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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Frog and Toad 23

 Babe needs to see one of the clairvoyants at Stars New and Old. She sets off on foot under a pastel sweep that’ll soon redden, deepen, dump the world upside down into the belly of the night bag and reveal Orion. “Lock this behind me,” she says to the eldest, wrapping a scarf against the wind. She knows she’ll be walking back up the hill in the dark, easy roadkill or ready target. There are plenty of itinerant, unsettled, unsettling men on these streets. Sometimes they sleep nights in makeshift tents between teddy bear cholla, other times they just stand and smoke on what passes for street corners. “What’s your name?” they growl. Sometimes she says nothing, sometimes “Angel of Death, what’s yours?” Babe Snake isn’t a ninja. Big Think taught her to preserve or disappear a body. She knows the protocol for killing her team and taking her own life in a worst-case. She could do that, but she likely couldn’t fight off a common attacker, especially after the illness. She might be able to talk her way out of some fixes, she might be able to shriek and run. She wishes she could turn coyote up and down the hill. Instead she walks fast. She’s hoping the New Zealander is in, tall, pale, always ready speaking before Babe gets in the door, her baroque skirts shapeshifting as she squeezes between rows of velvet seats or expands to occupy the knocked-together stage. Babe needs to ask her about Griselda. That’s a big no for Big Think, but Babe can’t figure how Griselda got mixed up in this. Griselda’s from town. She is town, and people already know she’s missing. “Seen Griselda?” her neighbor asks, his mustache swaggering around her name. “She has a tonic for me. To keep away the shingles.” Babe takes that tonic, too, or one like it. She offers to bring some over and her neighbor thanks her. It’s important that she not answer any question or remark anyone makes about Griselda. Even with the clairvoyant, who will know but never tell that Babe Snake has something to do with it, now.

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