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“Ugh, St. Patrick’s Day, what have they done to you?” said Greg, wincing in dismay at the bar they drove past. “When I was a kid St. Patrick’s Day was ‘wear something green or you get pinched.’ When did it turn into ‘virulent idiots getting drunk on green beer’?”

“When I was a kid Halloween was ‘trick or treat,'” said Brigid. “When did it turn into ‘Sexy Axe Murderer’ costumes? Everything’s been screwed up for ages now. I blame the baby boomers.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Growing up being told everything was all about them, they believed it, and have just trashed the country and the culture.”

“Hmm,” said Greg. “Well as much as I’d love to use them as a scapegoat, those aren’t baby boomers wearing plastic leprechaun hats and getting blotto we just passed. And it’s certainly not baby boomers in the Sexy Axe Murderer costume. Not any more, at least. You may have an argument for baby boomers having made the mess, but let’s be honest, generation X isn’t exactly cleaning up after them very well.”

“When you grow up in the asylum, you don’t realize that everyone around you is insane,” said Brigid. “Generation X was screwed from the start. All we can do is try to pave the way for the millennials to un-break the world.”

“…says the woman who thinks children should neither be seen nor heard,” said Greg.

“I believe that children are the future,” Brigid said. “And they can have it.”

-The Gneech

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Brigid stalked the edges of the party, looking like nothing so much as a panther looking for a baby rabbit to gobble down. Finally she spotted the rabbit in question, to wit Greg, who was in the center of a cluster of people, holding them spellbound as he told them some ridiculous anecdote. She instantly made her way to him.

“…and so she pulled out a lighter and said, ‘Lean down here so I can set you on fire,'” Greg was saying, as Brigid elbowed her way through the crowd.

“C’mon,” she said, grabbing his arm. “Let’s go.”

“It’s only 9:30,” Greg said.

“Yeah,” said Brigid, “which means I’ve been here a whole 45 minutes and my oath not to commit murder is wearing thin. Let’s go.”

“Fine, fine,” said Greg, and turned back to the faces eagerly hoping for more snappy stories. “Sorry, all. But She Who Must Be Obeyed speaks, and I’m the one driving the car. Good night!”

Coats retrieved, they slipped out into the night. “I do get tired of you wanting to end every party before it begins,” Greg said. “You realize these binges are my main point of contact with the outside world, right?”

“Sorry,” said Brigid, as he unlocked the door. “Work has been bad. We’ll stay longer next time, I promise.”

“I’ll hold you to that,” said Greg, as they got in the car.

“For all your time spent alone, you know how to work a crowd,” Brigid said as they pulled out into traffic.

“Well that particular crowd was not a particularly discerning bunch,” said Greg. “I’ve learned that the secret to success, is to only hang around people who are easily impressed.”

“Uh huh,” said Brigid.

-The Gneech

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Fictionlet

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Greg shook his hand in the air. “Guh, you wouldn’t think stirring cookie dough would hurt so much.”

“Worry not!” said Brigid, shoving her finger into the bowl and pulling it out covered in dough and chocolate chips. “Your sacrifice shall not have been in vain!” She greedily gulped down her prize.

“You shouldn’t eat raw cookie dough!” said Greg. “You could get sick from it!”

“No I couldn’t,” said Brigid. “It’s never actually happened to anyone in the history of ever.”

“Of course it has,” said Greg. “There’s the well-known case of Silas Gunderson. In 1874, he was making cookies to comfort himself after having accidentally slashed his arm open on a sewer grate while trying to fend off the diseased rats who chewed off two of the fingers on his left hand. Took one bite of raw cookie dough, and dropped dead on the spot.”

“What?” said Brigid. “That’s stupid. Even if you hadn’t just made that up on the spot, all that would mean was that he died while eating raw cookie dough, not from eating raw cookie dough.”

“Well, yes, but still. Better safe than sorry, don’t you think?”

“No, I so don’t,” said Brigid, scooping out another dollop with a large spoon.

-The Gneech

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Fictionlet

Unfortunately, as she snuck out of the building, Brigid’s cellphone began vibrating stridently in her bag, which just told her she had a lot more hell to get through before the day was over. Pulling out the phone, she barked into it, “I’m not gonna say four hours until you give me details!”

“Well that’s fine,” said Isadora’s voice on the other end. “I don’t want you to say four hours anyway! Why should I? It’s no skin off my nose.”

“Ugh, sorry Mom,” said Brigid. “I thought you were someone else.”

“Well I’m not,” said Isadora. “What’s more, I don’t intend to ever be.”

“What’s up?” said Brigid, hauling her bag up onto the bus and waving her pass in front of the sensor.

“I’m calling to issue yet another invitation,” said Isadora as Brigid collapsed into a seat. “Your Aunt Edna is hosting a family reunion two weeks hence.”

“Oh, hell no,” said Brigid. “No thanks.”

“What do you mean, ‘no thanks’?”

“I mean Aunt Edna can go hump a pool toy. A team of Navy Seals couldn’t get me to go to that.” A woman sitting across from Brigid turned her head and blinked; Brigid just hunkered down into her seat.

“Brigid!” said Isadora.

“No way,” said Brigid.

“She doesn’t have many years left in her, you know,” said Isadora.

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” said Brigid.

“Don’t be cruel-hearted!” said Isadora.

“Sorry, sorry,” said Brigid. “I’m just… Mom, I can’t take family right now.”

“You’re supposed to take comfort and joy from your family!” said Isadora. “That’s what they’re for!”

“Then I should have a comforting, joyful family for that,” said Brigid. “Not Disdain McJudgealot and the Fifteen Sneerers.”

“I don’t even know what that means,” said Isadora. “In any case it doesn’t matter. We all have obligations, Brigid, and family is one of them. I understand that you don’t necessarily like them, and that can’t be helped. But you’ll be glad to have them later in life, take it from me!”

Brigid just squeezed her eyes shut. Then, quickly pulling a bit of paper out of her bag, she rapidly crumpled it up in front of the microphone. “Sorry, what’s that mom?” she said. “You’re breaking up. What? WHAT?”

“Don’t you try that crumpled paper trick on me you little–” was as far as Isadora got before Brigid had hung up on her.

-The Gneech

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One of the unexpected things I’ve learned over the course of being That Guy at Starbucks, is how much there is to learn about being That Guy at Starbucks. For instance, you discover that there’s a whole shadow-economy of That Guys, many of whom are actually women, making That Guy a terrible moniker but alas the one that has stuck in my head and therefore I shall employ henceforth.

Another thing you discover is that paradoxically, “Dream a Little Dream of Me” becomes the most un-soothing song in the world when blasting too loudly in your ear. In short, there are times when having earphones is absolutely vital. I mean, the whole point of being That Guy at Starbucks is you’re working somewhere that has noise and bustle and activity, in order to get something that feels vaguely like human interaction without any of the attendant unpleasantness of going to an actual job– but when the shady character at the next table over pitches a ponzi scheme to his mark in a voice made to rattle windows, or worst of all, some harried suburban mother brings in her five year old, her toddler, and her infant, and shoves them all at a table in the corner while she goes to grab her triple venti caramel macchiatto before she murders someone, the calm bubble of humanity suddenly becomes a loud and intrusive bubble of humanity designed to keep you from getting anything done. Your choices therefore are to take your chances with the next Starbucks over, or to put on headphones and listen to, well, sound clips recorded inside coffeeshops. Because that’s the most effective background ambience for getting work done.

You also quickly learn the importance of scouting out the power plugs, grabbing the seat by the window in the brief moments when it becomes available, knowing which cashiers actually know what they’re doing and will give your drink to the barista correctly, and by extension which baristas actually give a damn when it comes to making the drinks. A mocha made without the proper amount of syrup is much worse than no mocha at all.

Once you get the hang of these things, however, you come to discover that having offices in every city of the world is worth its weight in gold, and as I mentioned, you can’t beat the rent. The only real downside is terminally slippery insides, but even that can be managed with an occasional lemonade and judicious selection of decaf.

-The Gneech

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