I can’t expect you to understand it, but that’s not how it works. Magic doesn’t do what you want it to 24/7. But if you try to replace it with some quantified hourly bullshit, the whole thing will collapse, I promise you." With that I sat down, ready to endure an uncomfortable silence. I was overprepared.
"Well, that is neither here nor there," Neill stated flatly, "but Fall is in full swing, so, Iris, let’s hear your Summer report." I hated that conversational maneuver. Neill was practiced at it. Where he would plant a nasty idea, like a seed, and then just walk away abruptly by changing the subject, letting it grow into something dangerous all on its own. I didn’t like where it was going, but the subject was closed for tonight.
I sat through the rest of the boring details of the last season and goals for the current one without much interest. Honestly, I was stewing until Alvarez prodded me and gave me a “don’t worry about it” sort of look. The meeting eventually ended and I didn’t mill around afterward.