Concordia Discors: Boom-Chicka-Boom

“If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?” Mac asks.

“If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, what is baby oil made from?” Zeren one-ups.

“Anything is possible if you don’t know what you’re talking about,” I say.

“Hah! The voice of reason,” Zeren snorts.

“Or reasonable doubt,” I correct.

Gia raises her hand. “Doubting Thomas?” she offers, her voice goofy. “Thomas’ English Muffins!”

The men and I just pause, staring as we always do when her T-shirt rises, because Gia’s stomach, after two children and three miscarriages, is impossibly flat, and then we all giggle like idiots because my husband, Mac, has birthday cake up his nose, we’ve had way too much to drink, and Gia, after sniffing Zeren, announces her husband smells like halibut.

Zeren checks his blood sugar, missing his wrist twice. “My doctor’s new shtick,” he explains. He hasn’t eaten sweets in over a month.

Forty days and forty nights
thou wast fasting in the wild;
forty days and forty nights
tempted, and yet undefiled
,” I recite, because Zeren was an altar boy, Gia’s only reference point is The National Enquirer, and I thrill to the sound of my own voice.

Mac squeezes my right breast.

“Me, Defiler,” he says, thumping his chest like an ape, then makes an imprint of his face in the icing of the cake. As Zeren hums the only line he knows from the Barber of Seville, Gia shaves Mac’s creamy cheeks with her index finger, gracefully paints his lips, then hers.

 

Zeren slurs lines from the Book of Psalms, limping like a hump-backed preacher. “Our days on earth are like grass; like wild flowers we bloom and die.”

Mac snuggles behind me, play-thrusting like a Chippendale dancer to show he’s got plenty of seeds left.

“Finish me off,” he begs.

Gia holds the Bible at arm’s length and squints. “The wind blows,” she reads,“and we are gone—as though we had never been here.”

Mac shudders, collapses on the floor.

Gia bends to give mouth-to-mouth.

Zeren and I watch our spouses tussle and agree that Zeren’s too lazy and I am too fat to join in, and that it’s all good, all good anyway, the four of us being friends, best friends, in fact, and we break open another bag of chips.

Zeren heats the bottom of a salsa jar with his lighter. I screw the top off.

Our fingers plunge and tango.

 

Gia’s cat, Spinster, craps twice on our Scrabble board.

Zeren soaks his loose molar crown in milk.

Mac can’t remember his social security number.

Nobody cares that since hitting menopause, my left eyebrow is turning white.

We talk about people our age we know, and others we wish we didn’t, who are dying out from spammed arteries to monster melanomas, from things going bump in the night. We blow into empty vodka bottles, playing “Taps.”

It rains as if forever.

Mac huffs on his bifocals as he flexes his biceps, then sulks when nobody cares how hot his new trainer is. He nudges me—Whatthehell’shername?pissed the gob of peanut butter stuck to the roof of my mouth is taking up all my concentration.

“Cognito, ergo sum,” Mac says, rapping my temple with his knuckles.

Gia pinches his tricep. “The force be with you?” she guesses.

“Hakuna Matata,” I whisper, making her jump because I’ve half-forgotten the childhood flashbacks of her father’s cock in her ear so she spreads her fingers like a Vulcan to make me jealous of the ring Zeren bought her for their twenty-fifth anniversary.

Zeren pats his knee, daring me to sit, smug that I won’t, so I do, adding a little bounce so his drink spills on his Tommy Bahama pants, the ones I lifted from a Vegas hotel shop while Gia flirted with the salesclerk.

“Till death do us part,” Zeren says, his eyes soaked with gratitude, lingering on Gia’s cleavage as she kneels to wipe the stains.

So we talk about it—morality, mortality, our lack of both. We guess which celebrities will die or should die next. Gia is sure there is coffin couture.

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” I intone, my nose pressed against the kitchen windowpane.

“Corinthians 15:55,” Zeren adds to show off.

“Bite me,” I say.

He pinches what once might have been my waist.

I give in to his tickling.

His arms are furry. My head fits under his chin.

Gia and Mac don’t look up. They huddle, shoulders touching as they spear olives.

 

The other night, I dreamt of storm troopers chucking tumors like hand grenades, majorettes twirling body parts like batons, geysers of blood henna-ing the clouds. The mattress bounced like I was threshing wheat.

“Day is done, gone the sun,” Mac had said, cupping my hand over his balls, offering protection. “I’ve got an Uzi.” He began to snore before I could pull the trigger.

Gia and Zeren applaud; my nightmares are always the best.

“Big Mac,” says Gia.

“Mac the Knife,” adds Zeren.

“Old MacDonald had a farm,” I finish up.

We all sing the refrain.

But then we get back to it—downing tequila shots, our brows pinched with urgency, our lips stinging from salt and limes. “What’s love got to do with it?” Gia sings. “Is there really anything to live for besides Sex and the City reruns?”

We all speak at once.

Mac’s got a shitload riding on the Super Bowl, Zeren’s yet to make provisions in his will for his lab mice, and Gia was just “friended” by John Stamos and has to ride that one out.

And me? I’ve got these gags to crank out for some B-lister’s eightieth birthday party roast. Bunion Barbie? She comes with a walker and corn pads. Post-Menopausal Midge wets her pants when she sneezes. And also there’s this fake memoir I’m stuttering through.

“What’s love but a secondhand emotion,” Gia sings.

We flap our arms and strut.

 

Mac passes a joint he confiscated from a student before spring break.

We watch the news without sound, narrating tragedies in foreign accents.

We agree that we’d do something noble if we won the lottery, like buy a goat for a family in Nicaragua and never complain when Broadway actors shook canisters in our face after we’d shelled out two hundred bucks for lousy seats.

Zeren suggests the gene pool could use a little chlorine.

Mac says sometimes people our age stop to think—then forget to start again.

Gia whines that wrinkled was not one of the things she wanted to be when she grew up.

And really, I huff, those CNN reporters with their biceps and tight T-shirts, do they really give a damn?

We all cough too much.

Mac shows off his course syllabus, mopes about “discordant harmony.” His students think Horace’s Epistles is gangster rap . . . “Quid velit et possit,” he beats, “rerum concordia discors.”

“Hot,” Gia interrupts. “Boom-chicka-boom,” then scolds me for rolling my eyes until Zeren flips me a donut, after he’s taken a bite.

“Good boy,” I say.

Mac raises his eyebrows and I mouth, “You, too.”

The pot and perhaps the MSG in the wonton soup give Gia hot flashes and Zeren the runs.

Mac’s eyes are itchy; he picks cat hairs off Gia’s sweater sleeve, starting with her wrist.

When he reaches her collarbone I butt in, kissing his.

“Interception,” Zeren mutters, fumbling with a roach clip.

Mac’s face changes; he blinks thickly. His snicker is not quick enough.

My stare is tight, its message brief: In dog years, birthday boy, you’d be dead.

 

“Twenty-five years,” Gia says, flicking ashes, her eyes flitting like moths.

Zeren shivers, wringing his hands like someone’s great aunt.

“Who else would have us?” Mac says.

“Waaaa,” I say, sniffling into my armpit.

We study each other through smoke rings, our shoulders rounded like question marks.

“You were taller then.”

“You had hair.”

“You were pregnant.”

“Oh. It was just the dress?”

And so we fling it about, bobbing like buoys, bailing memories from leaky boats . . .

Camped out to buy Stones tickets: Gia, in Flashdance leggings, passing a flask of something sweet and cheap.

Me, complaining of cramps, fumbling with my bangs, a crossword puzzle and nose spray.

Zeren introducing his wife as Pebbles Flintstone.

Mac, rubbing newsprint smudges off my chin.

The men talked sports, time-shares, tits and ass.

Zeren beamed like he’d hooked an exotic fish. Mac squirmed as I squirted Cheese Whiz into my mouth like a magic trick.

Mac ticked off the sports he played in high school.

I mentioned a few he hadn’t.

Zeren bragged about his college’s Moot Court Club.

I said his feats were debatable.

Then Gia crossed her legs and hugged herself. Jesus fucking Christ, if somebody didn’t find her a bathroom, she would burst.

Mac hooked his fingers through my belt loop. The tips of his ears turned pink.

Zeren soothed the collar of his wife’s cape, his fingers lingering on her neck.

Gia saying she was thrilled to meet us, just t-h-r-i-l-l-e-d.

Mac elbowing me too hard.

The men exchanged business cards.

Gia whispered the name of her hairdresser.

“You don’t seem like the funny type,” Zeren said.

“I just have to type funny,” I replied, watching him redden, enjoying his apologizing until I got bored.

“And you?” I asked.

For a living, he tortured rats in a methadone clinic. To keep living, he worked as little as possible. His dream was to enter a witness protection program.

“Me, too,” I said.

He suggested my face would look thinner with a beard.

Gia and Mac ran ahead, circling the parking lot, guzzling Boones Farm and calling to our cars like barnyard animals.

Zeren and I trudged behind, sharing a Milky Way. We agreed that all of the M&M colors tasted alike and jobs could be created by hiring other people to die for us.

“So we’ll see you?” Gia asked.

“Only if you look,” Mac said, winking as if he had a tic.

Zeren nudged his wife as if herding her to the barn.

Gia tugged my sleeve. “You’ll come over,” she said. “But call first. Bam-Bam and I might be fucking.”

She tooted Zeren’s balls for effect.

 

The chips are soggy now. The ice is gone. We’re down to Red Bull and warm Coke.

We’ve checked the movie schedule for the tenth time; we can’t agree on what not to see.

I’ve spread pots across the living room floor to catch the ceiling leaks.

Gia holds a bag of frozen peas to her forehead. She does a little dance as ice drips down her shirt.

Zeren confides his underwear feels tight.

“We should go,” he says, for the umpteenth time, then sits back down.

The weather report says there’s flooding in coastal areas.

We all agree there’s safety in numbers.

I finish my second bag of candy corn. I make finger puppets with marshmallows and dance them across Zeren’s face.

Gia eats an entire head of lettuce.

Somewhere in the attic, Mac finds a bong.

We argue about who we would eat first if we were stranded on a desert island and decide this: I would be the juiciest, fleshiest, the most bang for the fang, but Mac the Marathon Man’s bone marrow would be most nutritious.

And if the rescue helicopter only had room enough for three?

Suddenly, we fall silent.

Gia picks her split ends. She’d rather talk Botox and boob jobs and celebrity stomach stapling. She refuses to think further ahead than the expiration date on her box of eggs.

We laugh too loudly—Silly, Gia—but her smile is smug as she kicks the pillows off the couch and stretches out.

 

Mac drops to the ground and, after we ignore his one-handed push-ups, lunges for Zeren’s ankle, pulling him off the couch, going at him as if filleting a fish.

“The boys,” Gia sighs, blowing smoke like a movie star, “are at it again.”

I grunt, happily lapping chocolate pudding, a sweater draped bat-like over my head.

Zeren yelps. His back, his neck, the fucking rain. He is the Tin Man rusted out.

Gia whistles through her teeth, grabs Mac by his collar.

The men untangle themselves.

Zeren pats his comb-over, hitches his pants, rearranges himself.

Man up, my jaw asserts, to remind him we’re only as strong as our weakest link.

Zeren grabs the bowl of popcorn wedged between my thighs. Carrying it like a football, his eyebrows wiggling this one’s for you, he stumbles over kitty’s squeak toy and smashes his big toe against the coffee table, something I catch, but don’t give into, because as Gia squeals “fumble” and bounces like a yo-yo, bending with the ease of a gymnast at the scattered kernels, Mac and I exchange looks, knowing we would kill, possibly each other, to have a piece of that.

 

“Enough,” Mac repeats, sticking his head out the window. His face soaked, he’s ready to jump ship.

I dunk Oreos in my coffee. Mac drinks his black. Zeren holds an icepack to his oddly swollen toe. He complains the rain makes him have to pee.

The cuckoo clock startles us at 3 am.

Gia lightly snores.

Spinster the cat is spitting blood and needs her kidney medication, but Gia is rolled up on the sofa like an enchilada, sucking on a piece of blanket. Zeren checks his watch, his wife, paces with his mewing cat, frowning, as if weighing the odds of whose scratches would be deeper.

Gia is our poor baby, sweet thing, needs her rest, so we let her sleep.

Mac promises to run her over tomorrow.

I suggest a shot of arsenic, instead.

Mac tousles my hair. I tousle back.

Zeren bobs like a Buddha. “Thankyousomuch, but now, what about kitty, what about me?”

Mac and I shrug. Our sighs meet.

Zeren can’t fit his toe into his driving shoe. His crown, gingerly repositioned with my tweezers, stings like bloody hell. He looks bad in alcohol; his nose is a flabby pink.

Mac tosses me the car keys. He’ll clean up, someone has to anyway. And besides, Gia will freak if she wakes up alone.

He yawns, as if auditioning for a play. No worries, no hurries. He’ll tuck himself in.

“Kiss-kiss,” he says.

“Kiss-kiss,” I reply.

Mac covers Gia with a blanket, slides a pillow under her head.

“Go, go, go,” he says. His smile is fruity.

I mold string cheese in my mouth so it looks like a smile. I stick a bagel in my pocket.

“Heigh-ho!” Zeren says. “Heigh-ho. It’s off to work we go.”

We bump him out the door.

Leaving Doc and Sleeping Beauty.

 

“Fucking cat,” Zeren will mutter after it happens, shifting blame from the flooded roads and my dozing off to Spinster’s flying leap over his head, splaying herself against the windshield.

After we spin and swerve, running off the road and down an embankment into a scruff of bushes, we don’t roll over.

“I’m okay,” I yell. “I’m okay.”

“Me, too,” he says, his eyes big as cue balls.

He cuddles the cat, then pulls me towards him.

Then I cry, for the first time since John Lennon died.

“There, there,” he says, pointing out the trees we could have hit.

“There, there.” His hand slides up my shirt.

I shift my weight, offering my breast like a Christmas stocking.

“Here,” I reply, as if writing stage notes. “Here, here.”

The rest is even clumsier.

So we try it again, later, in the dull light of his den, disrobed and sweaty, working each other like Sumo wrestlers.

 

Zeren likes my fat. He goes at me like a buffet meal. His hands are as big as plates. He says starved lab rats will bite off their own tails.

We make sandwiches with everything we can find that isn’t organic or green.

We share a cigar.

We chuckle.

“Would you rather admit the crime, do the time, and get on with your life,” Zeren asks, “or live free and deal with the guilt?”

“Would you rather have every single hair on your body plucked or every fingernail ripped off?” I answer.

I compliment his wife’s choice of musk-fragranced sachets.

He remarks the spray my husband’s been using on his bald spot is doing the trick.

Then we name celebrities in alphabetical order who have committed suicide and laugh as if pumped full of helium.

When I finally call Mac, the answering machine picks up. “Scratches on the car. Goddamn squirrel. Almost hit a pole. Too shaky to drive home.” My voice wobbly, fading out.

“Never fear, Zeren’s here.” His words percolate, his hands clip-clopping like the Lone Ranger’s horse before he hangs up.

His tongue climbs the folds of my neck.

I find the soft spot beneath his stomach.

The wind cackles, the rain spits.

Spinster the cat blinks pus.

 

Nobody complains about the fruit flies circling my melon balls.

Nobody scoffs at Zeren’s suspenders or Gia’s Full House T-shirt.

Nobody bitches about Mac’s shitty choice of salad dressing.

The four of us smile too much. We’re careful not to step on each other’s lines.

“We’re here because we’re here,” Gia sings, her voice flat. She hands me a bottle of wine she’s neglected to chill.

I ask about her health.

She notices I’ve combed my hair.

Zeren and Mac shake hands, looking past each other: ten days till pitchers and catchers, huh?

“What’s a Yankee?” I blurt. “The same as a Quickie, but a guy can do it alone.”

There’s a beat, then two, until Gia giggles and something shifts and we are pouring drinks and shedding shoes—Did you hear? Sixteen stab wounds. Such a young man. Not so young. He was sixty-two—and soon Mac and Gia’s voices carry from the hallway; she can’t find the scarf he left at her house, he’ll check under the car seat for her earring back. They bound into the kitchen like puppies off a leash: Going out for beer, for ice, the strawberries at Albert’s Farm are this big. The two of them making a list, checking it twice.

The door slams.

“Be back in a few.”

Zeren rocks on his heels, whistling because he knows it drives me crazy, then brings me a glass because only peasants drink orange juice from the container even if it’s my house and I can do whatever the fuck I please thank you very much.

“We could go upstairs,” he says.

“They know,” I say then estimate we have twenty minutes, maybe thirty if they hit traffic.

Zeren brushes crumbs off my chin. He lifts my shirt and kneads my stomach.

I pull his hands all over me, his fingers into me.

I bare my teeth. I am careful not to wrinkle his shirt.

“No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord,” I say. “Deuteronomy 23:1.”

“My God!” he says.

“You were expecting someone else?”

As he laughs I can see down his throat.

When I come, I shout my own name.

 

And so later that night, because Mac is kind and sweet and good, he is the one who rushes Gia to the emergency room when she runs full force into a wall in the multiplex theater, mistaking a closed exit door for the entrance.

Off to see Avatar, Mac showing off our rental car, Gia playing with dashboard gadgets. I sit in the back with Zeren, quoting on-line reviews from my cell phone.

“Relax,” I say. “It’s only cartoon violence.”

“No blood?” he asks. “Everyone probably gets blown up.”

“I hope so,” I say.

Zeren scowls. After seeing the Titanic, he’d stopped going on cruises.

At the theater, Mac runs ahead to save seats. As Zeren and I slip into ours, we whisper, “Gia. Bathroom,” and that’s that until we hear a whimper and a rustle and Gia’s holding her face and people are shushing and Mac is shushing back. I drop my candy and 3-D glasses, Zeren’s inhaler hits the floor, along with a refilled water bottle of vodka and orange juice, but the movie is so loud nobody hears its clunk-clunk-clunk, my laughter, his wheezing, or the thumping I give his back.

And because Mac is generous and selfless and possibly hoping the film’s special effects would give me seizures, he doesn’t call from the emergency room until the movie’s over, timing it perfectly to when the lights go on.

In the cab, Zeren bites his nails. He’s worried about concussions and fainting spells, afraid he will pass out at the sight of so much blood.

Gia’s nose is bandaged and her eyes are turning purplish and while Zeren is taking deep breaths and Mac is down the hall getting ice chips, I remind her that her nose is not her best feature, anyhow, and she squeezes my hand a little too hard, thanking me for my friendship.

The doctor wants to keep Gia overnight for observation. Her lips are swollen and when I mention something about collagen, she almost smiles.

Zeren needs to get home, the hospital smells are making him dizzy. Would I drive him back? Gia asks, and cancel her tennis game, her nail appointment, change the litter box, run an iron over her husband’s button-down shirt, the one missing a buttonperhaps I can sort through the sewing box? The laundry’s mostly folded, and if I hold onto the railing—the right side, not the left ’cause it’s a little shaky or, she forgets, maybe the other way aroundsurely I can carry it up the three flights of steps?

Mac offers to check in with the night nurse and stay until Gia falls asleep. He tosses me the car keys: drive slowly, drive safely, seatbelts on, raining, crazy people on the road.

Gia talks Zeren off the ledge: deep breaths, take meds, elevate feet. A pillow under the head, a cold compress.

“Go home, darling,” she says. “Have your nightmares of little blue men.”

Mac puts his hands on my shoulders. “This time, kill the fucking squirrel. Don’t lose us,” he says, then hugs me with a ferocity that surprises us both and I think this: secrets are good when you keep them, better when you don’t.

 

Many years ago, after five margaritas, possibly six, Gia confessed she’d married Zeren because of “things.” He was good with them and while she never had a problem with people, the world of animal, mineral, and vegetable had given her trouble.

“Between you and me,” she’d said, leaning forward, her body throwing up a mix of flowers and spice. “I suck at Twenty Questions.”

That first Friday night together, while Gia babbled and Zeren scratched his elbows and small talk drooled from Mac’s lips, I sat in a rocking chair, concentrating on a bag of pistachio nuts, enjoying the awkwardness until Zeren began juggling the couch pillows and explaining the origin of Frisbees in Asperger-like detail, from Kitty Hawk to Sputnik. Gia interrupted with side trips, adamant that Anthony Hopkins had kidnapped the Lindbergh baby in real life, that Jackie Kennedy had Krushnev’s illegitimate child, her stories amusing in a childish sort of way, this being before Mac was mesmerized by everything that was Gia, before she held the power to make my stomach pulse.

Mac twittered about, straightening piles of magazines, adjusting picture frames, leading our guests like a museum docent. Fussy and apologetic, he pointed out dust, the peeling wallpaper, the radiator growing rust. When he joked, cough-cough, that I was not a domestic goddess, I sighed with goodwill and pinched him on the ass on my way to the kitchen, where I emptied the saltshaker into the soup he had simmering on the stove and stabbed the tulips he’d lovingly placed in our most expensive vase. As I rejoined the house tour, with a smile so large that Mac looked alarmed, he hurriedly wrapped things up, demonstrating the wonders of our hot tub, as Gia sighed with orgiastic delight.

“Yummy!” she cooed. “Can you imagine?”

We could and we did, the image of Gia’s nakedness, slick and shiny, giddy as a dolphin. The image of her becoming a fifth person in the room.

“Actually, Zeren and I knew each other in high school,” Gia explained. “We met at a science fair.” Zeren had built something that spun, talked, farted, exploded, while she’d merely dropped a leaf in boiling water and when he corrected her spelling—Not chloro-PHIL, dummy—she replied that the teacher had told them to “name their experiment,” and so she had.

The hours passed, giddy on gin and tonics: Mac, his constipated-looking furrows relaxing into wonder, me sprinkling powdered sugar like pixie dust, Gia shedding shoes and socks, scarves and sleeves, Zeren, a goony smile on his face, as if he’d taken a well-deserved shit.

It was after Gia had offered up joints like pick-up sticks—We couldn’t, we shouldn’t, but damnitalltohell, we’re all adults here—that Zeren had belched, “Enough foreplay. Let’s fuck,” and whipped out his cock like a party trick, then fell face down on the couch after a coughing fit and began to snore. Mac, stunned to silence, reflexively patting his own crotch, me doubling over with laughter, Gia on damage controlTryptizol, Wellbutrin, Lithium Citrateseriously serious now, cursing out Zeren’s shrink, an alcoholic father, a priest with ice-cold hands.

I think of this now, all these years later, as Zeren and I go at each other like a pair of manatees on the area rug of my living room. I offer it up, the memory lingering like incense, while we tighten our belts, tuck in our shirts.

Zeren sighs like a stuffed couch, while I am on to something else, a king-sized Reese’s bar, a bottle of Mountain Dew.

“You’re a great storyteller,” he says. His eyes close to slits. He threatens to snub out his cigarette on the back of my neck.

“Gia cried,” I continue. “She begged us never to mention that night again.”

I fluff the sofa pillows, remembering the way Mac patted Gia’s back, then she his, the two of them slow dancing across the living room, while I half-rolled Zeren over, disappointed at the speed at which his erectness had shriveled to the likeness of a wet paper bag.

“You’re crazy,” Zeren says. His stare is both defiant and insecure, his nose doing that rabbit thing he does when he’s pissed or dissed, and I half expect him to sprout a cotton tail and fall down a hole, the image almost, but not quite, good enough for me.

“I couldn’t make up shit like this,” I say, even though we both know for the right price that I would.

The car honks, its door slams, yooo-hooo, our spouses returning, their warning conspicuously considerate.

Look, touch, smell! The tomatoes, the candles, the dandelions they’ve picked. Batteries for an old FM radio, a wrench for a leaky pipe, a knock-you-on-your-ass bottle of this or that.

Their faces too fresh, their voices too cheery.

I toss Zeren’s tissued sperm into the trash.

I point out to my husband that he’s wearing only one sock.

Zeren is a sloppy kisser.

My tongue is hit and miss.

We mouth soap opera scripts:

“I’ve always wondered.”

“I’ve never known.”

“Never before.”

“Never again.”

“You say good-bye.”

“And I say hello.”

In the meantime, Mac and I make love more and talk less.

Gia buys an exotic dancer’s pole.

We all shed our clothes.

 

Gia pinky-stirs her birthday drink, getting lost in her story about a woman from Pilates class whose whole family died in 9/ll.

“How does the poor woman manage?” Mac asks.

“Oh, she’s the most limber one in class.”

We giggle, nodding like sock puppets as Gia scowls, bossing the TV remote to a half-over repeat of Al Pacino playing Dr. Kervorkian, my voice swelling over the final credits:

      “Then if Satan on us press, 

      Jesus, Savior, hear our call!
Victor in the wilderness,
grant we may not faint or fall!”

Relishing my rhythm, annoyed when Zeren interrupts to ask what I think of euthanasia.

“As opposed to teens in the U.S.?” I say.

Gia stares, her face blank as sour cream.

“If cannibals eat a missionary, do they get a taste of religion?” Zeren insists.

“God help us everyone,” Mac says. “Boom-Chicka-Boom.”

He struggles with the champagne cork.