The Last Bus to Oblivion

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A burbling engine noise slid up behind him and stopped at the curb. It was a boat of a Pontiac, low, heavy, and dusty brown, with all of the side chrome pieces missing. It looked like it had escaped from an old cop show. The driver was parked on the wrong side of the road. Fumes leaked from under the keel. The driver turned the key. Too late, Jason realized his mistake.

Now the smell and the noise were gone but the man was anchored. The first man chuckled, then coughed as if something wet and dark might fly out of his throat. Jason was wondering if old men always give you their career marriage stats when a third man arrived with his golden retriever and asked if they were taking down a tree. He was wearing a black suit over a frayed lime-green polo shirt.

Wisps of white hair escaped from under his yellow baseball cap. Jason sighed. Always take charge of the situation.

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Jason offered his hand to the first man, with the thick white hair. My folks were Welsh. And this is Mikey. They were all staring at Jason now, even the dog. Apparently, logging was a great way to meet people, but not female-type people.

J ason woke up early Sunday morning when unconsciousness kicked him out and slammed the door. He hobbled up the low hill to the Greenwood Bakery for his first latte. Lew never left his car.

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Lavelle brought coffee in a thermos, which leaked onto his fleece slippers. One of the Hanks needed a hearing aid. Mikey needed a hearing aid, but he was a dog. Everybody had a story about working at Boeing and winning World War II and girls loved and lost and vacations and children and driving Studebakers.

Whatever Studebakers were. Jason had brought his cell phone to the bakery. He had a good connection, so he started calling his people until he found someone willing to give him a lift across the lake. They arrived at the office at midday with takeout from the Chinese place, but Hojo had already been to the Greek drive-thru.

I just tried the 3D and my butt looks huge. As they worked they could hear the hollow plastic clatter of keyboards and the occasional digitized detonation as the team wrestled with their game. Or as people went AWOL to play some other game. Jason expected the office to feel like home, the place where he spent his sixty-hour weeks. But today it felt different, as if the building were less solid. People were working, or pretending to work, except the two guys from another team who were in their area playing air hockey. Clack, clack, swoosh. Jason wanted to build something, but he was the manager manager and the project manager.

Instead he dived into his inbox, where he saw he had nine hundred and eighty-nine emails including twenty-seven warnings from the systems administrator that he had busted the capacity of his email client. He moved those messages to their own folder where they could keep each other company. Jason was dismayed that many of his messages brought him immediate replies. It was the middle day of a three-day weekend. She was alone in the mosh pit. Sunlight never reached this interior, circular, twilit room. Here the engineers filled their screens with code, lines of letters and numbers punctuated by brackets and slashes that animated starships and activated weapons and gave players the means to mow down rioting aliens.

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The mosh pit was a boys club that had allowed only a few girls inside its doors, one of them being Stephanie. That would explain the relatively good behavior in this pit as opposed to the wretched hive of scum and villainy that was the team next door, where their best coder had hacked the elevators and made the fatal mistake of trapping the CEO between floors. They were still looking for a new coder. The boys were a little afraid of her, especially after her ex-husband showed up one day and he was a cop.

Last Christmas she arrived every day for a month in sweaters with reindeers, elves, or gingerbread men on them.

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But tonight she was wearing a Spice Girls T-shirt tucked into her Dockers. The T-shirt had seen too many spin cycles in the dryer.

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Jason pulled up a chair, then quickly swung it around to hide his erection, which had exploded out of hibernation and threatened to trip him. She had her hair pulled back in another neon pink stretchy thing and she was wearing her yellow Swatch. A half-empty bottle of Rainier sat on the countertop beside her.

I wanted company but the boys took off. Some sort of primitive hunting ritual. Jason was glad they were gone. Stephanie seemed to decide something.

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He was never going to see that ensemble again. Stephanie folded her arms across the back of the chair and rested her chin on the backs of her hands. Jason hesitated, breathed in, then rolled still closer, rose off his seat, and kissed her, their lips gently brushing. He sat back down. In the distance a door slammed. Her neon pink stretchy thing topped the pile like a bow on a gift.

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She still wore her yellow Swatch. A torn purple foil wrapper lay on the carpet, a tropical leaf on a sea of beige. He had scattered the purple ones around his office. Just in case. Stephanie wiggled her ass a bit in his lap to renew his interest. She had his attention.

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He had been holding Stephanie on his lap through two levels of Unnamed First Person Sci-Fi Shooter and he was losing contact with his legs. Her skin had been cool against his when their clothes first came off, against his chest and legs and under the palms of his hands, but you blast enough space-going battlewagons and you start to perspire.

The game still lacked sound. He heard a laugh somewhere, or maybe a gasp.

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  8. Were they tangling with alien races? Chasing each other down twisting corridors with shotguns? Discarding two cards and asking the dealer for two more? Were they flying solo?