May 2011


We started getting used to the world as they had created it for us, even pretended that we liked the weather changes, humid one day and freezing the next, the air heavy with worry.  We pretended that we enjoyed struggling for survival.

Then the election season came with the spring.

He was said to be a direct descendant of  Jesus.  At least, there were plenty of experts willing to trace his lineage back to the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.  Or maybe he said so himself.

The point is, he was here to deliver us.  Who cares where he came from?

When Jesus Jr. (or J for short) first announced his candidacy for President, I was watching TV in bed, still unemployed and chewing on an old chocolate bar.

“America isn’t lost yet,”  he said.  “I believe in America, America as it can be in the future.  We can save it!”

I dropped the chocolate bar.  I had been down for so long that I’d forgotten about my powers, about the things I once thought I could do.  I remembered again.

“I see an America which isn’t a red America or a blue America.  I see one unified America,”  J said.

Unfortunately, my sister disagreed with him, making America a lot less unified.

“You just don’t like him because he’s one of the Christs,”  I said.  “You still believe that bunk about Jesus never being married.”

“Yes, I do,”  RedGirl confirmed.  “You’ve got a huge crush on this guy, don’t you?  Now I know what it takes for you to fall in love….a man who claims he’s God.”

“I’m not in love, I’m an activist.”  I shook my head.  Maybe one day she and I would have a heart to heart talk, and I could get her to have more of an open mind.

“Fine, but your activism will make the country broke and our children will have a horrible future,”  she warned.

I changed out of my pajamas and sprinted out the door, not listening to her.  Finally, my day of greatness had come!

***

“Hello, I’m with the campaign for….”

This time the person on the other end hung up before I even had the chance to finish the sentence.  At least they didn’t yell at me or ask me to explain why we were calling them again.

One would think that a political campaign would make better use of a superhero like me.  But no.  I was put to work on the phone bank.

“Would you like to hear why I will never vote for J?”

“I’m not sure….”

“Have you read the Book of Revelations?”

“No.”

“Let me get my Bible and I will read you the relevant verses…hold on…”

Stupid swing state people.  It was their own fault for being indecisive.  Any decent state would know which side it was on.  And now I had to persuade these people who didn’t have the sense to have made their minds up already.

“Hey, I’m working,”  I kept saying in my defense.

“But you’re not getting paid for it,”  Mother reminded me.  “I’m sorry to tell you this, but this doesn’t qualify as a job.”

“The rewards I receive from my work are intangible,”  I countered.  “They cannot be measured in simple financial terms.”

I was getting the distinct impression that my family viewed me with pity.

“Couldn’t I burn down a wealthy suburb for you, or something?”  I asked my volunteer team leader.

“I’ve heard the stuff about you being different and all that,”  he said.  “But we can’t give any preferential treatment.  You have to start out down in the trenches just like everybody else.”  He leaned back in his chair.  “That’s the principle of equality that we’re all about.”  He looked to be around eighteen.  I have to say, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to get lectures about equality from a college student this much younger than me.

But I obeyed the kid.  After all, I believed in equality too…although deep in my heart, I knew I was a little more special than the others.

***

My patience paid off.  After I got sucked into yet another long philosophical conversation on the phone about the nature of morality, I was promoted to doing mass mailings.

“Stick the letters in the envelopes,”  my team leader told me.  “Don’t talk to anybody too much.”

I stuffed envelopes as if the world depended on it….which it kind of did.  Out in the main office, a group of new volunteers was being brought in to work the phones.

I put the envelopes down.  There she was, the customer service rep from Squircal.  She was wide awake, no longer a zombie.

I wanted to talk to her, ask her how it felt for her to stand up to the powers that be, but then I recalled my instructions and thought better of it.

When I was done with my assignment, I snuck another glance at her.  She was sitting at her desk, looking just as stressed out as she did before at her job.

She was in between calls, so I walked up to her and sat in the empty chair next to her.

“Are you okay?”  I asked.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,”  she said, pushing her wild hair out of her eyes.  “I hate being on the phone all day, and here I am doing it again in my free time…and I’m doing it voluntarily!”

“Well, thank you for making the choice to do this,”  I said.

She stared at her call list of numbers.  “Yeah, I guess I almost forgot how important this is.”  She nodded at me.  “Thanks.  I’m Leah, by the way.”

***

“Get the Heck out of here!  I’m not voting for no foreign brown-skinned Heeeebrew….”

“Very well, sir, we’ll leave.  Let me give you our info sheet about Medicare….”

I pulled on Leah’s sleeve.  “Come on, it’s obvious the guy doesn’t like to read.  Let’s get out of here before we get shot.”

As weeks on the campaign went by, Leah and I were chosen to be one of the pairs of volunteers going door to door to talk to undecided voters.  Rather, Leah was chosen.  She convinced my skeptical team leader that I would make a good partner for her.

“I feel like sometimes you don’t know when to stop, Leah.”

“I’m going to push as hard as I can.  There are kids in Iraq that might not die if the right guy wins,”  Leah said to me.  “This election is a life and death thing, Blue.”

“Well, I agree with you….”

“Are you sure?”

Then an exciting announcement came from one of  J’s disciples: J would be driving through our town.  We weren’t nearly important enough of a place for him to stop and give a speech—but still, we would get waved at.

That morning, all of us crowded into a designated section of Main Street.  We called it the Democracy Zone.

Our sense of style was a bit uneven.  J had been called everything from unpatriotic to the Antichrist, so we needed to make a good impression.  Some people made a point of wearing gaudy, bejeweled crosses, even if they weren’t religious, while others sported clashing concoctions of red, white and blue.  One of our team leaders dressed up as George Washington.

On the other side of the street, a small counterprotest by the Whiskey Party was taking place.  A bearded man was shouting into a bullhorn.  “He will force you to give all your stuff away…  He wants us to turn the other cheek to our enemies…  All I got to say to him is come here and turn the other cheek, bitch, and I will slap the shit out of you….”

“Idiot!”  Leah spat out.  “Could you hit him?”

“Excuse me?”  I raised an eyebrow.

She came closer to me.  “I’ve heard that you have talents you can use.  Could you strike him down?  Just while J is going by.”

I had asked so many times to be allowed to use my powers.  But now, something felt wrong.  “Um….doesn’t J preach nonviolence?”

“Well, yes, he does.”  She slumped a little.  She seemed disappointed.

After a moment of quiet, she turned back to me.  “But don’t you sometimes wish we could?  I mean, I know it’s morally wrong, but….  Or, what if you could strike their *minds*, not their bodies?  You know, use your energy to change the way they are thinking.  Don’t you ever wish you could do that when you’re talking to all those racist morons out there?  Things would be so much easier if those people could only realize the truth….”

“You mean….we should brainwash them?”  I asked.

“No, I don’t.  You make it sound so harsh….”

“I don’t feel comfortable…forcing people to believe in him.”

Leah’s mouth grew tight.  She stabbed her finger in the direction of the Whiskey Partiers.  “If they had a chance to hurt you, they would.  They are not your….”

She was drowned out by the giant cheer which erupted behind us.  We spun around and tried to see past the barriers and crowds of the Democracy Zone, but it was too late.  The limos had flown by already.

J was gone.  I was in disbelief.  We had missed him because of a stupid argument.

The spectators were jostling their way back towards the parking lot, mothers carrying their babies, a woman in a wheelchair, children with their elderly parents, all of them hoping that J’s policies would one day heal what ailed them.

“Well, that was kind of anticlimactic, wasn’t it?”  our team leader said.  “I’m not even sure it was really him.  But it was somebody with a long beard!”

I was about to burst into tears.

Leah looked down.  “I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t assume that everyone else is as intensely committed to the cause as I am.”

She walked off in silence and I slowly followed after her.

***

As the summer ended, Leah was awarded the plaque for top volunteer in our local office.  We didn’t talk very much anymore.  She worked on that phone that she hated so much with obsessive zeal, and she not only motivated the swing voters to support J, she also persuaded them to send us financial gifts, telling them vivid stories about what would happen to them under a conservative administration when they were old and sick.  She used all the customer service and sales tricks that her evil corporate employer had taught her.

Then it was fall—the final big push.

On another one of those unseasonably hot afternoons, I went outside to take a break for a few minutes in the fresh air.  My team leader was lounging on the steps, a cup of coffee in his hand.  He didn’t say anything to me.

I leaned against the brick wall.  “Are you angry at me, too?”

“Huh?  No, why?”  He recollected something.  “Oh, I think I see what you mean.”

“When I came here, I thought this would be a non-judgmental place,”  I said.

“Yeah, I know.  I used to be a hippie too.”  He hunched over and sipped his coffee.  “But we don’t have that luxury these days.  This is a serious situation.  We live in America, and we have to be hard, even if we’re dreamers.  You can think of this thing with Leah as a way to challenge yourself, to try and take it to a higher level.”

“A higher level?  I completely support J….”

“You might have to prove that.”

“How?  With my superpowers?”

“Noooooo….I’m not a big fan of those.  They make you seem like you’re not the same as the rest of us.”  He shrugged.  “Use your human powers.”

“But how would I….?”

“I can’t always tell you what to do,”  he said.  “Think about it yourself.  You’re intelligent, right?”

***

My human powers?  What did that mean, exactly?  I didn’t have very much money.  I wasn’t intimidating, and I wasn’t good at talking people into paying for my product.

What could I do to show them that I cared just as much as they did?

I was deep in thought as I walked along to the bus stop.  Suddenly, pieces of paper fluttered in the air in front of me and around me, coming down like last year’s freak snowstorm.  I caught one.  It had a picture of  J’s election opponent, The General, and a small blurb about a brand new morning.

I looked up.  A familiar red dot flitted here and there across the sky, scattering flyers as she went, the Republican Tinkerbell.

She had no problem with using her supernatural skills.

***

From the minute I got home, RedGirl was her usual obnoxious self.

“Did you see me doing my political activism today?”  she screeched at me.

“Yes, I saw your pathetic flyers.  Most of the stuff on them was factually incorrect,”  I said.  “And that picture you had didn’t make your sad old General any more attractive.”

“It doesn’t matter what you think.  Your side is going to lose anyway,”  she snarked.  “We like traditional people in this country.  There’s no way anyone is going to vote for a radical like J.”

“Radical?  You claim to be a follower of his religion!  Or his family’s at least….”

“I’m not sure it’s even constitutional for him to be running in an election,”  she countered.  “Who knows where he was born, or what he was born of….?”

“Oh, don’t give me *that* crap.”

She got up to go to bed.  “Like I said, you’re going to lose.  We are so winning this one.”

My heart sank.  I knew she was probably right.  Jesus didn’t stand a chance.  He didn’t fit in with mainstream America, and he looked too much like he was an Arab.  My throat tightened with anger.  I did have some human powers I could use, after all.

“Did you have a permit to drop those flyers on the city?  I think I’m going to have to contact the authorities,”  I blurted out.

“You’re going to turn me in, huh?”  RedGirl came back and faced me, her eyes blazing.  “Don’t make me launch a fireball at your ass.”

“I liked you girls so much better before you got involved in politics,”  Mother’s voice said.

She was standing there, watching us, shaking her head.  “Is this really what it has come to?”

Something in her tone set me off.  “It’s easy to talk.  You’re not willing to commit yourself to either side, and that’s a choice too.  You might as well be the enemy.”

“You can denounce your entire family if you want to, dear.”  Mother sat down in a chair and stretched.  “If that will make you happy.”

I didn’t have anything to say to that.  I turned around and stormed off to my room.

I had one more human power left.  I would vote.

***

On election night, I nervously sorted through boxes of  J bumper stickers.  I didn’t want to watch television with the other volunteers in the main office, for fear of what I was sure was an impending loss.

I turned the radio on for a second.

“Next, who really was J’s Dad?  Does his parentage reflect family values?  Also, his little-known links to Palestine….”

I turned it back off.

One of the girls, the one who had purple hair in two braids, stuck her head through the door, very excited.

“Jesus is President!”  she said.

The rest of the evening was spent dancing and drumming in the street, with lots of champagne toasts and hugs.

It wasn’t until after midnight that I came home.  I stopped by my sister’s door.  I heard sobbing on the other side.

RedGirl was curled up on her bed with tearful eyes and an empty beer bottle in her hand.

“I can’t believe we lost!”  she said to me between hiccups.  “He’s going to destroy America!  It’s all over….”

“No, he won’t,”  I said.  “He will fix America.”  I sat down next to her on the bed and stroked her hair.  “You know how the insurance companies didn’t wanna give you health coverage?  He’s gonna make all of that go away….”

I held her while she continued to cry.  I wanted to be magnanimous in victory.  The time for fighting was in the past—from now on, there would be peace.  Soon, she would understand this, too.

“From now on, everything will be….perfect,”  I said, gazing out the window at the stars, knowing very little about the kingdom which was about to come.

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“I’m tired of doing the superhero thing already,”  RedGirl sighed, wiping her brow.  “Back in the good old days, there would have been men to do this kind of work for us.”

“Oh, stop it,”  I said.  “We don’t need men anymore.  I can achieve great deeds without anybody’s help, thank you very much.”

We were sitting in a stall at the Farmer’s Market, surrounded by cages of fruits and vegetables, some of them still half-alive and wriggling in their enclosures, as they hadn’t been hacked to death with quite the precision that they should have been.

RedGirl nudged me in the ribs.  A potential customer was poking our meanest carrot with a stick through the bars of its cage.  It grabbed the tip of the stick and snapped it in half with its jaws.

“I would love to cook this one,”  he said.

“He’s kind of a freak,”  RedGirl whispered to me, as he continued trying to spear the carrot.

I groaned.  “Do you want me to talk to him for you?”  My sister had a hard time admitting to herself that she liked the freaks.

“You rarely see ones as big and juicy as this,”  he said, standing up and handing me a couple of rolled up dollars in payment.  I opened the cage and stepped back a little.

He pulled the carrot out of its cage, still hissing and spitting, took a knife from his belt and stabbed it through with one long slice, the carrot juice splashing some unfortunate hippies, who shrieked and ran away.

I turned my head to see that, quite predictably, RedGirl’s jaw had dropped.  “Wow….that was so beautiful,”  she managed.  She squeezed my arm.  “Come on.  You always talk to strange people like this.”

“How do you usually cook these?”  I asked, irritated.

“With meat,”  he replied.

“So do we!”  RedGirl said.

He shook the limp body of the carrot and started cutting out its teeth.

“Aren’t you scared of eating them?”  I wasn’t very good at promoting our mutant veggie stand.

“No, I wish they would legalize them already,”  he said.  “They’re not any worse than regular vegetables, they just make you feel more powerful.”

“We’re gonna have that potluck dinner,”  RedGirl suggested to me.

“We would love to have you come to our potluck dinner,”  I snapped.  “Do I need to give him my phone number, too?”  I asked her.

“Well, I’m certainly not giving him mine,”  she bristled.  “Just give him our address.”

He took the slip of paper from me and went on cleaning his knife.

***

I threw a bag of potato chips down on the table.  “There, I’m ready for the potluck.”

RedGirl pretended to be outraged, even though I contributed a bag of chips to any event I was involved in, including baby showers and Christmases.  “You will never impress a guy like Paul this way.”  The carrot-killer’s name turned out to be Paul.

“That’s good, because I don’t want to impress him.  No worries, I’m sure he’ll love whatever greasy thing you grill up.”  I grimaced.

“My bacon is delicious.  You can make fun all you want.”  She hesitated.  “He did say he was in favor of legalizing the genetically modified vegetables.  Maybe he’s my conservative guy and I don’t even realize it!  Maybe he’s RedMan, but he’s in disguise.”

“Or he’s a crazy bum with a knife who’s coming over to dinner.”

“I’m sorry I was having a romantic moment,”  she said.  “I forgot you’re a bitter feminist who doesn’t approve of this kind of stuff.”

“That’s not what I….”

We couldn’t continue our argument, because the doorbell rang, and it was time to start welcoming the potluck guests, most of them either Mother’s friends, fashionably dressed and bringing homemade pastries and unnecessary husbands with them, or my sister’s friends, dressed like sluts and bringing junk food.  Paul arrived too, with a bowl of his supercharged stew, ogling the skimpy-skirted girls.

My intuition instantly told me that he was a dastardly character.  What was he going to do to my sister?  He went out to smoke on our patio, huddling in the first cool air of the early fall, and I followed him out.  The crumpled remains of giant corn still lay scattered all about.

“So is it true that you’re kind of a family of political bigshots?”  he asked.

“You could say we have special connections, yeah,”  I said.

“What a waste of your time,”  he observed.

“You think so?”  I watched him blow out smoke.

“Yes, and it doesn’t matter to me which party you’re working for.  They all fuck you over the same way.”

“I don’t believe that’s true.”

“Excuse me….I have to go.”  He stubbed his cigarette out and went back inside.  I looked in the window and saw that RedGirl was flashing some good old-fashioned cleavage at him.

At this rate, I wouldn’t be able to stop this disaster.  The heartless man would probably have sex with her, too.  My sympathy went out to her.

So sad did I feel for her that I waited for him to go into the kitchen when he was on a break from his flirting, knocked him unconscious with a bolt of energy and locked him in our storage closet.  It was unusual for me to feel so protective of my sister.

In the living room, the party was swinging.  The guests laughed loudly and devoured sweet cakes and RedGirl’s bacon.  Father came out of his room for once and, trying to be necessary, handed out champagne.

“Where’s Paul?”  RedGirl asked.  “He was talking to me.”

“Who knows?  I’m sure he’s gutting and skinning one of our houseplants.”

“Whatever.  You don’t have to put him down just because you can’t cook.  His stew is ah-mazing.”  Her eyes scanned the room for him once more, and then she walked off to search for him.

Her comments left me frustrated, as usual.  I couldn’t understand the desires of everybody else around me.  I didn’t understand why you would want to spend hours cooking, when you could buy food ready to eat and have more time for other things.  I didn’t understand why you would want to be stuck in a relationship, when you could be free.  I wasn’t missing out on anything.

Of course, the fact that I felt this way possibly meant that there was something very big missing inside of me, but I preferred not to think about that.

“What did you do to him?”  My emo moment was disrupted by RedGirl, who had come back from her inspection of the house.  She was jabbing her finger in my face.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“What did you do to Paul?  I could tell you were into him ever since we met him, and now he’s disappeared.  I know you had something to do with it.”  Her eyes drilled into me.  “Give it up.”

“Like I care about your little rightie.  Maybe your conversation was boring and he left.”

RedGirl stalked away again, but she kept watching me.  She and her screeching friends circled the party like a flock of multi-colored hawks.

I escaped to my bedroom.  I couldn’t wait for this evening to be over with.  I needed to get rid of Paul somehow.  My sister already thought I was involved in some pathetic girlie competition with her, and if he came rolling out of our closet, she would be convinced of it.

Well, it was almost nine p.m.  The guests would be leaving shortly.

I cracked the window open.  Outside, the air was muggy and thick with rain.  It had gotten a lot warmer.

In the back, people gathered out on the patio, listening to the downpour in the steamy heat.

“Fall can be such an interesting time of year—the weather changes every minute,”  one of the ladies commented.

The rain seemed too intense even for an interesting fall night.  Puddles and pools were forming in the grass, rising until there was water on the concrete slabs in front of our doorstep.

“Are we getting flooded?”  Mother wondered.  “Everybody, please collect your possessions and we will continue the party up in the attic.”  As she said this, snow started swirling out of the sky.

“It’s obvious this is global warming,”  I said, as everything around us froze into sheets of ice.

We closed all the windows and doors, and had hot toddies.  A half hour later, the cold wind was still blowing, and our yard still gleamed in the moonlight, frozen solid.  It became clear nobody was going anywhere for a while.  We were iced in.  I put my head in my hands.

“We’re running out of tea biscuits,”  Mother said to Dad.  The guests had stopped joking about the weather and were clustered around the fireplace.  “Be useful, dear, and go check the storage closet.”

I didn’t even have time to be horrified, because right then, Paul strolled into the living room, a half-eaten bag of pasta in his hand.

“Where have you been?”  RedGirl asked, suspicious.

“Oh, just taking a little break over there.”  He grinned at me, which I didn’t appreciate.  “May I have something to drink, please?”

“Go for it, get the man a drink,”  RedGirl said to me.  “Since I can tell that you really want to.”

“No….”  I began.  But that would be very bad manners.  With all eyes on me, I picked up a whiskey bottle and showed it to Paul.  He nodded, and I poured him a glass, simmering with hatred.

“Thank you,”  he said.  “It’s okay…I won’t reveal your secret,”  he added in a half-whisper.

This was going to be a very long potluck.

***

We woke up to a perfect Christmas morning view.  We had snowdrifts and everything.

“Well, sometimes winter comes a little early.  It’s not like there’s anything abnormal about that,”  RedGirl said.

In the distance, shafts of lightning struck the ice.  A tall snow funnel slowly travelled along the horizon.

“Are we going to wait until we have no food left?”  Paul asked.

“Won’t there be an evacuation of some kind?”  I replied.

Paul burst out in mocking laughter.  “Are you seriously hoping that the government is going to help you?  Good luck with that.  We need to mount an expedition for supplies.”

“Would that mean going out into…the snow?”  I shrank from the window.

Paul’s eyes had a glint of unhealthy excitement in them.  “Are you scared of the cold?  You can always just stay here and suck your thumb like a little girl.  Maybe someone will give you a handout.”

“No, I’ll go with you.”  Somehow, I had volunteered myself for a polar explorer mission into a blizzard.  “As you know, I have energies that could help you.”

“I have energies too,”  RedGirl reminded us.

“Oh, good.  Then you can go instead of me,”  I said.

“I’ll be more than happy to take both of you,”  Paul said with a smile.  “Double the special powers, right?”

***

The air was crisp and the sky was clear when we waddled out into the street, wrapped in our warmest layers.

“It’s a beautiful day for an adventure,”  Paul said, pulling RedGirl and me into a big bearhug.

An impromptu neighbourhood committee had held a meeting and agreed that sending the three of us off in the direction of town was a fabulous idea.  They were also nice enough to provide us with a mode of transportation.

A line of dogs sat on the ice, all of them tied to a rope, which was attached to a ramshackle sled nailed together out of pieces of nonessential furniture.  One of the dogs distantly resembled a husky, but the line also included a couple of overweight retrievers and a pug.  Of course, all the dogs wore little coats and sweaters, and booties on their feet.

“Let’s see how well these guys can handle our weight,”  Paul said.

We climbed onto the sleigh, my sister and I on either side of Paul.  The dogs wagged their tails and waited for treats.

“Hold on, I’ll get some milkbones,”  the pug’s owner called out.  “He likes those—he’ll run for them.”

“If we wait for them to go, we’ll be here until the snow melts, and then there won’t be a point to it anymore,”  Paul grumbled.  “Would you be able to use those energies you’ve been talking about, girls?”

“Not if you keep referring to us as girls,”  I said.  “That’s BlueWoman to you.”

“Don’t be so insecure,”  Paul said.  “Can you help get us going?”

I frowned, but I sent a jolt of blue light at the dogs.  It shoved them forward a small distance, but they were insulted at this treatment, and refused to move any further.

“Here, take my hand,”  RedGirl stretched her arm out to me.  As we held hands across Paul’s lap, a stream of purple energy shot out from us and the sled hurtled over the white streets, the surprised dogs flying before it.

We ended up on the side of a hill, the rope tangled and dog legs and tails sticking up out of the snow.

“We’ll have to find a better way of doing this,”  Paul said from somewhere underneath me.

***

“Do we have to keep going on to town?”  I yelled out.

“Yes, otherwise we’ll starve,”  Paul called back to me.

“Can’t I just lie down and rest here on the snowbank for a while?  It feels so warm,”  I said.

“You wimps.  Aren’t you the ones with the superpowers?  Keep pulling!”

Paul and the dogs were sitting on the sled.  RedGirl and I were in front of it, holding on to the rope.

“If you and I team up, we can still overturn him into a ditch somewhere,”  I suggested to my sister.

“Yeah, what a great way to make me look bad to him.  No, thanks.”  RedGirl walked back to the sled.  “Paul, I have something private that I want to share with you.  I can fly.  I think I can pull us to town through the air.  BlueGirl can’t fly, by the way.”

“She’ll have to sit up here with me, then.”  Paul moved the husky to a back seat.  The expression on his face made my stomach turn.

Soon, we were flying along.  I clung to a rail out of habit, but the ride was pretty smooth, considering that it was RedGirl who was driving us.

Then, we were circling over a sparkling downtown, attempting to make our approach, and we were hit by turbulence, the sled shaking and creaking on the way down like an old Soviet airplane.

“I have something special to share with you, too,”  I said to Paul.  “I attract accidents and falls.  Hold on!”

We landed right in the center of the shopping district.  The sled bumped along the frosty ground a couple of times, scattering chair legs and sofa cushions as it went, but it held together, and nobody was hurt.

Downtown was completely abandoned.  Which made sense—the snow and ice had struck in the evening, when there wouldn’t have been anybody here.  The skyscrapers were empty and silent.

Paul knelt down, picked up a little snow with his fingers and tasted it.  He pointed in an eastern direction.  “We have to go that way.  The Grocery Outlet is over there.”

“The Grocery Outlet?  Ewwww!”  RedGirl recoiled at the thought.

“You have to trust me.  Their food lasts forever.”  We moved down the street, armed with the bedposts from my old canopy bed, the one I was now kind of embarrassed about.

I held Paul back just as the Grocery Outlet sign came into sight.  “There’s someone in front of that store….somebody with a gun.”

“Probably the store manager.  Ugh.  I wonder if he’ll trade with us.”  Paul pulled out a fur-lined pouch.

“It’s….not a manager.  It’s one of the Squircal executives,”  I said in disbelief.

“Don’t come any closer.”  The executive aimed the gun at me.  “I remember you.”

I should have expected this.  The Squircal guys had most likely created this entire winter event, as part of their plan for some sort of resource grab.  And now this man would ration the food in town to us at a high price, if he even felt like giving any of it to us at all.

Then I looked at his face and saw something which chilled me even more:  panic.

I walked up to him, in spite of myself.  “You’re not in charge of this weather thing, are you?  Not anymore, right?”

“The climate changes are within our control,”  he snarled.  “You’ve caused us problems in the past.  Be careful.”

“Yeah….?”  It was obvious to me from his tone that he wasn’t in control of a single snowflake.

“I’m willing to let you go now only because you’re connected to a higher power.”  He was referring to the Bat, of course.

He shivered in his small jacket.  Like the rest of us, used to our mild climate, he was not prepared for these kinds of temperatures.  I was wearing multiple sweaters, one on top of another.

“So….can we get some food?”  I shivered, too.  “I mean, what happens now?  How do we survive?  Or do we all die because you guys messed up the planet?”

He didn’t lower his gun.  “What if there isn’t enough food left for me?”

“We have money.”

A fire came back into the man’s eye.  A familiar instinct stirred him.  “Money?”

I turned back to my friends.  “Er….we do have money, right?”

I was broke, Paul had mostly beads, but between the three of us we managed to scrape up almost ten bucks.

“Now, naturally some serious inflation will apply,”  the executive said.  “But I would say that I can sell you a box of Cup’O’Noodles soups in exchange for your payment of eight dollars and ninety-nine cents.”

“What?!  That’s outrageous!”  RedGirl said.

I held out my hand to quiet her.  “I think this may be our only option.  We’ll accept the deal.”

We left the man shaking with cold as he guarded his giant food stash, holding on to our money with near-frozen fingers.

Paul carried the box of soup cups.  “What are we gonna do with this?”

“Are you kidding me?”  I flashed him a smile.  “Paul, you’re in luck.  I don’t like to cook, so I have a thousand and one methods for making a Cup’O’Noodles meal.”

He seemed slightly nauseated.  “That’s….great.  Thanks.”

***

Later on, Paul and I were standing and waiting by the sled.  RedGirl wanted to check if the mall was closed.

“I like it when I find a woman I can have an intelligent conversation with,”  he said to me.

I remained guarded.  “Is that so?”

“Yeah.  You’re pretty cool, you know.”

“But aren’t you interested in RedGirl?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Wouldn’t you prefer a girl like her?”

“Why do I have to choose?”  He chuckled quietly.  “I can just have the two of you.”

“Huh?  Can you get away with that?  I thought you were a Republican.”

“There’s your first mistake.”  He stretched.  “I’m not a conservative.  I’m a libertarian.  I can do whatever the fuck I want.”

My eyes shifted to his left.  There, right behind him, was RedGirl, glowing with the crimson light of vengeance, her chest heaving.  She had heard every word.  I gave her a tiny nod and a moment later, Paul lay face down in the snow, unconscious.

“I feel so much better.  But isn’t it cruel to leave him here like this?”  RedGirl asked.

“Nah, he’ll be okay.  This is wilderness man we’re talking about,”  I said.  “We’ll be lucky if he doesn’t come after us with his crocodile hunting kit.”

“I guess you’re right,”  RedGirl agreed.  She exhaled.  “Man, courting the libertarian vote is *so* not worth it.”

We made the dogs pull us all the way back home.