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June 24, 2013

I Hraet You (68)

Beat 68: Even Inchworms Have Their Pride

Even though she’d left the TV on, Jane didn’t have much interest in the promos flashing across the screen (especially those mentioning Wrestlepalooza).  She just sat atop her bed, thumbing through a catalog in search of some nice furniture.  Not much else mattered at the moment; the sun was setting, so she’d figured she’d earned the right to have a bit of rest.

She flipped to a new page.  I wonder if this table will match the kitchen’s décor, she thought as she pressed a finger to her chin.  Maybe they’ve got different models.  I’ll have to go down to the store and see for myself.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll find something even nicer?  She glanced to her right, taking note of the groove in the bed -- one so deep she could have used it as a makeshift tub.  Oh, but I wonder if Bernie will like what I find.  Maybe I’ll wait until he gets home…or maybe I’ll just surprise him with --


The slight smile on Jane’s face evaporated.  “So she’s at it again,” she said with a sigh.

“Miss O’Leary, please, calm down!” Lloyd’s voice rang -- muffled thanks to the walls, and a fourth as loud as Sheila’s, but still discernible.  “I merely meant that I wanted to pass on dinner tonight!  No need to take it as an offense to your culinary skills!”

Jane shook her head.  Smooth talking on Lloyd’s part; too bad he spoiled it by hacking up a few more chunks of his stomach.

“What am I even good for?” Sheila wailed.  “I can’t seduce you…I can’t cook for you…I can’t even keep you unconscious for the rest of the day!”

“To be fair, I’ve quite the resistance to electric -- HZZZZZZZZZZADGHADGHADGHA!”

Jane thumbed through another page.  Once again, things looked as if they’d run their natural course.  A manic daughter, a freaked-out boy, a crying daughter, a running-away boy…the usual cycle, give or take some extreme measures (either by Jane, or by Sheila).  They’d gone through the dance before; maybe this one would prove her right at last.  She just wondered if they’d get sued…again.

“What am I supposed to do now?  Let you go?  But if I do that, it’ll just prove my mom right!  And I don’t wanna lose again!”

“Then let’s try talking instead of reckless action!  Trust me, Miss O’Leary -- I know how much harm can be done by just rushing in without a -- HZZZZZZZZZZADGHADGHADGHA!  Would you please stop shocking me?!”

Sheila paused.  So did Lloyd.  Jane perked up her ears -- and of course, waited for the magic words.

“Do over.”

“Can we at least go with the blackjack this time?  I think I prefer the blackjack to the baton, the chloroform, the rod, the baseball bat, the-- HRK!”

Jane sighed.  We are so getting sued.  She tossed the catalog onto the floor, reached under her pillow, and pulled out the latest issue of Adipose Monthly to “read the articles.”  Then again, that Lloyd sure does seem like a nice boy.  I wouldn’t mind spending a little more time with him…outside the courtroom. 

She accidentally crinkled a page.  God, my daughter’s dumb.


The night had finally settled in.  Barely a sun ray had made into Sheila’s room that morning; now the most that could get in was a strip of light from a street lamp buzzing outside.  Thankfully, Sheila had left on a night light -- thankfully one without any aggressive colors -- but an unshakeable dimness still filled the room.  No snoring, though; Sheila just lay in her heart-shaped bed, no doubt lamenting the fact that she should have measured properly first.  At the moment, her legs hung a bit off the edges.

But even with the night upon them, Lloyd didn’t feel much like sleeping.  For starters, he was still tied up in the chair.  For another, he’d toppled onto his side hours ago, and been left to lay very close to (and hopefully not in) a dried-up pool of puke and blood.  Each breath he took in made him wonder if he was smelling overcooked hot dogs, or some of his smoked skin.

Not surprisingly, he wasn’t in the mood to smile.

All right.  So what have we learned?  He shifted his cheeks a bit -- still plenty sore.  I learned that as pleasant as it might sound, getting hammered in the face by a pair of enormous swinging breasts is not something one can enjoy.  Force equals mass times acceleration, after all.

He peered as high as he could.  Sheila had wrapped herself tight, save for her feet poking off the bed’s edge; if memory served him right, she hadn’t bothered to put on anything else before hitting the hay.  The thought might have tantalized a normal man (or woman), but somehow Lloyd couldn’t summon up much enthusiasm.  I certainly hope this experience hasn’t made me callous toward the female form, he thought.  A fleeting thought, of course; what mattered most was that Sheila was asleep -- and his torture, accidental or not, had come to an end.  For the moment, at least.

Miss O’Leary has proven more than a little troublesome.  I’d expected to use the day to make some progress, but if anything I’ve actually regressed.  Even after all this time, I’m no closer to re-entering the audition room as I was before.  It’s true that I have my own careless comments to thank for that -- I should have known better than to praise her mother so recklessly in her presence -- but even then, I would have thought I’d be at least a half-step closer to making amends and building rapport.

Think carefully, Lloyd.  Miss O’Leary was endeared to you prior to even the basest action.  But even after shutting a door of sorts on her expectations, she still has every intention of…engagement.  But why?  What is it about her that I’m missing here?  How, exactly, do I fit into her plans?  Why does she have that plan to begin with?  Why the sore relations with her mother, and such steadfast belief in her father?  And most of all…

 Sheila’s words came bubbling back to the forefront.  I…I did everything she told me to, she had said.  What did I do wrong?

Lloyd’s eyes shifted around the room.  Who is she supposed to be?  A friend?  It couldn’t have been her mother, from what I’ve gathered.  But who would tell Miss O’Leary to resort to internment, seduction, and merriment?  Rather poor advice, if you ask me.  He took a slow breath.  It’s no wonder I was helpless in her audition room.  It’s as if there’s an entire ocean of information I need to gather before I can even attempt to help her, let alone succeed.

If this is the pace and the practice I adopt from now on, is this how things will proceed?  Me taking one step forward and two steps back?  Strapped to a chair while half-naked and singed? He winced.  Meanwhile, Gaston continues his heinous acts unabated -- this, in spite of him having an undoubtedly-large head start.  I need to move quickly if I’m to create my countermeasure, but…  He looked up at Sheila once more.  She may be eccentric, but she’s still a human being.  To use her life so recklessly, and hastily…is it truly something I can do?  Is the line between helping others and helping myself beginning to blur?

Could it be that merely by daring to challenge Gaston -- and claiming to do so under good intentions -- I’m even worse than he is?

He didn’t get an answer, of course.  None of the Lloyds that stared at him could even think of one, much less offer one.  He might have had a few comrades to his name, but in this case -- and even then, well beyond that -- he’d have to sort out all the issues on his own.

He knew one thing, at least.  Now wasn’t the time for reflection. 

What I need most -- besides someone to free me from this absurd situation -- is information, Lloyd thought.  If things continue as they have with Miss O’Leary, it might be her that deals the killing blow instead of Gaston and his men.  In which case, I need to gather information from the sources available to me.  The lady of the house would be the most obvious choice, but considering how blasé she’s been about this situation I wonder if I can even reach her. 

Wait a minute…reach?  Lloyd’s eyes darted to the corners of the room -- and sure enough, he laid eyes on it: Sheila’s phone, just a foot away from her bed’s headboard.  Of course!  Arjuna! 

Lloyd wobbled back and forth in the chair.  Still more than a little heavy, and maybe a bit more, thanks to his battered body -- but he had to take a chance.  He wobbled, and wobbled, and wobbled some more; he had a knee and a shoulder to the ground, and the limbs connected to them, of course.  He’d never escape in his current state, but at the moment he didn’t need to.

He wriggled -- chair, rope, and all -- across the floor.  Slow going, without question, but he DID manage a bit of motion.  He looked as if an army of ants tried to hoist him back to their base; he dragged himself across rough textures, but soldiered on with whatever body part he could use (toes included) lending to his efforts.

And he pushed himself even further.  He rocked a bit, trying to build up enough force and force of heart.  And then, he went for it -- he hopped.  Maybe an inch, maybe two.  Not the most impressive leap, but it worked.  It got him closer to his goal.

Arjuna seemed to know Miss O’Leary, Lloyd thought, alternating between dragging and hopping.  He knew well enough to warn me of her peculiarity -- and I’d wager he knows even more.  That rod of hers is vaguely reminiscent of the toothbrush he handled before; given her equipment beforehand I’d think that Miss O’Leary had herself a handy little arms dealer for quite some time.  Or at the very least, an instructor.  

He navigated around a bit of art -- scraping against it and making sculptures wobble, but otherwise avoiding a crash.  Avoiding a noise that might force Sheila awake…and another round of whimsical brutality.  I only hope that I remember Arjuna’s number. And that he’s awake.  And that I can even enter his number.  And that I can even turn her phone on.  He almost laughed aloud.  Somehow this does not seem like the best stratagem.

In spite of that, he made it to the phone -- sorer than ever, of course, but he’d still made it.  With his arm and elbow propping him up, Lloyd pressed his chin down on the screen; to his relief, it lit up without a hassle.  Now then, that just leaves the matter of calling him, he thought.  I pray that my jaw’s key strokes aim noble and true.

They didn’t.  They just brought Lloyd to a different screen -- one without a key pad.

Okay, I deserved that.  I was tempting fate there.  I should probably not do that.  But after fumbling a bit more, he came to a new screen -- one with a list of names and numbers.  And one in particular stuck out to him: Arjuna’s.  He would have squealed like a schoolgirl if not for the circumstances, so he just made do with pressing down on the president’s name.

The screen changed.  Dialing his number, no doubt.  Lloyd set his face against the phone, doing his best to ignore the thumping of his heart.  Pick up, Arjuna.  Pick up, please.  I need your help!

“…Sheila?  I-I thought you said I was done.”

“What?  No, this is…”  Lloyd snapped his eyes upward.  “This is Lloyd,” he whispered.  “I’m using Miss O’Leary’s phone right now.”

“Wait, Lloyd?  Oh, screw this -- I’m hanging up.”

“No, don’t!  I’m in Miss O’Leary’s house right now, and I need your help!  This might be my only chance to ask for it!  I think my life is in genuine danger here!”

A groan echoed into Lloyd’s ear.  “See?  This is exactly what you get.  This is exactly what I told you.  This is exactly why I warned you she was dangerous.”

“It was a risk I had to take.”

“I’m sure it was.”  He sighed.  “So what are you doing there?  Getting tied up and held prisoner, and maybe smacked around a little bit?”

“How did you --?”

“Lucky guess.”

“So you know what Miss O’Leary was planning, then.  If that’s so, then…”  If he had a full range of motion, Lloyd would have shaken his head…not like Arjuna would have seen it.  “Never mind.  Arjuna, I need to learn more about Miss O’Leary.  I need details so that I can spark a meaningful discussion with her.  Try and figure out just what in the world is going through her mind.”

“You actually think you can sort out her brain?  Man, you’re even crazier than I thought -- and that’s saying something.”

“Can you help me?”

Arjuna hummed to himself.  “I guess I might as well.  I’ve been having trouble sleeping, anyway.”


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