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.

4.7 – LoveKat

Eventually the Road-80 traffic started moving again, but it took so long there was no way I’d be on time for Kat Reality. The Goddess of Faith gave me some more IAB! when she said goodbye, but it wasn’t long after she’d flown high into the sky toward the sun that Kat called and it all wore off. I didn’t even answer. I just started making Wings go as fast as it could, even tho it was against the law. I even sped right past a sign that said “The Wilderness, PA,” even tho I knew the right Traveler thing to do was Sidetrack into BigFoot’s hometown. I felt like every second counted, and there was just no way.

When I finally got to Kat’s parents’ house it was way after dinnertime. I stayed in her driveway for an extra second to prepare myself. I knew I couldn’t forget a Grounding Device like the last Past Reality, so I tried staring at my Bluebird Sticker long enough for it to stick on the inside of my brain. Then I sighed and grabbed The Mix and put another old delivery sticker on that and wrote…

Play Kat

track 6

and sing

I crossed my fingers and got outta the car.

When I got to the door Kat was already standing there in a sparkly gold dress and makeup, which she rarely wore. She was frowning at me.

“You’re really late,” she said.

“It’s alright, Kat,” I said. “There was construction on Road-80 and they stupidly closed every lane except one and you hadta wait for a guy with a stop sign to tell you you could go…”

But before I could finish she pounced on me with a big hug.

“Oh, I don’t care,” she said. “I’m just glad you got here safe!”

“Really?”

“Of course, now give Your Son a hug.”

Your Son was the kitten we’d had together. He was right at her side, but when I went down to squeeze him he squirmed out of my arms and ran away. It made me remember cats only Love you when they want to.

“Aw,” Kat said. “He’s just shy today.”

She was looking at me totally like the LoveKat, the thing she was before she became the HateKat. I figured there must’ve been some kinda TimeWarp at play for her.

“Are you hungry?” she asked.

“Very,” I said.

“Well, it’s too late to go to The Golden Lion, but there’s lots of food here. I can make you something.”

“Alright!”

Kat was very good at the kitchen and knew how to make almost everything on The Great List of Food.

“What do you want?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“You had your mind set on General Tso’s Chicken, and now you can’t think of anything else, right?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what’s happening.”

“I know you.”

Then she smiled and gave me another hug.

“I can think of something else you like,” she said.

“What?”

“Apple pancakes.”

“You’re right, I do like those!”

“With the apples in the batter instead of that gross apple syrup on top like at the diner.”

“Yes, I like it that way!”

Then she went into the kitchen and started working on it. She gave me a package of fudge grams to snack on while I waited. And then she did all her mixing and griddling and things in her cute outfit, and I hadta keep coming up from behind and squeezing her.

“Haha, stop,” she said. “I’m doing things.”

“But when you’re doing things is when I like to squeeze you the most!” I said and squeezed her again hard.

When she was almost ready she told me to set the table with plates and silverware and maple syrup. Soon she came out with a big platter full of fat apple pancakes, and she scooped them onto my plate, and I covered them in the syrup.

“Oh, I almost forgot something,” she said.

Then she left and came back in a second with a cold can of Dr. Pepper.

“Alright!” I said.

Then I ate the pancakes and washed them down with Dr. Pepper.

“Do you like it?” she said.

“I love it all!” I said.

We smiled at each other as we ate. The TimeWarp was strong and I wondered if we’d even have Love again. I remembered everything was perfect when we were at her parents’ house. It was only when we lived together at Our Own Place that things started going bad.

3.6 – The Great List of Food

General Tso’s chicken

Dr. Pepper

Doritos

Twizzlers

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Popcorn

Apple Pancakes

PeanutButter&Jelly sandwiches

Chicken sandwiches

Chicken wings

Chicken fingers

Mozzarella sticks

Marinara sauce

Onion rings

Ranch dressing

Keebler fudge grams

Oreo cookies

Christmas cookies

Spaghettios

Fruit Roll-Ups

Hot Pockets

Honey Nut Cheerios

Birthday Cake

Ben&Jerry’s Coffee HeathBar Crunch Ice Cream

Pizza

Flintstones Chewable Vitamins

Potato Salad

Salmon

Red White and Blue Popsicles

French Fries

Croissants

Macaroni and cheese

Juice boxes

Breast milk

Banana milkshake

McDonald’s Happy Meal

3.5 – Kat Call

As soon as I got outside I got a call from my ex-girlfriend Kat. I’d left a message when I was Lonely in Iowa that said something like, “I could be in Just-Outside-NewYorkCity-County Reality at any moment to see you.”

“You can’t just make plans with no notice like that,” Kat said.

“It’s alright,” I said.

“Adults don’t do things that way.”

“It’s alright, Kat.”

“But for all you know I could be out of town for my own friends’ wedding this weekend.”

“Well, are you?”

“No, but I do have to kat-sit for someone.”

“What night?”

“The night after tomorrow.”

“So that means I can crash with you tomorrow?”

“Eh… I guess.”

“Alright, great.”

“I’ll be at my parents’ house because I’m living there again. Not because I need to but because it’s a smart financial decision that will help me save up the necessary tuition for graduate school which will lead to a better career.”

“Alright.”

“They’ll be gone for the weekend tho. It would just be you and me.”

“Great, I want to go The Golden Lion and get General Tso’s.”

“I’m going to be working all day. And then I have to go to sleep early to wake up early to work all the next day. I barely have any time. If you want to get dinner with me you have to be here at exactly 6:00pm.”

“Alright, got it.”

“You’ll try to be late, but you can’t be.”

“I won’t try to be late.”

“I know you.”

“Alright, no Sidetracks, Kat. I’ll be there at the exact correct time.”

“We’ll see.”

“It’s alright, Kat.”

“I have to get ready for bed now.”

“Already?”

“Yes, this is when Adult’s go to bed.”

“It’s alright, Kat.”

“I’ve gotta go.”

“Alright.”

After we got off the phone I stood there in the driveway and couldn’t remember what I came out there for. All that talk about General Tso’s made me realize I was starving and needed something from The Great List of Food at once.

1.6 – Adventures in Perceptionism: Dr. Pepper

The WolfDen was right by the caves on the side of TheMountains of Where-ThePlains-Meet-TheMountains. On the outside it blended in with the rocks and shrubs, but on the inside it was a total Perceptionist Lair. The walls were covered in tapestries of Yin Yang symbols and posters of Perceptionist heroes and scrolls from ancient Chinese WiseMen. It smelled like the burning of multiple, possibly illegal, flowers and leaves. There were bottles and pipes and candles and ashtrays and plants and chemistry apparatuses bubbling away. And oddly in the middle of it all was a girl with the fair and innocent looks of a baby sheep, and you just wanted to squeeze her at a petting zoo.

It seemed like Wolf would leap out at any moment and tear open her wool and rip her meat out for dinner, but instead he came in and hugged and nuzzled and kissed her.

“Welcome, Jonathan,” he said. “This is my fiancée, Lamb.”

She came over and gave me a little softsoft hug, and they invited me in. I sat on their big comfy bean bag chair but was a little nervous I might get accidentally Perceptioned by anything I touched. Lamb noticed and started reassuring me.

“Oh, Wolf and all his stuff look ferocious,” she said, “but he’s really just a gentle sheep in his own clothing. And not everything he makes is a hardcore Perception. Like he’s making his renowned General Tso’s Chicken, for us tonight.”

“I love General Tso’s Chicken,” I said. “I usta get it all the time with my ex-girlfriend in Just-Outside-NewYorkCity.”

“Excellent,” Wolf said. “We’ve Me-Too’d right away.”

“Wolf actually learned the recipe from the far off and exciting Realities of China themselves,” Lamb said.

“It’s true,” Wolf said. “It was a Perceptionist’s dream. In China all their advanced Perceptions come in the same mysterious white pill, and you never know which it will be and how illegal it is. To make things more interesting, you don’t know if the strange Reality who gave it to you is actually an undercover police officer. I was nearly imprisoned or killed several times. It was thrilling.”

“Wow!” I said.

“First thing’s first tho, everyone,” Wolf said. “Let’s get some Recreational Perceptions going. What’s your preference, Jonathan?”

“Well,” I said, “my favorite Perception is probably Dr. Pepper.”

Dr. Pepper is a drink about combining Sugar Perception, Caffeine Perception, fizz and a great but hard to pinpoint flavor made up of 23 secret ingredients. Together they slightly elevate your mood and energy. It is a very legal Perception available in every store in America.

Wolf laughed at me.

“I know,” I said. “It’s not a very advanced Perception.”

“No, no, no,” Wolf shook his head. “Don’t be sorry. It’s not the Perception that matters but Common Perception. Therefore we can’t discount anything that isn’t lethal. And even tho I personally find Dr. Pepper to be unsatisfyingly tame and potentially unhealthy due to its addictiveness and the increased risk of diabetes thru prolonged use, I am willing to adventure with it so we can more easily MeToo.”

“I like Dr. Pepper, too,” Lamb said. “It tastes good.”

“Yes,” Wolf said. “Then it’s decided we shall have an Adventure in Perception: Dr. Pepper.”

Lamb and I went out to the nearest convenience store to buy a two liter, and when we came back Wolf’s authentic Chinese Reality recipe General Tso’s was ready. Before we ate, Wolf carefully prepared tall glasses of Dr. Pepper and ice.

“It’s very important,” he said, “that we all have an equal dose so we’re in as close to the same Magnitude of Perception. I’m assuming, Jonathan, you drink this on a regular basis, therefore I’ll have to adjust for your caffeine and sugar tolerance, while also making considerations for each of our sizes and weight.”

He handed each of us our custom glass.

“Now,” Wolf said, “we’ll raise a toast which establishes our intentions for this Adventure. I suggest we use the mildly energizing properties of this Perception to facilitate getting to know each other.”

We all agreed and raised our glasses.

“To meeting New Realities,” we all said and clinked together.

“Excellent,” Wolf said. “Now one final thing… During an Adventure in Perceptionism it is important to observe even the subtlest change to our bodies and mind.”

We each took our first sip and thought about it.

“I’m feeling slightly happier, and my leg is twitching,” I said.

“Excellent,” Wolf said, “My leg is too.”

“So is mine!” Lamb said.

Then we ate the meal and it was even better than the General Tso’s I usta get. During the whole thing we noticed our minds becoming slightly more alert and the volume and rate of our speech increased. We ate fast and soon were too fidgety to sit down anymore, and we got up and paced around the room and made large frantic gestures with our arms as we spoke. We caught each other up to speed on who we were and why we were here. And we listened and responded with “Yes!” and MeToo!”

“I came here to be The Greatest Reality Traveler of all time!” I said.

“Yes!” Lamb said.

“MeToo!” Wolf said.

Then after a couple hours came a sudden and sharp decline in energy, and we all had to find a couch or beanbag or floor to lie down on.

“Hmm…” Wolf scratched his chin while lying flat on his belly on the floor, “I’ve gained a new respect for your Preferred Perception, Jonathan. It has allowed us to socialize in a simple and non-overwhelming yet effective way. Now it seems we are friends.”

“I know,” I said slouched into the deep valley of the beanbag chair, “Dr. Pepper’s great.”

“I wonder if that crow came so you and Wolf would meet each other,” Lamb said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Wolf said, “Let’s assume it wants me to take Jonathan on many more Adventures in Perceptionism.”

“I will if they’re all like this,” I said.

“They are,” Wolf said. “They’re all about MeTooing.”

“Alright,” I said, “and then maybe I can MeToo you both about The Great List of Old Songs.”

“Excellent,” they said.