There But For Luck: Chapter 1

There but for Luck.

1

Now:

Once upon a time there was a girl I could have married.  I didn’t though, and I’m pretty sure that every terrible decision I’ve made since has stemmed from that one.  There was a kind of warm sheen to her life that enveloped you when you were with her, and it would have been nice if some of it had rubbed off.   Don’t get me wrong though, the girl wasn’t perfect, far from it.  Most of the time she was a colossal bitch and, honestly, the thought of her voice nagging at me day after day until my inevitable, gruesome suicide makes me throw up a little in my mouth.

Wait.

No, that was probably caused by the cue stick that just crashed into the side of my head.  An event that probably wouldn’t have happened if I’d married the girl

The wielder of the offending piece of wood is a very large, very greasy man named Bruno.  I know, I know, it’s some kind of ridiculous cliché; Bruno the angry bar thug, but I assure you (and I never lie) Bruno is, in fact, his name.  The two of us are crammed, much too cosily for me, in a bathroom stall; in what I’m assuming is the men’s washroom of the Cue N’ Cushion.  Guess what kind of establishment that is.

Welcome to cliché world.

To be fair, this is not an unearned beating.  While Bruno is also quite reasonably upset at not being paid his winnings, that’s not the factor in the foreground here.  The real reason I’m lying on a filthy bathroom floor with the side of a toilet holding my brains inside my head is because I, full of beer, angst, and a not-suppressed-enough death wish, told Bruno that I had done things to his wife’s anus that would make a naughty priest blush.  And I was telling the truth.  And Bruno knows I was telling the truth.

Bruno isn’t so much talking as grunting, alternately kicking me in the side and beating me with the grimy and bloody stump of a piece of barroom sporting equipment.  He’s really into his work and the grunts are more of satisfaction than exertion, I think.  The lack of demanding conversation leaves a bit of time for me to reflect.  You know, in between lightning bright jabs of pain that can be best described as the exact opposite of orgasmic.  This isn’t so much a, “life flashing in front of my eyes,” sort of moment, it’s more a hesitant nod to the possibility that now might be a good time for those near death, life flashing muscles to start revving up.

I think of the girl.

Cara.

Her name was Cara.  And, in a very direct way, she is the reason I came here tonight and got both drunk enough and stupid enough to tangle with Bruno.  Today I found out that Cara died.  I learned this from a Facebook invite.

That’s the kind of thing that really throws your life into miserable perspective.  I didn’t get a phone call telling me that my first serious girlfriend had been mowed down by a drunk driver.  I didn’t get an email from a friend of a friend.  I was included in a bulk invitation on a social networking site to confirm my attendance at her funeral.  By a friend of a friend of a friend.  I don’t know whether that says more about me, or just how fucked up the world has gotten.  I declined the invite and set about the business of getting mind splintering, fucked in half drunk.  Which is why, in about three seconds, I’m going to lose consciousness and Bruno is going to kick me one last time.  And then he’s going to pee on me.

When I come to there are cops leaning over me, asking questions in what I can only assume is Croatian.  As my brain starts to clear and normal programming resumes, the cops start speaking in English.

“…press charges?” one of them asks.

“Buh,” I reply.  This means no, though right now good old letter n isn’t coming out so hot, on account of the left side of my head being four times larger than the right.

“Do you know the person who did this to you?” This comes from Cop 2 who, judging from the pony tail and slight vertical impairment, probably has breasts tucked somewhere beneath that vest.  Not that you can get any sense of gender from her face.  Completely cut from marble this one is.  I still remember how disappointed I was when women started to flood in the police force.  All of my deranged handcuff fantasies evaporated when it became wildly apparent that part of the new training regimen would involve beating all the femininity out of female cadets.

“Bnuh.” No one likes a snitch.

The cops take a couple of notes and then ask to see my ID.  I prop myself up against the side of the toilet and use my good arm to reach into my back pocket for my wallet.  Which isn’t there anymore because Bruno took it.  Fuck.  It’s not so much that this will be the third time I have to replace my ID this year, though that will definitely be a pain in the ass; apparently I still look young enough to fool every non-Caucasian convenience store owner in the city into thinking they can’t sell me cigarettes without eight pieces of documentation.   No, the real reason the theft of my wallet is really chafing my balls is that, along with my ID and about six bucks, there were about fifteen debit cards in my wallet, none of which had my name on them.  I don’t know if Bruno is crooked enough to not make a stink out of that or if he’s a solid citizen.  I’m a fucking moron.

Cop 1 sighs and scribbles in his notepad some more.

“Name?” he asks.

I gesture for him to hand me the pad and I scribble my name down.  Well, actually I write Ford Prefect, which is definitely not my name and I add an address that probably doesn’t exist.

The two of them chat for a couple of seconds then Cop 1 hands me a business card and tells me to call them in a couple of days, to check the status of their investigation into my mugging.  I mumble my thanks and let him help me to my feet but then my brain takes another vertigo inducing nose dive and I fall back down.  I wave the cops away.

Once the stall stops spinning again, I get up and limp out of the bathroom; the pain in my side is telling me that I’ll probably be pissing blood for a few days.  Out in the bar all eyes turn away as I limp towards the exit.  Games of pool are being interrupted by the cops asking questions of potential witnesses and nobody really wants to acknowledge them, much less me.  The Cue isn’t really a cop friendly place and I see a couple of faces calculating the odds of successfully slinking out without having to make any kind of statement.  No one moves though and I almost fall down the staircase that leads out to the street, not because of various and sundry criminal types knocking me over on their way out, but because none of my body parts remember how to cooperate with each other anymore.

I’m ever the optimist though and, even as mired in shit as I feel right now, I still find the silver lining; I live right around the corner from the bar, so my trip of unaided, limping and crawling anguish will end within minutes.  I stagger through my front door and flop, fully clothed onto my couch, the smell of Bruno’s beer saturated urine creeping up to my bloody nose.  The last thing that crosses my mind before the bed spins take me to Oz is Cara.  Tomorrow I have to go to the funeral of the girl I could have married.

2

August 1997

This was the street that Cara lived on.

That kid on the skateboard? That was me, wobbling up to the curb of the home Cara had lived in since her parents first brought her home from the hospital.  It’s a very nice and ordinary, two-story Victorian on a street full of other, similarly nice houses with designs named after dead royalty.  It’s the kind of tastefully muted suburb that serial killers tend to grow up in.  All that middleclass oppression and artfully chipped paint must wear down the mind after awhile.  Anyway there was no danger of anyone within eyeshot of Cara’s house developing people skinning urges, her mom had seen to that when she’d first moved in by painting the front door a brilliant red, probably just designed to piss off the more refined of her neighbours but you’ve got to wonder if it didn’t alleviate some of the burgeoning psychosis of suburban life.

Just in case Cara was looking out one of the windows at the street, I was desperately trying to look cool on my skateboard, the latest in a series of “improvements” she’d inflicted on me.  I did not look cool.  I looked like a gawky, twenty year old poser who’d jumped onto a fad too late to have any real feel for it.  If you need a soundtrack to get the excruciating nature of this scene to really pop in the sea of Schadenfreude bubbling in your head, you could do worse than “Loser,” by Beck.  Oh, and I was smoking which, in addition to fucking up my balance as I tried to hop the curb onto the front lawn, was a habit that both Cara and her mother despised, but that her father, Frank, secretly joined me in when the other two weren’t around.

This was a Friday and, despite my misery at having to get around on a piece of lumber with rickety wheels nailed to the bottom instead of cruising around in a bright yellow post adolescent penis extension, I was excited to be here for two reasons.  Just like every weekend for the past year, I hoped that this would be the day that Cara and I finally broke the oral sex barrier and actually got to fuck.  It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized, had I just climbed on top of her once instead of asking repeatedly is she wanted me to, “make love to her,” I might have spent a good portion of that year having awkwardly exciting, unsafe sex.  To be honest, one of the only reasons I was still dating her was because I was utterly determined not to bail without having won this particular tussle.  It wasn’t as though she was a virgin and, having greatly exaggerated my own sexual prowess up to this point (I had actually only slept with one girl, as opposed to the nine I had claimed when Cara and I started dating) I really needed to add at least one girl to my body count or I would have felt like I’d wasted the year.

I knocked on the door and Frank opened it.  This was the first time he’d seen the bleach job I’d done on my hair earlier in the week and I could tell right away he was struggling to keep from laughing at me.  He fought bravely but lost the battle and, within seconds, was doubled over with tears streaming down his face.

“Cara,” he half barked, half wheezed into the house, “Big Bird has come to visit.  Did you bring Snuffy with you, Big Bird?”

I scowled and moved to brush by him but he placed a firm hand on my shoulder and leaned in close to whisper in my ear.

“Seriously though, please tell me you brought me some…”

I nodded and patted my backpack.  Frank smiled and moved out of the way, grinning one last time at the top of my head before disappearing into the basement with my bag.  I peaked around the corner into the living room where Cara’s green eyes were glued to the T.V., her hands pounding away at the controls to Donkey Kong Country 2.

“Hi, Lenny,” she said, not looking away from the T.V.

“Hi, yourself.” I moved between Cara and the game to get a kiss.  At first she played at dodging her head around me to keep her eye on the digital monkey dancing onscreen, but finally she gave up and leaned her head towards me.  And then she shrieked so loud my ears popped.

“Oh my God, Lenny! What did you do to your hair?”

“You like it?” I muttered.  “I was worried it was a little…” I was cut off as she started kissing me, my face getting covered in more than a small amount of enthusiastic girl slobber.

“I love it,” she squealed, “now we match!” She flipped up the ends of her own gold, chin length tresses and then frowned.  “But it’s so frizzy.  It almost looks like an afro.”

It did look like an afro and we most certainly did not, “match.” My hair was normally fairly dark and I’d over estimated the amount of peroxide I’d need to lighten it.  The result was that my head now looked like someone had strapped an almost painfully bright yellow dust mop to my head and then crisped it with a sandwich iron.

“I may have left it in a little long,” I grumbled.

She opened her mouth to say something else, but we were interrupted by Frank and Lorraine, Cara’s mother, walking into the living room doorway.  Lorraine’s eyes narrowed and she gave me a look usually reserved for the discovery of moldy vegetables in the fridge.

“You look like a twit,” she pronounced firmly.

Cara pouted at her parents.

“Mo-om, leave him alone,” she whined.  Frank just looked at his shoes and snickered.

One of the other reasons I was still dating Cara was Frank.

Frank was a beaten man.  He’d once been the frontman for a band that had been kind of a big deal in Ottawa, which is how he’d met Lorraine.  She’d been in the front row of one of his shows, beaming up at him with a little bit of eyeliner and a whole lot of cleavage and the rest had been the kind of history that’s usually recited as a cautionary tale.  Two years later Frank was finishing up an accounting program at Algonquin College, all his dreams of rock stardom firmly behind him.  Now he was the CFO for a major software firm and Lorraine hadn’t had to put in a full day of work in over a decade.  She had latched onto a guy she’d found exciting and methodically beaten all the life and hopes and dreams out of him until he’d been moulded into her idea of a real man.  All he needed was a pocket protector and a PDA and he would have been the very image of geeked out corporate success.

Every so often though, old Frank poked his head out of the sand.  Three months into my relationship with his daughter he’d pulled me aside and asked me, kind of like a teenager doing it for the first time, all timid and excited at the same time, to buy him an ounce of weed, which he hadn’t touched since the seventies.  Or there was the time he and I, on a day that Lorraine and Carla weren’t home, sat in the basement, got his old amp out of storage, blew the dust off it and jammed for three straight hours.  I loved Frank, being around him was a constant reminder of what could happen to you if you let yourself get distracted and lost sight of the prize.  I vowed I would never let myself become him; I would never settle for an average, miserable life while I still had it in me to be someone special.

I hated Lorraine for killing what Frank could have been.

She fixed Cara and me in a frigid gaze for a second that felt like ten.

“We’re heading out to grab some dinner.  Don’t.  Make.  A.  Mess.”

I looked around the living room and thought to myself that maybe a little mess would make place feel less like a museum.  The house was all Lorraine, right down to the Dickensian model houses that sprawled like Munchkin town over every dustless inch of elevated space in the home.  Everything looked pretentious as fuck and there wasn’t a trace of Frank to be seen.  Except mothballed in the storage cupboards in the basement.

The two of them left and the second the front door clicked shut Cara jumped into my lap, lunging tongue first into my mouth.  After a few minutes she came up for air and, looking at me with an expression that was trying to be seductive but came off as a caricature of pornographic instead, arched one eyebrow.

“Nintendo for sexual favours?” she asked.

This was her favourite game lately.  We would take turns playing a game on her Super NES while the other person went down on you.  The object is to last as long as possible without dying or else you have to switch.  It was a very good game.  Trust a cheerleader to find a way to corrupt Mario and Donkey Kong.

I grinned and unbuckled my belt.

“Me first,” I said.

Later, sitting on patio chairs by the edge of the backyard pool, I reached into my bag and pulled a large white envelope from it.

I mentioned earlier that there were two reasons for my excitement on this particular Friday; this was the far more significant of the two.  The return address on the package was from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh’s audio engineering department.  I pulled the thick bundle of pages from inside it and handed it to Cara who quickly skimmed the top page.

“You got in!” she said, a note of calculation buried under the excitement.  “I’m so proud of you, Lenny.”

I was cautiously relieved.  I had been worried my acceptance would cause some drama and the fact that Cara was recognizing this as a positive development had a huge calming effect on me.  Still, that little flicker of reservation in her voice, it made me nervous.

I had spent the two years since graduating high school working as a wireless mike technician for the Centerpointe Dramatic Society and had loved every second of it.  Whenever I’d gotten a chance I’d snuck into the sound engineer’s booth and mucked around with his equipment; familiarizing myself with the differences between his digital sound board and the thirty year old analog model I’d used in school.  I’d had long, expensive telephone conversations with one of the sound engineers who worked for Disney in their Features department and, at his urging, had applied to the school in Pittsburgh.  I badly wanted to work in movies, not to act; I wasn’t near good looking enough for that, but to do sound design.  Get an Oscar in one of the boring categories no one ever pays attention to but it doesn’t matter because you’re still being recognized as being Special in front of damn near every sighted person in the western world.  Cara and I had discussed my hopes and dreams and it actually looked like, now that they were on their way to being realized, she wasn’t going to kick up any fuss.  She was…

“You’re not going to accept though, right? At least, not right away.”

My heart stopped.  That last bit hadn’t been a question and had sounded like a door slamming shut.

“Leonard, do you love me?” All the warmth had been sucked out of the air, repelled by the icy gravity to her tone.

No.

“Yes.”

“Good, because I love you too.  Very much.  And I only want what’s best for us.”

Fuck.

“And you’d do anything for me right? Just like I’d do anything for you?”

No.  No.  God no.

“Yes.” My mouth was bone dry now, like I was chewing on the paper I’d written my Oscar acceptance speech on.

“You know that I want to spend the rest of my life with you.  And you know how talented I think you are.  You know,” she waved her hands vaguely, “with that music stuff.  It’s just…”

Shit.  Fuck.  BALLS!

“I just think you should defer your admission for a year, just until I’m done school, and then, if you still want to, we can move to Philadelphia and you can do your thing.” Another hand wave, like she was swatting at a bug, instead of wringing the life out of me one word at a time.  “You know, if we haven’t found you something more stable to do by then.

It’s Pittsburgh, you cock teasing cow.

I nodded, the weight of her speech hitting the top of my skull like a mallet; each word drilling a new wound into my mind, wounds that were becoming images of pocket protectors and P.T.A.  meetings and very nice, very normal, two story Victorian houses.

“You don’t have to make up your mind now; I know it’s a big decision.  Just think about it, okay?”

I nodded again and she leaned back into her chair, a Cheshire cat smile adorning her face.

That night, Cara fucked me and I’ve gotta tell you, a payoff has never felt less satisfying.

3

Now:

I should have bought a suit.

Not that I have the money to buy a suit right now, but it definitely would have been more appropriate.  As is, I look more like a hired killer (a cheap and ineffective one) than a mourner.  It doesn’t help that everyone else at the funeral is obviously of means.  The firm that Frank worked for back in the nineties was one of the few that had escaped the tech boom and bust unscathed, and it looks like he and Lorraine had managed to buy the lifestyle and the friends that she had always aspired to.

I’m keeping my distance; watching the affair from the top of a low hill half a football field away; more to spare anyone the sight of my freshly disfigured face than out of some contorted fear of awkward reunions.  Seriously, I look and feel like a can of smashed assholes.

I’m not really paying much attention to the masses of gathered friends, acquaintances and general hangers on that have come to grieve with the Dorcy family; I only have eyes for two people.  One of them is Frank and I’ll get to him in a second, but right now I’m fixated on Cara’s widowed husband.  I don’t know his name but he looks like he should be named after a character in a harlequin romance.  I’m going to call him Reg[1] until we find out his real name.  Reg is a fucking Ken doll.  If they ever make a school to teach advanced douchebaggery they should hire Reg to be their spokesdoll.  Tall, blonde, with muscles so well defined they make his suit look like a leotard, and a jaw line that Bruce Wayne would try to buy rather than let anyone out-chisel him, the guy looks a little out of place without a kayak under his ass while he manfully conquers four foot waves.  I wonder for a second if Lorraine bought him for Cara made to order, or if he had to be grown to spec out of a romance novel cloning vat.

It’s the look on his face that gets to me though.  When people write that so and so “looked stoic,” this is the expression they’re trying to capture.  Anything at all could be going on behind his eyes and you’d never have a clue.  He’s just standing there; Lorraine is latched onto his arm as if he’s the last remaining anchor to the titanic world she’s built and she’s scared it’s all about to slam into an iceberg.  As I look at the two of them, I find myself wondering what happens to the beautiful people when their trains are derailed.  Do they have what it takes to rebuild a scattered house of cards or do they become me?

I look back at Frank and, for the first time, I’m really glad he became who he is.  Decades of having his dreams and ambitions torn apart like so much toilet paper have left a shell of a man behind, one who has little left to grieve.  He just looks like Frank.  His hair is a bit thinner, his narrow face has a few more creases in it and he’s wearing a three piece black suit that looks like it cost more than a single mom on welfare makes in a year (I’m betting Lorraine dressed him for this) but he looks pretty much the same as he did the last time I saw him a little over a decade ago.  Just a little sadder.

As Cara’s coffin is lowered into the ground, Frank’s shoulder’s fall and he looks away.  As it happens, he winds up looking right at me.  He just stares at me for a second and the hollow intensity of his gaze makes me uncomfortable; I’m not really a fan of raw human emotion on display.  I, stupidly and for lack of anything better to use to break his stare, wave jovially at him and instantly regret it.  I’m shocked when he waves back; the expression on his face is a mix of grimace and grin and it makes him look vaguely skeletal but there’s definite recognition there; the fact he still knows me under the weight of eleven years of time, six pounds of leather jacket and a face that, today, looks like it’s been through one of the Die Hard movies is a bit mind blowing.

There’s a soft thud as the coffin hits dirt and Frank looks back at the grave.  He’s handed a shovel and Lorraine starts sobbing as he pitches the first spade of dirt on top of their daughter’s final home; I genuinely feel bad for her.  My throat sticks a little when I hear soil hitting wood; as many of these as I’ve been to, that sound is always what makes it hit home for me.  There is a person in that box who has ended.  They will never do anything else, good or bad, for the rest of time.  No more inappropriate games to warp fine family entertainment, no terrorism of future children, no shopping for Dickensian miniatures with Mom.  If she was ever going to be anything special, it’s too late now.

Once the undertakers start filling the grave I wander a little farther away until I find a tree to sit under.  I gingerly lean against the trunk and my body cracks and complains loudly as the tough ridges dig into the welts on my side and back.  I don’t know why I came, it’s not as though I really wanted to pay my respects and it’s just opened up wounds that were best left…well buried seems an inappropriate choice of words.

Smoking under that tree I must lose track of time because, when Frank walks up to me and I quickly stand to greet him, I look down and see a small hill of cigarette butts; they’re piled as though ants have built their own tribute to the Mayan pyramids and my lungs feel like living death.

“Big Bird,” he says.

“Rock Star,” I reply.

He laughs a little at that and the gulf of years narrows between us until he’s crushing me to him as a hard as decorum and heterosexuality will allow and it’s taking everything I’ve got not to yelp in pain.

“You look like shit,” he says, pulling away to give me a once over.

“Thanks, Dad.”

That makes him wince and I immediately regret saying it.

“You joke,” he says, his voice a little hoarse.  “But you should take better care of yourself.  No one’s going to want your body for science if it’s missing pieces.” He takes in the top of my head in a glance and chuckles.  “I told you if you kept bleaching your hair it would all burn off.”

I reach up and rub my stubbly dome.  I need another shave.

“Meh,” I say ruefully, “it started to thin out and I’m not man enough to pull of the Captain Picard look, so I just…”

“Got a smoke?” he asks.

“Would Lorraine approve?” I reach into my pack and shake out two battered cigarettes, handing him one.

“Fuck her,” he says, leaning in to catch a light.

I snort and glance at him sideways.

“She’s too busy playing world’s most distraught parent and comforting Chad, I think I might be a little outside her notice for now.

Reg’s name is name is Chad; you may want to make a note of that.  I was close though, Chad’s a douchebag name too.

Frank sits down beside the tree and I join him.

“Feels good to be in the shade,” he says.  “It’s strange, you always picture funerals as being overcast but this is perfect golfing weather.”

“Golf?”

“Improvements by Lorraine.  I think she’s writing a book.  Point is, it’s too beautiful day to bury someone.”

“It’s never bad enough weather to bury someone,” I reply.

Frank doesn’t respond to this, he just sits there smoking, the grey wisps of toxic clouds circling his face are almost the same color and texture as his hair.

“What the fuck happened to you, Leonard? I always thought you were a good kid.  With potential and all that shit.”

I shrug.

“I’m thirty two, Frank.  That’s like the new twelve.  Plenty of time yet to make my mark.”

“Don’t be a smart ass, boy.  I think we both know you’re not exactly a half step away from success.  Look at you.  Your face looks like it’s been grilled, you’re dressed like a cross between a Nazi thug and a homeless person, and I’m gonna bet you don’t have more than twenty bucks in your wallet.”

“The wallet went along with my good looks actually,” I say, pointing at my face and letting a little acid slip into my tone.

He glances down at my ring finger and shakes his head.

“No wife, no kids, and no job, am I right? What are you trying to prove? Are you enjoying yourself? Are you pretending that this is anything but self inflicted?”

I’m getting annoyed now.  I’ve kicked people half to death for criticizing me less than this.  But Frank was kind of family once and he badly needs someone to parent right now.  Still I can’t resist digging in a little.

“I was just trying to avoid becoming you, Frank.  I guess I just shot a little to far overboard.” I shrug.

I immediately feel like a dick for saying it, but instead of deflating or getting angry, Frank just barks out a short laugh and punches me in the arm.

“Lenny, let me tell you a little something about this life of mine.  As to not wanting to be me, today I can’t say I blame you.  But, in general, even as mind addling boring as it’s been in patches, I love my life.  I got to spend three decades raising a beautiful little girl into a woman who isn’t…wasn’t anywhere as cruel as her mother.  Which, I can tell you, was a battle unto itself.  I’ve made more money than I could have imagined and that kind of security bought a peace of mind that most people will never know.  I never got to be a rock star, Lenny, but let me tell you, kid, neither will you.  It was better to be an accountant with a dead daughter than a flash in the pan without one.”

I get up to stretch my legs and notice what neither of us did with our backs towards Cara’s grave, Lorraine marching up the hill to collect her husband.  I’ve never seen someone in heels taking such huge, determined strides and I marvel for a second at how tightly her grey curls must be drawn in order to keep them from bouncing as she half charges to chastise Frank.  I only pause for a second and then I kick Frank.

“Psst, something wicked this way comes.”

He throws his cigarette so fast and aimlessly that it almost takes out my remaining good eye and then Lorraine is upon us.  I cringe, instinctively feeling the same way I did when I was twenty about to get a tongue lashing from her.  But she doesn’t even look at me; she just grabs Frank by the arm and starts dragging him away.

I brush the ash off my pants and hurry after them.

“Frank!”

He turns around and Lorraine looks borderline volcanic at my interruption of whatever lecture she was winding into.

“I do have a kid,” I say.  “She’s six.”

Then you need to be better,” he shrugs.  “It’s just that simple, Lenny.” And then he’s gone swept into a sea of commiseration and empty platitudes.  There’s no point for me to stay; I don’t really want to see the tombstone go up over the full grave, I spare one last glance at Frank and Lorraine and then I head home.


[1] Like the thoroughly unlikeable thorn in Archie’s side from the comics.

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Comments
  1. Mark says:

    Lolllllllllllllllll you actually post incomplete mediocre-at-best fiction on a website with a comment section. I’d say you have balls if not for the fact that I expect your narcissistic brain is wired to take it as a complement or encouragement to keep producing; which would obviously be a waste of everyone who’s involved’s time.

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