6.14 – The Reception

After The Ceremony The Ants demanded we all get in a big line to congratulate Wolf&Lamb.  It went slowly, and I hadta listen to the Adults next to me talk about The Wedding.

“I don’t really know The Bride or The Groom” an Adult said, “but it was nice.”

“What’s Wolfy’s boy do again?” an Adult asked another Adult.

“I dunno,” they said. “I think he’s a Traveling Realtor. Is that a thing?”

“I think they both do drugs,” another Adult said.

“No, no,” another Adult said, “they’re good kids.”

I was too frozen to tell them what Wolf&Lamb were really about and just hadta pretend I didn’t have ears for awhile.

When you got to the front of the line The Ants gave you a few seconds to say something before they pushed you away and the next Reality went.  Wolf&Lamb looked bad.  Their bodies were stiff, their faces were gray, and their eyes just stared out.  It seemed like it might be the first stages of Traveler Vertigo.

“Are you guys getting your ass kicked,too?”  I cut to the chase, “I keep getting too frozen to do the New Reality Sequence, and I haven’t MeToo’d anyone yet.”

“Hurry up,” an Ant interrupted. “It’s a long line.”

“Just shake my hand and say,congratulations,” Wolf told me.

I did what he said, and then he pulled me close and whispered, ”Traveler Lubricant… Lots of it… Now shake Lamb’s hand and congratulate her,too.”

I did what he said and then Lamb pulled me in and whispered, “There’s an Open Bar, all free.”

“Where?  How?” I asked.

But before she could answer a Soldier came to grab my arm.  I didn’t want my arm grabbed again so I dodged it and then hadta just run away.

I kept going until I got to the tent.  It wasn’t like a camping tent.  It was more like a building with thin plastic walls and windows, and it was big enough to hold all of the Realities of The Wedding inside.  There was another long line in there leading to a table with some kinda Bartender Ant who was surrounded by bottles of Alcohol.  “Ah,” I said and got in.

“You supposta be in this line?” an Adult next to me said.

I didn’t say anything.

“Where are your parents?”

“My parents?”

“Yeah, do they know you’re in this line?”

“I’m not a kid,” I said.

“Well, you don’t look like an Adult,” they said.

Then I hadta point my head down and stare at the ground so they wouldn’t say anything else to me.

“What do you want?” The Bartender said when I got to the front.  “It’s all free.”

“Great!” I said.  “I want an entire bottle of Jack Daniels and an entire 2 liter of Dr. Pepper.”

The Bartender laughed, and when he made the drink, there was only a little of both poured in a tiny paper cup.

“Have to make sure there’s enough for everyone,” he said.

“Oh,” I said.

I looked around and everyone only had a tiny paper cup, even Adults like Old Wolfy and his SalesMen friends.  You’d see them drink it down in one gulp and then hafta get right back at the end of the line for another.  The line looked so long you figured your first small drop of Lubricant would probably wear off before you got the next one.  I realized I’d be in the lowest magnitude of Alcohol Perception the whole rest of The Wedding.  I drank my drink in one gulp even tho I knew I’d still have some squeaky tight mind machinery anyway.

Inside the tent there was a big dance floor with lots of tables around, which had namecards by each chair.  It looked like they were organized by Reality Groups, like Lamb’s Distant Cousins’ Realities or Wolf’s Distant Cousins’ Realities.  One table was higher up than the other tables and all of its namecards were in fancy gold writing.  Bride and Groom, Bride and Groom’s parents, Best Man and Wife, Maid of Honor and Date, Usher – The Important Wedding Realities.

Then I found my namecard at some kinda Miscellaneous Realities table.  I’d never heard the names before, and neither had anyone else there.  Soon everyone sat down there to eat and hadta start asking each other questions.  Like WolforLamb?  Name?  Hometown?  Job?  And marriage status?  I didn’t answer any of them.  I just sat there frozen waiting for the music to come on.

Then The Important Wedding Realities got to make speeches.  An Ant came around with a microphone and handed it to each one of them, and they said what they thought The Wedding was about.  Some were heartfelt like Lamb’s Dad.

“The Wedding is about my daughter being happy,” he said,“and that’s all a dad wants.”

Some were shy like Scorpion.

“The Wedding is about…” he said, “um, I don’t know…  Congratulations I guess.”

And some were a RockStar like Emperor Penguin.

“The Wedding is about everyone here being Great,” he said.  “I don’t really know Lamb, but I’ve known Wolf since HighSchool. And I know he only chooses to be around Great Realities.  Like me (pause for laughter).  And that means Lamb must be a great Reality, and if you’re at this Wedding you’re a Great Reality, too.”

It was a cheap MeToo, but it worked, and everyone laughed and felt good cuz they felt like they were a Great Reality.  It only made me wanna make my own speech, maybe about the first time me and Wolf&Lamb went to Karaoke and how they meant a lot to me.

Then Ant passed the microphone to another Ant who was set up at a table on the side with a bunch of music.

“Now it’s time for The First Dance,” a DJ Ant said.

“Yes!” I said.  “Finally.”

And then Wolf&Lamb got to get up and go to the middle of the dancefloor, while everyone stood up around them and watched. The DJ started playing Coldplay’s “Sparks,” and Wolf&Lamb got close together and slow danced.  I was just about to tell everyone I was the only one there who was actually around when they chose the song.  Realities around me started whispering tho.

“I’ve never heard of this song,” an Adult said.

“Me neither” another one said.  “Who is this?”

“Is this Dave Matthews Band?”

Dave Matthews Band is a band about Dave Matthews’s high but unpowerful voice.

“No, it’s John Mayer.”

John Mayer is a musician all about John Mayer’s high but unpowerful voice.

Finally Emperor Penguin stepped in.

“Pfft,” he said.  “You’re all wrong. This is Coldplay.”

And the “Pfft” was a horrible sound that was maybe even worse than “tsst” or “eh,” and it made it seem like Coldplay didn’t deserve to make music ever.

“Oh,” everyone said.

And they all rolled their eyes and shook their heads and went “pfft,” too.  And I couldn’t find anyone who looked like they would MeToo liking it.

When the song was over, the DJ told everyone they could come on the dancefloor now. And then, to make matters the worst they could possibly be, he put on That One “Hot, Hot, Hot,”Song…

6.8 – The Wedding

The Wedding was in Philadelphia Suburbs (New Jersey).

Philadelphia Suburbs (New Jersey) are Suburbs about inventing the Suburbs. At first no one lived in New Jersey, and they called it The Garden State, because the only things there were plants and things that went into salad. But it was surrounded by big cities, and when the car was invented Realities realized they could work in those cities without having to actually live there in the overcrowding and danger and stink. Then they all moved to New Jersey where they finally had enough room to build things like indoor shopping malls, strip malls, mini-malls, mega-malls, outlet malls, and outdoor shopping malls.

To get to the Wedding you had to go past an indoor mall and sneak between two strip malls, where it surprisingly opened up into an original Garden with grass and trees and vegetables and a lake. Beside that was a big white tent and rows of chairs and a whole lotta New Realities.

As soon as I walked in I almost felt like The Goddess of Faith had never existed before. Wolf&Lamb were young Reality Travelers, but everyone at their Wedding were somehow strange looking old Adults. They were all in pairs, and their clothes were way fancier than mine. The men wore neckties and shiny shoes, and the color of their jackets and pants were an exact match. The women were in bright colored dresses of fine materials and wore jewels all over, and when the sun hit them it would shoot a beam of light at your eyes. There were so many Adults you couldn’t see anything else. I didn’t know where Wolf&Lamb were, and I wondered if I was even at the right wedding at all.

Suddenly someone came up from behind and grabbed my arm. The grip was strong, and they used it to march me thru all the Adults to an opening near the lake. There several guests had been lined up in a row like they’d committed an unforgiveable crime against The Wedding, and a MeNotzie firing squad was going to execute them all. Organizing the whole scene were several Realities in red jackets, who had the purpose and teamwork of a colony of army ants.

“Wedding Planners,” I said to myself.

One was The Queen Ant, and she held up a clipboard and called out the orders.

“Make them come here, make them stand there, make them stay still, we’re running out of time!” she was saying.

Others were Soldiers Ants following the orders, swiftly moving around people up to twice their size with brute arm-grabbing force. Some were Worker Ants scrambling to arrange flowers and furniture. And at the center of it all, there was one Drone Ant with a camera, taking pictures of the whole creepy crawly process.

The Soldier who had me by the arm had orders to interrogate me.

“Which side are you on?” the Soldier asked me.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Wolfgang’s or Elaine’s?”

“Who?”

“Wolfgang’s or Elaine’s?!”

“I think I might be at The Wrong Wedding.”

“Wolfgang’s or Elaine’s?!”

“Do you mean Wolf&Lamb?”

“Yes, the Bride or Groom?!”

“Um… The Bride&Groom.”

“What do you mean ‘&’?”

“I know both of them.”

“No one knows both of them.”

“I do. I met both of them pretty much at once.”

“How?”

“Reality Travel Training School.”

“Where is that?”

“Where-ThePlains-Meet-TheMountains.”

“Nonsense words!”

Then they hadta bring in The Queen to figure it out.

“I don’t know which group to put this one in,” The Soldier said.

“We don’t have time for this,” The Queen said.

“But what do we do with him?”

“Which side is he on?”

“He says he’s not on a side,”

“Everyone’s on a side. Where’s he from?”

“The Mountains or something.”

“Mountains? There are no mountains here.”

“That’s what he says.”

“Then put him in The Mountain Group.”

“But I don’t think anyone else here is from there.”

Then The Queen turned to me directly.

“Who else is with you from The Mountains?” she asked.

“No one,” I said.

“What about your date?”

“I don’t have one.”

“What do you mean? You’re here alone?”

“Yes.”

The Queen looked at me like no one had ever answered the question that way before. Then she shook her ahead and shouted out, “He’s all alone. Just do it with him alone!”

Then the Soldier forced me to march again to the very edge of the water. There they used their hands to move several parts of my body like my back and arms and chin so that everything was rigid and pointing up. When they finally backed away, I was able to realize Wolf&Lamb were actually standing on either side of me. They were rigid and pointing up, too, and they were not in their regular t-shirt and jeans Traveler Uniforms either. Wolf was in a shiny silver Tuxedo, and Lamb was in a white dress that was so long it had to lay on the ground behind her.

“Wolf,” I said, turning my head towards him.

“Don’t move!” The Planners yelled.

Then the Soldier came back and moved my face back to where it was.

“What is this Reality?” I had to say to Wolf without moving my face.

“Hell,” Wolf said without moving his face.

“What should we do?” I asked.

But before he could answer the Planners yelled at us all to smile and kept yelling until our smiles were big and perfect enough. Then we were blinded by multiple bright flashes.

“Got it,” the Camera Drone said.

“Get him out of here, and bring in the next one,” The Queen said. “Time is precious!”

Before my eyes had adjusted and I could say anything else to Wolf&Lamb, the Soldier grabbed me again and marched me away. I found myself back in the crowd of Adults, all Realities I’d never seen before in my life, and I realized there was no one else to help me MeToo them but me.

5.11 – The Adult Bar Band

Soon after Wolf called, a band started playing at the Adult Bar. It was a classic drum-bass-two guitar-singer rock band just like The Beatles. I wanted them to be good, cuz they were covering old Radio Hits that could’ve MeToo’d everyone there, but the singer was like a quiet little mouse and his voice was so small no one even knew what songs they were trying to do. I hadta order another drink to deal with it.

I was doing pretty well at ignoring them until they started trying to play “Cupid.”

It sounded like Sam UnCooked.  It was low, weak, and had all the smoothness of sandpaper.

“No!” it made me scream out.

I needed someone to share in my frustration. I looked over at El Puma, but he was deep in conversation with his new best Adult friend. So I turned back to the Adult chick next to me.

“Can you believe they’re doing this song?” I said.

“Oh,” she said. “I hate to admit it, but I don’t actually know this one.”

“Well, this song is great! But the band isn’t doing it justice!”

Then I started singing the words so she’d know how it was really supposta sound.

“You have a great voice,” she said. “Do you sing in a band?”

“No, but I should be in their band right now.”

“Their frontman is a little timid.”

I looked back up and his posture was all shriveled up and his nose and eyes were pointed to the floor.  It seemed like he’d rather swipe a crumb and scurry into the nearest hole then play music.

“If you weren’t Touched by The Goddess of Music you shouldn’t even try,” I said.

“Goddess of Music?” she asked.

“Goddess damn right! Watch this.”

Then I got off my stool and headed up to the stage.

“Cupid draw back your bow and let your arrow go!” I sang loudly all the way up there, and it was easily way louder than the singer even tho he had a microphone. Then the song started sounding like the real version and nearby Adults started taking notice.

“Hey,” an Adult said. “This song was on The Radio when I was a kid!”

Then a few of the Adults came closer to the stage, and some of them starting singing along too and even dancing.

“This wouldn’t be happening without me!” I told them and kept singing.

When the song was over everyone clapped, but the singer looked upset probably cuz he knew he had nothing to do with it.

“You’re welcome everyone,” I bowed and went back to my stool.

“Did you hear that?” I asked the Adult chick next to me.

“Yeah,” she said, “but I kinda feel bad for the singer. You kinduv upstaged him.”

“Oh, who cares. The MeToo justifies The Means.”

Then I needed another drink, but when I asked for it the Bartender wouldn’t make me one.

“You’re cut off,” she said.

“What?! Why?”

“You’re too drunk.”

I looked over at the Adult chick next to me, and she was cringing. And the guy next to her was laughing.

“Can’t hold their liquor too well up in Canada, eh?” he laughed. “Lightweight!”

“I’m barely even in Alcohol Perception at all,” I tried to tell them.

“I’ve been at this for a long time,” The Bartender said. “I know the signs. No one sings that loudly unless they’re wasted.”

“No, you sing like that when you’re a Great Reality Traveler who’s been Touched by The Goddess of Music and just MeToo’d your whole fucking bar.”

“Kid, I can’t understand a word you’re saying.”

By then El Puma had caught wind of the situation and tried to jump in to help.

“This is the Great Reality Traveler Jonathan,” he told The Bartender. “His word is bound by The Gods. If he says he is not drunk, he is not drunk.”

“Look Mr. Just-a-Water,” she said. “Why don’t you get your friend to pay his tab and get out of here, before we have a problem.”

Then El Puma turned to me.

“I know this is a great injustice,” he said, “but I know these Adults, and we may not want to War with them.”

“All I know is a Traveler never apologizes when the other Reality is the one being bullshit.”

“I am sure this comes straight from the mouth of your finest Reality Travel Training Professors, but we have to remember the Adults are very close with the police.”

I looked back at the Bartender, the spiders in her eyes were extra crawly with way too many bristly legs and poison dripping off them.

“Alright, fine,” I said. “We’ll go, but only cuz this place is a MeToo-Impossible House of MeNotzism and Music-Death.”

I paid and was just about to leave when I checked the inside of my jacket and realized I had some final words for everyone in there.

“I’m The Fucking Bluebird,” I yelled to the whole bar. “I’m a Musicman Traveler who flies to all Realities and sings to them. But you’re all bullshit Adults. Fuck all of you!”

Then we ran out the door.

5.8 – Adult Bar

As soon as we left ALC the seriousness of Traveling to NewYorkCity hit me. I realized I wouldn’t be able to get close to MeTooing any Realities there without some immediate Alcohol Perception. So first I drove me and El Puma to the nearest bar. It was right next door to Artsy Lawless in the rich neighborhood, where there were lots of big nests with Porches in the driveways. The bar itself had a big golden sign and someone you could pay to park your car for you.

“This seems to be a very fancy establishment,” El Puma said.

“A valet!” I said. “This is all I’ve ever wanted!”

So I pulled in and gave my keys and one dollar to the guy out front and watched as he drove off and parallel parked it perfectly on the street.

“I have a good feeling about this place,” I said.

Inside everyone looked strange tho. It was fully packed with Realities wearing unwrinkled suits and dresses. Nearly all of them had shiny metals and jewels around their wrists and necks. Many had loose skin falling off their faces and jiggling under their chins. Some had no hair on their head, and a couple even had giant humps on their backs. Every one of them smelled like flowers or coffee or smoke.

“This is the most Adult thing I’ve ever seen,” I said.

“Yes,” El Puma said. “It reminds me of the Major Financial Newspaper.”

“Why are they all here right now?”

“I imagine because it is the weekend.”

“So?”

“The weekend is very important for the Adult. They do not have to wake up early in the morning for work so they may stay up later at night. Many of them have probably even hired a babysitter to care for their children so they can be here.”

“My Gods, they have children? Just like our parents?”

“It is hard to believe, but yes.”

We continued deeper inside. All the Adults were huddled together at tables and laughing loudly. They were making large sweeping gestures with their arms and announcing things like “one in the hand is worth two in the bush!” and “you’ve got to spend it to make it.”

“Spend what?” I asked El Puma.

“Money, I believe,” he said.

“Incredible.”

I also noticed all the Adults were drinking. Their drinks came in a variety of oddly shaped glasses, tall ones and short ones and fat ones and skinny ones and cone ones and cube ones and curley-q ones. Some drinks were bright greens and purples and had things like olives and limes and umbrellas sticking out of them.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “We’ll be able to manage this better when we’re in Alcohol Perception, too.”

“You are a drinker now?”

“Yes, I learned how to do it the right way in The Training from an expert Perceptionist named Wolf.”

We found a couple of open stools at the bar and sat down. The Bartender was an Adult, too. Her face was covered in lines like webs and her eyes looked like two dark venom spiders.

“I’ll get a JackNCoke,” I told her.

A JackNCoke is a drink about being in Alcohol Perception and Pop Perception at the same time. It is not as good as a JackNDrPepper, but for some reason they never have Dr. Pepper at bars.

The Bartender looked at me suspiciously.

“Let me see your ID,” she said.

Then I hadta give her my Driver’s License.

“Where-ThePlains-Meet-TheMountains?” she said.

“Yeah,” I said.

She looked back and forth between me and the License a few times.

“You look like a Kid,” she said.

“I’m not,” I said. “It says so on the card.”

“Might be a fake.”

“I assure you he has been alive long enough to legally be in Alcohol Perception in this country,” El Puma said.

“Yeah?” she said. “Well, you’re wearing a nice suit at least. I guess I’ll take your word for it.”

Then she made the drink and asked El Puma what he wanted.

“Just a glass of water, please,” he said.

She rolled her blackwidow-eyes.

“El Puma,” I whispered to him. “You can’t get just water.”

“But that is all I want,” he whispered back.

“Look, you know Adults, but I know Perceptionism. It’s going to be extremely difficult to MeToo if we’re not in Common Perception. We’re already at a MeToo Deficit with the Bartender, and she’s the most important Reality here.”

“You are speaking of concepts I am not sure I understand. I have not had a wolf to teach me and have never trusted Alcohol. It makes me feel as tho my mind is too loose or something. I believe I will MeToo better without it.”

“Alright fine, you’re lucky you’re with such a Trained Traveler who can make up for this kind of Reality Handicap.”

After a few sips I started noticing the Realities closest to us. On El Puma’s side there was a very Adult looking Adult. Her face was covered in thick makeup with black eyelashes and too-pink cheeks and bright tomato-gross red lips. Her hair was gray and tied back into a tight knot, and she was wearing some kind of thick and rigid jacket that made her shoulders look very pointy. On my side was another Adult, but she was much younger and maybe our age. She was also wearing a jacket, but it didn’t fit her as well, and I assumed she had only become an Adult just a couple days before.

“Alright,” I told El Puma, “We might as well try to MeToo some Realities since we’re here. I think we should start with the ones right next to us, establish a Foothold, and then work our way out from there.”

“A perfect plan.”

Then we both turned toward our nearest Realities. The one next to me was already talking to a very suit&tie-y Adult. The hair on the top of his head was dark but the hair right over his ears was white. He kept using words like “Wall Street” and “The Nation” and she kept yawning and checking her phone. Then she looked over at me and smiled.

“I like your jean jacket,” she said.

“Thanks,” I said. “It’s my Reality Travel Uniform.”

“I’m not familiar with that company. Are they a travel agency?”

“No, it’s way better than that.”

I was just about to explain it all, when the Adult next to her butted in.

“Are you from Canada, ay?” he said and started laughing.

“No” I said. “Why?”

“Denim jacket and jeans,” he pointed at me. “A Canadian Tuxedo!”

He laughed harder.

“I actually used to wear a jean jacket all the time before I worked at The Firm,” the young Adult woman said.

“Oh, so you had no taste either?” he laughed.

“Stop,” she slapped his shoulder. “I looked good in it.”

Then they both laughed. I couldn’t take it and hadta turn around and see if El Puma was kinduv getting his ass kicked, too. But his Adult already had her arm around his shoulder , and they were laughing together. I grabbed him and turned him around.

“These Adults are bigger MeNotzies than I expected,” I said. “They can smell a Reality Traveler from a mile away, and it smells like a fart to them.”

“This is very true,” he said.

“What’s your Adult saying?”

“She says she is a financial advisor, who plays racquetball and is very concerned by the trade gap with Asia.”

“What’s a trade gap?”

“I believe it has to do with imports and exports.”

“Hmm… What else?”

“I mentioned we’re on The Travels.”

“Beware, El Puma. You can’t say that kinda thing to just anyone.”

“It seemed alright in this case. She says she has never heard of the term before, but when I described it she insisted that she, too, is a Reality Traveler.”

“No, she’s not.”

“She says she Travels to resort Realities around The World. She is interested that I come from South America and says she would like to take a vacation to my continent some day soon.”

“A vacation is not Reality Travel.”

“I imagine there is no harm in her believing this.”

“Yes, there is.  You hafta tell her she’s just a boring Adult.”

“This does not seem wise, but you are the expert.”

Then he went back to talking to her. The chick next to me was still talking to the Adult guy. I hadta order another double JackNCoke.

Then Wolf called.

5.5 – Meeting up with El Puma

I parked Wings in the ALC parking lot and stuck my Bluebird Sticker on the inside of my jacket so it wouldn’t stand out too much, but I could still check it whenever I needed to. Then I went to The Dorms where I was supposta meet El Puma. I almost didn’t recognize him at first. He was standing outside, wearing a strange Adult looking suit and tie, and lacking his usual pouncing vigor.

“What are you wearing?” I said.

“They make me wear this for my job at the Major Financial Newspaper.”

“A what newspaper?”

“Major Financial.”

“What do you do there?”

“They say finance words in English, and then I tell them what those words are in Spanish.”

“Does it take a long time to do that?”

“Many hours, every day.”

“That sounds like an Adult job.”

“It may be. But living in NewYorkCity is very expensive, and I must admit I need their money.”

“My Gods, you must have The Malaise like crazy!”

“Yes, I am very fatigued all the time. I am hunting for a better job at a minor-financial newspaper in Just-Outside-County, where possibly I can be a Reporter-Man Traveler who MeToos via scoops. But they require me to have the American Driver’s License. This is why I was at the Department of Driving today.”

“Did you get it?”

“Unfortunately, no. I did not know enough of the American Rules of Driving, and the MeNotzies there would not let me pass.”

“Well, don’t worry, El Puma. The Reality Travel Cavalry is here, and it’s gonna be nothing but MeToos for the rest of the night.”

“Ah yes, this is what I was hoping for. I am happy you have time for me after Love with the Kat.”

“Actually, we didn’t end up Loving. In fact, I barely got out of there unscratched.”

“Oh no!”

“It’s alright. I was able to handle it all with The Always Be Your Own Reality & Roll with the Punches strategies.”

“Ah ha! I see you have picked up new terminology in The Training.”

“Yes, I’m like a whole new Traveler now.”

“And do any Reality Travel chicks Love you for this?

“Even better, I think an Angel may Love me for this. I just kissed her a few minutes ago.”

“Wow! An Angel. I never had a doubt this would happen to you, Traveler Jonathan.”

“Thanks.”

“I am thrilled for you to now meet my Mi Amor. She is inside. Shall we go in?”

“Yes, but we’ll hafta beware. As soon as we get close to the Past Realities of The Dorms we could be TimeWarped into acting like amateurish failures.”

“I do not know of this TimeWarp you speak of. But this is not so much past for me. I am still here almost every weekend to see Mi Amor.”

“Oh.”

“But you will be alright?”

“Oh yeah, TimeWarps are nothing. You just need a good Grounding Device.”

I showed him the inside of my jacket.

“Grounding Device! I am lucky to have such an advanced Traveler with me tonight,” he said.

“Yes, you are.”

Then I took a good look at my sticker, and we went in.

4.17 – The Black Dragon

“It’s alright, Kat,” I said.

“RRROWWW!” HateKat said.

“It’s alright, Kat, It’s alright, It’s alright…”

“NO, IT’S NOT!”

“It’s alright, maybe there’s another Chinese place we can go to.”

“NONE OF THE OTHER ONES ARE ANY GOOD!”

“It’s alright, let’s just go anyway.”

“FINE, WE’VE ALREADY GONE TO THIS MUCH TROUBLE!”

Then we got back in the car and she hate-drove us to a place further down the street called The Black Dragon. It was in a dingy old stripmall, and their window had a picture of a horrible, mean-looking, flame-mouth, flyingbeast with chopsticks in his claws. I didn’t want to go in at all, but arguing with HateKat about it was out of the question.

When we got inside it smelled bad, and everything was stained, and there was no hostess.

“THIS PLACE IS SO BAD! HateKat said. “THEY JUST EXPECT US TO SEAT OURSELVES?!”

Only half of the tables were set, and the one we picked wobbled. Then HateKat made us move to another table, and that one wobbled, too.

“THEY PROBABLY ALL WOBBLE!”

And then we just stayed at that one.

“THE SILVERWARE IS SMUDGED! AND WHY IS IT TAKING THEM SO LONG?!”

“It’s al…”

“STOP SAYING IT’S ALRIGHT!”

Eventually a waitress appeared and we were able to order General Tso’s Chicken. When it got there, it was somehow just as good as Golden Lion’s, maybe even better and maybe even better than Wolf’s. It’s goopy brown batter was so sweet but also so spicy, and the chicken was piping hot, and the rice was pure, and the broccoli was crunchy, and it had lots of adorable baby corn.

“Yum” we both said.

It was so good it actually helped calm Kat down out of her HateKat state.

“Well, I did always like getting General Tso’s with you,” she said.

“MeToo,” I said.

“So we didn’t really get a chance to talk last night. Why are you out West again? For school or something.”

“Kinduv.”

“Like grad school?”

“I don’t really wanna talk about it.”

“But I actually have no idea what you’ve been doing for the last couple years.”

“Oh, ya know, nothing really…”

“Why’s it got to be such a big mystery? Just tell me.”

“Maybe cuz it’s something you don’t like.”

“What is it? RockNRoll School? Are you trying to be a RockStar, cuz the odds of you making it are so…”

“No, you’ll hate it worse than that.”

“The only thing more impractical than that would be trying to be a Reality Traveler or something.”

I didn’t say anything.

“But you’re not a Reality Traveler,” she said.

“Actually…” I said.

I flinched back waiting for The HateKat to strike across the wobbly table with knifey claws that I’d have to Roll With. But it didn’t come. Instead she just let out a deep sigh.

“You?… but aren’t ‘reality travelers’ supposed to go out and meet lots of people. You never made any friends at ALC except for me. You never even left Our Own Place.”

I shrugged.

“I mean, isn’t it just something insecure kids make up to feel important anyway?”

“No, it’s a real thing. There’s a whole Training School for it I just graduated from.”

“But what are you going to do for a career?”

“Deliver pizza very part time.”

“Seriously?”
“Maybe drive a cab very part time one day.”

“But those aren’t Adult jobs.”

“Reality Travelers aren’t supposta become Adults. It makes us sick.”

“That makes no sense.”

“It’s alright…”

“Why didn’t you tell me all this before?”

“Sorry. I wanted to be in Love with you more than Reality Travel. But then I realized it was time for me to fly. Like the REO Speedwagon song.”

“Well, I do like Speedwagon.”

“MeToo.”

“But, I just feel bad for you.”

“It’s alright, Kat.”

Then we didn’t know what to say after that. The waitress came back with the check.

“I guess I’m getting this,” Kat said, and I let her.

“I’ve gotta go cat-sit now,” she said.  “You’ve got a place to stay tonight, right?”

“Yeah,” I said. “El Puma Reality.”

Then we left.

4.8 – Our Own Place

After our first year together Kat and I decided we Loved each other enough to live all the time in the same apartment, so we got Our Own Place. I was very excited cuz then I only hadta go to ALC just for classes and didn’t have to deal with the MeNotzie Dorms anymore. Kat had just graduated tho and had her own plans.

“I think since we have Our Own Place, we should start living like Adults now,” she said.

“What do you mean?” I said.

“I mean like we both get jobs, and we go to them every day during the week. And then on the weekends we go out and do things like buy furniture or paint the walls new colors. And we become experts on things like houseplants and coupons. And we get a kitten and raise it like our child!”

“I guess so,” I said.

So on the first day of Our Own Place we went to the pet store. On the way there was something I wanted to show Kat. I’d driven back and forth between OIC(R) and JONYCC a few times by then and had had a lot of time in Alone Reality listening to The Radio and discovered something. Whenever I tried to sing along to a song I was able to sound exactly like the singer. It was strange cuz most things I did at first I was a bad amateur at them, but singing didn’t seem to need any experience for me to be good. I just seemed to know by instinct how to make the air go off the right spots in my throat to match the pitch. I was even able to copy some of the most high and powerful ones.

“Hey, Kat,” I said, “listen to this…”

Then I put in The You&Me Mix to “I Wanna Know What Love Is.”

“Aw,” she said. “It’s our song.”

“Yeah, but listen to me sing it.”

I was nailing it right away on the verse. Then came the little pre-chorus part where Lou Gramm goes “in my life there’s been heartache and pain,” and the vocals suddenly get very high and powerful and I almost got it.

“You’re straining,” Kat said.

“But didn’t you hear?” I said. “I was hitting every pitch up until that last high and powerful one. And I think I can even hit that if I warm up a little. Maybe I should take Voice Training at Artsy Lawless.”

“Eh.”

I’d never heard Kat say that word before then.

“What’s eh?” I said.

“‘Eh’ is I used to take those kinds of classes too,” she said, “but they don’t help you at all when you become an Adult.”

“But what if I have some kind of natural talent?”

“You need to take classes that help you get a job. Like if you take math&science classes it can lead to you becoming a doctor. Then you’ll have a steady Adult salary that allows you to pay for all the things you need to survive.”

“But I don’t like math&science. I like singing a lot tho.”

“I’m telling you as someone who’s just graduated and out in The World now, singing is a waste of time.”

I started singing along with the song again anyway. I wanted to prove to Kat I really could nail every note.  The next time the chorus came along, you couldn’t tell any difference between my voice and Lou Gramm’s.

“Stop,” she said. “You’re ruining the song.”

“But I got it.  Didn’t you hear?”

“I put Foreigner on the mix, because I wanted to hear Foreigner, not Jonathan.”

Then I hadta shut up and decide not to sing in front of her again.

When we got to the pet store there was a really cute gray tabby that Kat had to have. She picked it up and snuggled it against her and it licked her face.

“He Loves me!” she said.

Then she handed it to me, and it licked my face too.

“Aw,” she said, “he Loves you too. It’s like he’s Your Son.”

“Alright,” I said.

But then the place where he licked got red and itchy, and my nose started sneezing.

“I think I’m allergic to it,” I said.

“But we have to get him. We Love him,” she said.

“What if I just sneeze all the time tho?”

“We’ll just get you some allergy medicine. You’ll be fine.”

“I guess so.”

Then we got Your Son.