Expired Delicacies

@theo

I walk up to the booth.

“Welcome to Expired Delicacies!” greets the dude behind the counter. “Would you like to try our new Fuzzy Milk blended drink? Double your Bloodcoin if you can keep it down!”

I wave him away, tap Jan on the shoulder.

He turns around, wipes a hearty dollop of vomit from his chin. He’s got a sizable wad of tickets clutched tightly in his free hand. “Theo? What are you doing here?”

“What am I doing here? What are you doing here?”

“I’m mining Bloodcoin.”

“I can see that.”

Jan motions for me to follow him out of earshot of the Expired Delicacies dude. Then he leans in close and says, “I’ve been sneaking in through the garden shed with my augmented bytes disabled so that the Ex-Husbands don’t recognize me. That way I don’t have to pay the admission fee.” He nods at me. “I didn’t know you were into Bloodcoin, though.”

“That’s because I’m not.” I glance back at the booth; some poor sucker’s just ordered a Fuzzy Milk. “I saw your SuperMegaFeed and thought you were in trouble. How long have you been coming here?”

“A while.”

“Do your parents know this place exists?”

“They barely know I exist.”

“And you’re…cool with, uh, making your money this way?”

“Why not?”

“Maybe because it’s crazy.”

Jan faces me full, folds his arms. There’s still a dab of vomit on his pixelated chin. “What’s crazy?”

“I mean, all those unexplained bruises and Band-Aids showing up on you recently, I knew something was up, but I never could’ve seen this coming.”

“It’s an opportunity. I took it.”

“Drinking Fuzzy Milk is an opportunity?”

“Well, not the milk so much. But the other attractions…” Jan holds up his tickets. Even pixelated, his battered arms are starting to look like over-ripened bananas. “I’ve mined fifty Bloodcoin so far tonight.”

I shake my head. “Are you hearing yourself?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve got cuts and bruises, you’re drinking sour milk—”

“Fuzzy Milk.”

“As if that’s any better!”

Jan goes quiet.

So do I.

In the background, rides groan. People scream in agony. The Mellotron hiccups in the middle of a melancholy tune. Smoke hangs heavy in the torchlight.

“I need the money,” Jan says at last.

I try to come up with something meaningful, something that will convince him to drop what he’s doing and download back home with me. Instead, I just sort of make this exasperated choking noise, followed by, “What about the demogorgonzola?”

“Oh, it’s in the Champion’s Pit.”

“Terrific. Fantastic. There’s a demogorgonzola in the Champion’s Pit, and I’m supposed to not think any of this is absolutely bat-crap crazy?”

“You wouldn’t understand. You’re rich.”

More exasperation. “Why does everyone say that?”

“It’s true, isn’t it?”

“I’m not rich,” I insist. “I’m…well off, sure, but not rich.”

“What’s the difference?”

“One’s for people with, um, comfortable amounts of money. The other’s for the one-percenters who live in giant mansions and drive fancy sports cars and have YouTube channels and shop exclusively at overpriced boutiques.”

Jan nods. “You mean white people.”

“No, I mean affluent people.”

“Yeah—‘white’ is slang for affluent.”

I frown. “No offense, but you’re whiter than I am—”

“I’m European.”

“—so, by your argument, shouldn’t you be rich?”

Jan shakes his head. “I’m Czech. Being ‘white’ has nothing to do with skin color or race anymore. It’s slang for rich, affluent, entitled.”

“When did this happen?”

“I think when Trump became president.”

* * *

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Jesse Gordon

Geek. Writer. Supreme overlord of the SUPERMEGANET pseudoverse. Author of THE OATMEAL MAN, DOOKIE, and other such wasteful nonsense.