The Trilema Article Database, a toollet.

January 9th, 2018

In its ten+ years of life, trilema has amassed over 8,000 articles, a feat that has terrorized many, and confounded still more. The sheer number and variety of pieces can make recalling what was said where a bit of a bitch, especially if one can't remember an exact distinguishing phrase.

The Trilema Article Database is a humble attempt to meaningfully, if somewhat idiosyncratically1 index Trilema articles, making them searchable beyond Google's arguably useful options.

I first designed TADB to work as a lisp IRC bot that'd idle in #trilema, but opted to put it up on this site as a php script following two issues: 1. nobody's gonna like a bot capable of (eventually) spitting 8,000+ title/url pairs in channel, and 2. I'm a noob2 and lisp is beardy, how about we not wait forever for the echafaudage of what is, after all, an experimental and possibly even not all that desirable item. Should the thing prove useful I imagine it'll see a lot of surgery.

As of this post solely January of 2017, chosen arbitrarily, has been indexed, to allow potential users to chime in on any modifications3 they'd like to see --obviously, any change to the indexer itself will require a re-indexing of all known articles, which prompted the minimal initial run. Anyone interested in taking on some chunk of pieces, say a month, or a year, or even a category, is welcome to join in --I find it's a great exercise in revisiting old pieces and restructuring them in one's own head, a pleasant reward for the time spent. I'll also make sql dumps of the database available to the lordship for the asking, should anyone want to use it in part or total for Mad Science.

Please give it a spin; TADB lives here.

  1. I see no way out of this; while a number of objective criteria may be extracted from a given article and thereby used to search, an index will contain some interpreted data if it is to be used to match readers' memories to extant articles (that is, unless I'm the only one who doesn't think in terms of "Gee, what was that one piece with 587 words 42% of which started with t?" I guess it's possible. InformAssimilate me! ) []
  2. I listed it as #2 so it's less obvious. That makes it less obvious, right? RIGHT?! []
  3. Additional criteria would be especially appreciated. []

Beachcombing, A Guide

November 5th, 2017

Remember when poring over the shore with a metal detector was socially acceptable, despite its apparently mandatory uniform of fanny packs, boater hats, oversized sunglasses, and ringed tube-socks pulled up tight to almost, not-quite reach the cuffs of beige cargo shorts? Well I don't. I'd only seen it taking place in cartoons, which might explain the universal dress code. During the last trip to the Pacific side of Paradise I spotted an old man looking almost, not-quite the part, detector in hand, headphones over hat, sweeping the sand.

I don't get it; metal detectors don't pick up crabs, and obviously that's what you'd go to the beach to see. Crabspotting is simple. You stand in one spot and wait for the shells and rocks to start moving, then you run to the morsel in question waving your arms and yelling.

Sometimes crabs and their assorted friends rent out a better house, which you can find by looking for signs of redecoration:

Sadly, this particular condominium was still on the market, and hadn't taken in any squatters.

Better results will likely be had if one is brave enough to venture into the metropolitan crabcentres.

Or inside ex-boat flotsam barges.

Once a good quantity of crabs have been duly perturbed, a good day of beachcombing calls for saying something prosaic about how beautiful the sunset is.

And of course, you get bonus points for finding bananas.

Tally it all up and I'm pretty sure I came out ahead of ol' sweepy.

Wellington Schmellington

October 27th, 2017

Pork Wellington is a dish created by a certain gourmand and which I especially appreciate for its competent obfuscation of that off-copper, sub-glottal twinge that typically assaults one attempting to finish their liver1. It's pretty much a roast-in-crust, with the more common beef tenderloin swapped out for pork, and the pate made with chicken rather than goose liver, which is also deeply spiced.

Make the pastry first so it can sit in the fridge while everything else gets going. Follow a basic pate brisee method, but sift in some baking powder before you cut in the butter. Smoosh it into a disk and let it chill so it's easier to roll later.

Next make the pate. Dump about a kilo of fresh chicken liver into a big pot of boiling water and get ready to lose some of your enthusiasm about eating this thing later on (don't worry, it'll come back). Sorting through your livers to discard any gallbladders that might've gotten in there before this point is a good idea. A few drops of whatever vinegar you have on hand will help tame the smell and aid coagulation in the pot.

Keep it roiling for half an hour, then drain the stuff and dump it into a bowl with your spice mixture, which should contain around ten grams of allspice berries with black and white peppercorns to taste, finely ground. Mash these up with a fork, adding a pat of butter now and then to achieve a thick, clumpy velvet sort of texture. Remove any whitish membrane threads you find during this procedure. Once you're happy with the texture, add a few spoonfulls of fermented dairy --I used plain yogurt and some splashes of kefir, though sour cream would also work. This'll make the pate easily spreadable, a paste rather than a stucco.

Now it's time to sear your steak; heat a pan to suparhot with some butter, and brown the tenderloin on all sides, giving the whole thing no more than two minutes or so, then transfer it to a plate to cut the heat.

Your components now prepared, you can proceed to roll out the dough; try to make a shape that more or less echoes that of the tenderloin. Spread about half of the pate on the dough, leaving a goodly margin as below, then plop the seared tenderloin on top. Slather on the rest of the pate2. At this point you'd typically spangle the log3 with sliced mushrooms, but I opted to make a bechamel of dried porcinis instead. A sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves works well, too.

Anyway, wrap the thing up like any other package, taking care not to get much of any overlap of the dough, else it'll end up too thick in places. Seal on top or along the sides, brush with an eggwash, slash a few holes, and stick it in the oven around 190C for about 50 minutes.

Pork Wellington is best eaten with his dearest friends in tow: Sir Worchestershire, Herr Rottkohl, and Madamme Bordeaux.

  1. As part of some grand cosmic joke I'm not in on, the only working remedy for my interminable affair with anemia is weekly consumption of ~half a kilo of chicken liver, which I initally found abhorrent and by now swallow with only somewhat of a frown. []
  2. Depending on the "about" of your kilo of liver and the size of your tenderloin, you might end up with too much pate --you don't want to go thicker than about a third of an inch. If you end up with extra, put it in a glass jar in the fridge and enjoy with tomorrow's toast or whatever, tell your sister you've discovered a fabulous "hair masque" she just has to try. []
  3. Masturbatory euphemism not intended. []

A Compendium of Possibly Helpful Stuffs for Erecting Mircea Popescu's WordPress with Nearly Free Speech Hosting

October 25th, 2017

I'm not a fan of acronyms that don't spell out something naughty, but alas, they're a necessary evil, and you'll likely encounter1 the items titled above as MP-WP and NFS.

The former's something to use because it hails from an era2 when WordPress may not have been completely and utterly retarded, but merely something of a doofus, which inadequacies and bad habits were seen to by a sane man who then put it through the wringer for a decade. There's not going to be any "feature" that outweighs the boss' usage and say-so, and you're probably not in a position to identify what features are good or bad, or which methods are reasonable or batshit anyway. As for NFS, it's worth checking out as much as for asciilifeform's lack of problems with them year in and year out as for their lack of the usual Disneyland backend. They also accept Bitcoin, which is nice, though via BitPay, which is monstrously retarded.

So then, let's compendiate.

*NFS lives here. You can start futzing with stuff right away with a trial account and pay once you're satisfied all your desired pegs have holes (or the other way around, no judgment). The trial's good for a week, after which your account will be disabled and you'll have to make a deposit to get your reins back.

*MP-WP via shinohai lives here.

*NFS doesn't use CPanel or the like, but you'll find database setup under the mysql tab (start a "process" first, then you can create a db).

*To install MP-WP via SSH, open a bash terminal, and enter ssh your-username@ssh-hostname (both of these are given under the sites tab at NFS). Grab the tar.gz above with wget, tar -zxvf it, and get everything out of the "blog" directory and into the root3 with mv blog/* ./ and rmdir ./blog/, unless you've got other plans for your site. Get all yer db information correctly assembled in wp-config.php using nano.

*Your new digs will likely be decked with php "errors" in the form of warnings about deprecation and various other superficial complaints. If, like me, you give no shits about these, stick the following into wp-config.php:


ini_set('display_errors', 'Off');
ini_set('error_reporting', E_ALL );
define('WP_DEBUG', false);
define('WP_DEBUG_DISPLAY', false);

*MP-WP is themeless. If you want a theme other than the two that come standard with a new WP installation, you'll have to find one that's about as old as MP-WP itself unless you feel like some Seriously Escalated Futzing. If you see a theme you like, go to its page, scroll down to "Browse the Code", click on the Development Log, and see if there's a suitably wrinkled version there. The vast majority'll only go back a few months to a year, whereas you want nine years or more. For what it's worth, I did try activating theme versions in the 6 - 8 year old range, all of which failed immediately (typically via 'theme is broken, reverting to default').

*At some point you'll probably want to upload something like a style sheet or who knows what. I'd never uploaded via SSH before but found it's a lot less annoying than using the typical graphical interface drag-and-drop. Open a new bash terminal, cd to the directory where the file(s) you want to upload are located, and use scp to get it done:


scp local/dir/with/item/to/upload your-username@ssh-hostname:path/to/directory/where/stuff/should/go

You'll need to specify the full path, /home/public and all.

*I attempted to import a full mysql dump of my previous site, which fundamentally broke shit to the degree of wiping the contents of all pages. Importing individual tables of interest however proved unproblematic; if you're like me and pretty much just want your posts and comments, extracting these from a dump is as easy as


sed -n -e '/DROP TABLE.*`name_of_table_you_want`/,/UNLOCK TABLES/p' existing-mysql-dump.sql > solitary-table.sql

and then you can compress these and import them into the corresponding tables in your new database.

*Trilema's spiffy footnotes don't ship with MP-WP, for some reason. The plugin's called WP-Footnotes by Simon Elvery, and you can grab it here --a cursory search of WordPress' plugin directory didn't turn it up, I imagine for sins against modernity merde. Grab it, rename it to footnotes.php, copy it into your wp-content/plugins directory and activate it in the "plugins" section of WordPress' admin.

That's about it, enjoy your downgrade. If you run into any problems not covered here, please pop into #trilema and moan.

Edit October 25th: Comments ended up needing a little tweak; all comments other than admin resulted in a complaint about the author and email fields being required despite having been filled out. This was likely due to my messing around with themes, but should you run into this, make sure the $suffix line in your wp-comments-post.php matches that of the line starting with php? $suffix = in the comments.php file within your theme directory (mind that only the line in comments.php gets wrapped in the php tags).

  1. For instance, in the logs, where asciilifeform's most recent accolade of the host in question caught me in a moment of hostlessness. []
  2. 2007, nearly pleistocene! []
  3. /home/public/ by default, ftr []

Feminine Exceptionalism

January 25th, 2017

The following is a[n attempt at] translation of the Trilema piece Exceptionalismul femenin.

You've doubtlessly come across at least one side or another of these strategies/social psychopathologies in day to day life (depending on where you've found yourself, on the outside or the inside of the disease), even if it didn't seem in the respective moment that they'd make up part of a structured and describable whole, just as not everyone who trips over a mastodon bone sticking halfway out of the ground will start to reconstruct the entire animal with its habitat and everything. Excusable, but man've we got work to do, and man'll it be tough.

Feminine exceptionalism begins, as the name suggests, with an exception. "Sure, smoking's not allowed here, but can't I smoke?" "Sure, it's written on the card not to tell anyone the PIN, the bank sent letters to remind you not to tell anyone the PIN, on the ATM screen there's an advertisement to not tell anyone the PIN, but you'll tell me, won't you?" The list, in principle, is neverending, but in practice it always reduces to a very simple pattern. The rule is X, surely it's so, but the girl doesn't consider it to be the case that it applies to her.

She doesn't contest that in truth the rule exists, she doesn't contest either that it's a good and necessary rule. In fact, any discussion of whether the rule is good or bad doesn't interest her at all; on the contrary, such a discussion would detract from the real point of interest for her. She doesn't contest either that she makes up part of the category of applicability of the rule. On the contrary, for feminine exceptionalism to function, a valid, useful rule whose applicability she falls within is absolutely necessary.

Why? Here we arrive at the true psychological reason for the whole operation: the girl suffers from a problem of self-esteem. She feels, she considers, or she was taught to believe herself to be inferior. Eventually all three. Inferior not just to the other men, and not just to the other women, but even to she herself, to her own "potential".

To combat this psychological sequela, she feels it necessary to prop up her existence with special treatment. Every valid and applicable rule which is broken offers her a bubble of oxygen: maybe she's not a piece of shit, because hey, in that moment she's that special.

The poor form of asking to smoke somewhere the owner doesn't, of the same species and class of asking for vegetable oil when the table's having butter doesn't interest her, because she is not in fact well-mannered, but on the contrary, she still carries under her nails the filth of the existence of the low to (about) the middle class which blessed her with the stretch-marks and soul-marks of which we speak.

And of course, like any psychological problem of the transactional class, this complaint exhibits two specific particularities. Firstly, it is progressive. If yesterday she's been allowed to smoke though smoking's not allowed, it's no longer sufficient today, it no longer produces an effect, so she'll smoke two, four, eight, sixty cigarettes. Until the end, the stimuli have to progress geometrically in order for the receptors to be stimulated in arithmetic progression.

If yesterday you've waited on her five minutes, today you'll have to wait half an hour, and tomorrow we'll be forced to go to another city instead of the cafe we'd planned on, for no other reason than that the girl doesn't feel so great. In the head.

And secondly it is, like any transaction, prone to disproportionate reactions. If the girl has negotiated in her mind that for today proof of the fact that she isn't a piece of shit will be manifested through letting her drive the car, and you don't let her drive, for whatever reason, no matter the reason, like for instance that the car's fallen in a lake, or it's been stolen overnight, wasps have made a nest in there or whatever else, the girl's head is going to explode, and she'll bawl on about how could you say that she's a good for nothing piece of shit.

Which, honestly, she is, preferably to be shat onto a cart headed somewhere in the direction of a hospital for nervous disorders, where who knows, with attentive care and the help of experts, something else might be done with her.

Validation is available for all clientele in the lobby.

January 10th, 2017

"M'am, do you need validation?"

"Yes."

"Alright. Please proceed down the hall to the left. The associate at the second table will assist you."

"Thanks."

"Have a satisfying day, M'am."

The portly receptionist handed the woman back her identification card and pointed down the hall indicated, her smile more impatient than reassuring. Graciela hated tight smiles like that. She knew they were fake, the smilers knew they were fake, the teeth inside it probably knew too --but nobody said a lick about it. She hastily returned the tightness out of spite and made her way down the corridor to the left of the cruise ship-like reception desk. As she turned the corner she met with a line of others, some with their shoes off, others already pantsless, and most with their arms crossed, tapping a foot or sighing with every exhale.

"God, why are they always so slow?" she thought, picturing the last set of validators she'd seen --portlier even than that receptionist, all in official sweaters a bit too tight, all making no apparent effort to get through the queue quickly. Graciela settled her mouth in for a long haul of tight smiling. The man in front of her turned around, shrugged, and raised his eyebrows, silently commiserating with a complaint Graciela had thought was silent, itself. He returned the smile. She tightened hers.

Ten minutes passed; she'd considered the striated ceiling panels, developed a strong disliking of the dark blue carpeting with its pointless red and gray splotches, and had come to fully loathe the cheap vinyl wainscotting. She kicked at it with her pointed vinyl slingbacks, being as vicious as she could without making any sound, entirely blind to --or perhaps because of-- the fact that her shoes were of the exact same stuff.

Thirty bucks for a ticket and they can't even put in some tile, she thought, her voice suddenly sounding a little like her mother's, even if she'd only said it in her head. The line moved approximately one person's-length. Graciela was pleased until she realized she'd forgotten she was in a line, and that the line'd have to move if she was ever going to get validated and go home. She turned around to see how long the line had gotten behind her, always something to throw an "at least" at in times like these. She was still the last in line.

"Oh come on!" It was louder than she'd meant it to be, and her face was instantly warm, her toes and fingers tingling. Nobody responded. Nobody even turned around, including the shrugger in front of her. Last and loud, the worst of the worlds --or at least, the ones that pertained to lines anyway. Wait! There it was! ...not really the same though, like that. At least it had been an accident! She stopped looking for an at least, thoroughly depressed at having run out of even this.

Why had she even chosen validation?

Because I need it.

There wasn't any argument to bring against the fact; inconvenience aside, she had to get it done before she could move on. She knew it. Before she could get back into the lobby with its slightly different pointlessly splotched carpet and its Mark, her date, who apparently didn't need to be validated, somehow. Maybe he was just insensitive. Irresponsible. If she kept seeing him, would she have to take care of all the dirty work herself? Then again, he hadn't seemed the least bit put off that she had chosen the left hallway. She tried to picture him waiting for her, standing right outside the service exit, coat-in-arms; patient, understanding, eager to see her again. What an idiot. More likely he was pacing the lobby with a souring expression, or he'd even ducked into another theatre when no one was looking. He could probably watch anything --horror films or porn even-- and be fine! For a second Graciela's mouth betrayed a real grin.

She would probably have been fine too, if that old film hadn't been mostly about women. Mark wasn't affected because it just didn't relate to him, she thought. Old women, depicted as old women. The makeup made it worse, not better. They let the actresses walk, talk, and hold themselves like they really were old. It was sad, it was horrifying, much too realistic. And why would they have done such a thing, make her prefer the evil sister and then redeem her right at the end, taking the feet out from under the character, simplifying and stupidifying her, stupidifying her? And that good sister. Unbearable. Weak, fickle, insecure, desperate for valida--. Graciela's eyes widened and her mouth lost any and all flavors of smiling.

It was true. She needed to be validated.

The line had moved enough to let her see the intake tables. She glanced at her watch: 5:42, almost three quarters of an hour she'd been in line, but it was definitely speeding up. They work faster when they see dinnertime coming, she thought, bending over to undo her slingbacks. She picked them up and wiggled her toes in her stockings, then took out her earrings. Only a few more people to go and she'd feel all better, and maybe next week she and Mark would go see something less risky. Something about robots, or plants maybe. They could watch a nice documentary about cacti. Or one of those things where you just sit and look at a mechanical arm welding a seam.

Graciela spent the next fifteen minutes musing about plastic and paint, toupe and seafoam, boxes and empty pads of paper, until she was finally called forward, almost euphorically unstimulated. The woman at the second table had to call her three times, breathing heavily in between M'am?s. Graciela padded to the table, a cheap foldout stacked with forms and molded trays of varying sizes. The incredible bulk of the woman attending it was nearly table-like itself; perhaps the fat was courting the furniture.

"Hello M'am, please put any jewelry in the blue tray, shoes in green, dress in red, underthings in white, do you have any prosthetics today?"

"Hello. No." Graciela stripped and put her things in the respective trays. She held out her hands for the clipboard backed form, which the woman passed her.

"Please complete this form M'am. I'll take your bag now."

Graciela didn't especially want to hand over her purse, even though she knew they wouldn't let her take it with her. It was unclean anyway, no point in getting validation if her purse was going to stay the same. Still, she couldn't help but hesitate a little as she slid it off her shoulder and held it out for the woman. She had liked it.

"Thank-you."

The form was as busy with disclaimers, agency names, slogans, and trademarks as it always was, just as the actual fields to fill in remained straightforward. Graciela filled in her name, address, sex, race, age, occupation, level of education, amount currently in savings, health score, blood type, family and sexual relations, and presidential rating. She scrawled in the name of the film. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Just printing it conjured a rope of nausea in her throat. The theatre really ought to just let you check a box.

Entirely bare and very eager to be rid of the sickness, Graciela gave the clipboard back to the woman at the table. She had been staring at Graciela's breasts, her mouth slightly open. Graciela pretended not to notice. The woman scanned the form.

"O-kay M'am, you'll be getting validated in the bubble suite, with uh, who's working bubble today." The woman swiveled around in her chair until she spotted another sweater-clad behemoth. "Sherry! Hey Sherry! Yeah, who's in the bubble suite today?"

"Chuck."

"Right, you'll be getting validated in the bubble suite today with Chuck. Do you consent? Into the recorder please."

Graciela stepped forward until her mouth was only a few inches from the plastic device hanging from the ceiling over the table.

"I consent."

A moment later Chuck appeared from somewhere in the bowels of the suitery. He was nearly as wide as tall, with an unkempt moustache and short hair that was oddly compressed in places, as though he'd taken several naps with his head crammed against a wall or desk. A thick red crease ran down the side of his face, crusted here and there with what looked like drool.

"Hello Miss, I'm Chuck," he said. "Please follow me."

Graciela moved with him down a series of hallways until they came to a door with a cheap printout of a clip-art bubble taped at about head's-height. Chuck opened the door.

"Welcome to the bubble suite."

The room was small enough to look like it wouldn't fit more than about a Chuck-and-a-half, and indeed the man had to use his hands to push his fat out of the way of the furnishings as he entered. There was a massage table, a desk and chair with a lamp, and of course, a bubble machine in the corner. It spit occasional explosions of soap bubbles into the middle of the room, making a faint pooting sound as it released them. Everything was vaguely stained, though evidently swaddled in disinfectant and air freshener.

"Please lay down on the table miss. Face up, huh."

Graciela did as she was asked. As she was told? It wasn't a question, even if Chuck didn't look like he could issue any commands. Why did they always have to be so--

"So you saw a bad movie, Miss?"

Graciela nodded and closed her eyes.

"Tell me."

"It made me worry about being older, and like maybe I can't distinguish between good and bad, and maybe I'm stupid. The characters' house was bigger and prettier than mine, and the cars too."

"Oh, how horrible. What a bad, bad film, shame on--" There was a pause as Chuck glanced at a form on the desk. "--Davis and Crawford, shame on that Mister Aldrich. You know, back then they really didn't know any better. They were very insensitive, irresponsible. But Chuck's here to fix all of that."

"Mhmmm." Graciela twitched as she felt several bubbles pop over her abdomen, spraying it with tiny specks of soap.

"Your plans for today?"

"Go home with Mark. Basic sex, eat something, walk Muriel--"

"Who is Muriel?!" Chuck interrupted, his voice suddenly all annoyance and exasperation.

Graciela opened her eyes and saw Chuck frowning over her. His belt and pants were undone, a length of flaccid flesh dangling from the hole of his boxer shorts.

"...Muriel is my Weimaraner."

"Your what?!"

"My dog."

"It doesn't say you have a dog on your service entrance form!"

"Oh. I guess I forgot."

Chuck sighed deeply, zipped up, and said he'd have to check with his supervisor. "I'll be back shortly. Please try to prepare yourself properly, Miss."

Graciela raised her arm to get a look at her watch before realizing it was gone. Sometimes this whole thing took so long she wished they wouldn't even offer it. Just let people take the risk of having reactions, make them deal with it on their own. Maybe they'd even get better at it over time, if they could practice. But that, the answer came, unbidden, that is how we end up with psychopaths and serial killers. She sighed and brushed her fingertips over the tops of her thighs. A little plumper every time. It was fine to be fat, they said, but wouldn't you have to say such things if you were Chuck's size? She wondered how often he was validated, himself. She closed her eyes and imagined his small, floppy penis. Prepare yourself properly, he had said.

She rested her hands at either side of her on the table and shook her head rapidly as if to loosen some bind. She took deep breaths, she giggled as the soap bubbles burst against her. As she heard the unmistakable thudding of Chuck's mass coming back down the hall, she quickly tweaked her nipples between thumb and index finger to make them stand up, and plastered on her tight smile.

Chuck entered the room gruffly, out of breath.

"My supervisor said we can continue, but your failure to provide a complete inventory of relations has been noted on your permanent record."

"Oh."

"So where were we, Miss?" Zip. "Ahh."

"...Walking my dog."

"Yes. Any other plans?"

"No."

"And what would you like to feel?"

"Younger. Stronger...more attractive." Chuck was getting closer to her head, a fact that betrayed itself in the increasing heat she felt there, and in the growing loudness of his breathing. "...Good, basically good, like I make the right choices and do the right things."

"Uh-huh."

His penis was no longer quite flaccid --more like an overripe banana as it landed on her forehead. It bounced lazily a few times over her face before coming to rest on her eyelid.

"You want to be good, do you?"

"Yes."

"Kiss it. Huh."

Graciela kept her eyes sealed shut and pursed her lips in anticipation of the bounty she was about to receive. The bounty, such as it was, landed with a plop on her mouth. She made a show of kissing it like a good girl would, eager and enthusiastic. Her stomach churned in disgust.

"You're very good," Chuck began, moving slightly away from her and beginning what Graciela knew was a two-minute-maximum masturbation sequence. Thank god they introduced a maximum last year, she thought, There were so many horror stories of people being stuck in validation for several hours, days even, they could take turns, it almost ruined watching movies. Not anymore. Well before even a minute was up, Chuck ejaculated all over Graciela's unresponsive body, and spent another twenty seconds or so rubbing it all in.

"You're very good, and very attractive. I like you much more than I did when you came in, Miss. I think you were older then, too." Chuck's voice was distant, disinterested, but the words filled Graciela with a sense of calm and safety. Chuck administered the standard set of three injections, making her a little fatter, a little plainer, and a lot more apathetic. "You're a very strong woman. Mark must be very proud."

Graciela smiled widely, unrestrainedly. "Thank you."

Chuck helped her up and opened the door for her, directing her to the final processing room to collect her things.

"You have a satisfying day now, Miss."

"You too."

Just before the service exit she met the elephantine attendant charged with equipping Graciela for the rest of her night. She was given a recycled pair of regulation earrings, black vinyl boots, a polyester blouse with matching trousers, and a small purse containing a pamphlet, in-ear headphones, a tiny bottle of water, and a copy of her keys.

She thanked the attendant and with her new and genuine smile stepped out the door.

"Everything set?" Mark asked as he approached her, his jacket folded neatly over his arm, his hand outstretched.

"Yep." Graciela took it, and they walked out of the lobby.

"What a great movie." "Really great."

Argentina Comicon Bombon.

December 13th, 2016

The taxi pulls away from the straight lines of the city as it approaches the riverside, newly-built spirals of asphalt leading it towards a cluster of squat concrete buildings festooned in pennants and printed plastic banners. A stoplight on red curbs our progress, but not my sense that the event to come will suck. In fact, it's strengthened by a flock of what look like misplaced midwestern soccer moms crossing the road wearing batman t-shirts and hugging giant buckets of popcorn. They swivel to look purposefully at nothing, shoveling in the pochoclo with plump hands terminating in meticulous and retina-burning manicures.

"I guess this must be it."

And it was, even if it was less of an "it" than anything else ever managed to be. But before we go in I suppose it'd only be fair to hand out a little context; there's not all that much to go around outside the temples of half-assery and sleepy congregations that make up this city. You see, everyone in Buenos Aires is an artist. They know it just as they know they're proud, and hungry, and worthy (of what? well, what've you got, and what do the neighbors have? that + 1, hoy es el dia!). It's not limited to the young, to the female, to the left, to the anything. Are there artists in Miami and/or Italy1? Yes? Does saying you're an artist cost money? No? Dale, entonces somos artistas. This being something of a worldwide delusion (although perhaps not quite to the degree), you'll be familiar with the artifacts of the fallout: unbelievably shitty murals everywhere, idem rinkydink "workshops" selling objectionable curios with reeeally long "titles", and a service industry rife with workers who don't think they should have to be there.

Directory

So many instances of sameness, your knees'll buckle and you'll spend the rest of the day sitting on the floor in stupefaction.

Then there are results like the Argentina Comicon, which shed ...it's really an abuse of the term to call it "light", but we'll push ourselves sickeningly through; a sad little light is thrown on the mechanism at play among the "artists". They're only charged, in their minds, with convincing each other of their artistness. They've no need nor any desire to convince themselves, or to show the rest of the world who they are and what they've got. We know this, because their Comicon did not involve any artists. I don't mean they had some panel whatever which was fulla film people or something and how dare they. I mean literally the entire2 space had exactly zero instances of artists showing their work, attempting to sell it, talking to interested people, or otherwise participating. One room, let's call it the Popcorn Nexus, was where the local theatre conglomerate sold their butter flavoring buckets o' chum and you could sign up with your DNI3 to fuck with some promo-pushing gadget brought by Disney/local cable company/Sauron for thirty seconds. The other room, which I hereby dub Shuffle & Blow --no wait, that sounds like it could've been fun. Let's see...the Maze of Farts and Purchases. If you were there with me you'd be nodding your head now, I assure you. This room was nothing but tables arranged in completely disorganized rows and cul-de-sacs, naturally placed so closely together they created constant peoplejams, naturally all selling the same 5 - 10 things. You could buy: graphic novels, booklets of hentai, figurines, tshirts, or fucking katanas. No graphic novelists, no hentai inkers, no figurine painters, no tshirt designers, no katana...fuck, I'd've taken a fucking tasselknotter at that point. No artists, no "artists". Shop clerks with their shop stuff. Five to ten varieties, please ensure you stop to gawk and mill at every.single.table nevertheless.

Popcorn Nexus

Deep within the Popcorn Nexus.

But soft! What light through yonder fartmaze breaks! There was an outdoor area, a doublespoken cordoned-off parkinglot, selling weenies and more popcorn, with a coupla carnival rides for kids, disco blasting. And sure, something like 1.5% of the attendance was "doing cosplay". Most of it was bought, I suspect, at the pre-comicon-con, where you purchase generic blue cotton overalls and "luigi hats" while having your esophagus mechanically widened to accept the Second and Third Comings of the Popcorn.

The great outdoors.

The patio de gastronomia was so fuckin' opulent and luxurious I wager that truck was selling straight-up pork sausages.

"And they get away with it; if a kid from San Diego, one from Germany, a Brit, and an Argentine get together at some point and the San Diegan says 'I went to Comicon this summer', and the German and Brit chip in, 'Oh, me too!', and then the Argentine joins 'em, 'So did I! It was great!' they don't turn on him and feed the guy his beer bottle."

---

  1. Miami is to Buenos Aires what Barcelona is to Romania, which in turn is something akin to what a statue is to a pigeon. It's the mutually-agreed upon congregation spot away from the rookery, the somehow-logical destination for donating some of your filth and strutting around atop it so the other animals can see your swank. Alternatively, everyone being "Italian", it's right and good to do or be something if the thing is celebrated there. Which is how Buenos Aires ended up thinking it has great pizza despite its actual culinary preferences resulting in a sort of oil sponge decorated with julienned nonsense. []
  2. Two rooms, 2,000m2 between them, by the way. []
  3. Social security number, basically. []

Elliot and James, a Drinking Song

October 30th, 2016

Humbly offered for those moments in the adnotated manifesto when you can't even. Please observe the two-pint minimum!

Gather ye children, and harken your ears
to the tale of the virgins who lived twenty years
lacking titties and cunnies and everything nice
for the sake of your knowledge of prosaic vice.

There was Elliot Rodger, gentleman supreme
who, failing his forefathers, just couldn't seem
to say so much as "hi" to the opposite sex
and you'll understand just how much he was perplexed
by the fact that no blonde ever stopped by to flex
her sweet kegels at him in the eve-ning.

Next 'twas James who was loosely called Elliot's friend,
though he wished that their friendship played out end to end
For where Elliot finished 'twas where James began
And to Hill Top and Round House he frequently ran
to hear Elliot's vengeful and retarded plans
as he gazed upon him in the eve-ning.

Oh hai la de dadee, oh hai la de dae
Elliot's a faggot, but James is just gay
They bitch about women all night and all day,
and nobody's laid in the mor-ning.

Said young Elliot to James "Life is cruel and unfair!
for no lady that's blessed with a bountiful pair
will walk with me by moonlight while I watch 'em bounce,
and I tell you I'm scheming to pour ev-ry ounce
of this coffee on girls who refuse to pronounce
my great name 'round my cock in the eve-ning."

Countered James, "Worry not that you haven't a lass.
They don't like you, but I do; come here, make a pass
for I've never rejected a dejected rod
and I've lusted for years o'er your nice-shirted bod.
Shut your pie hole, do my hole, or I swear to God
I'll unfriend your Facebook in the eve-ning."

Oh hai la de dadee, oh hai la de dae
Elliot's a faggot, but James is just gay
They bitch about women all night and all day,
and nobody's laid in the mor-ning.

What occurred then, O children, I oughtn't to say,
Though the two call it now their "Rectibution Day".
And each year they mark it with an opulent feast
which eleven-months' long keeps them oiled and greased.
It's a mess, but it keeps them sequestered at least
from your Alpha Phi fling in the eve-ning.

The Best Things in Eulora are Grimy

October 20th, 2016

Well, thing. There's just one Grimy Toolkit in game so far, so far as I know, or at any rate it was only released last week. So far as I...look, intelligence in this game is about as easy to come by as talented thieves and honest politicians. Suffice it to say there was an auction for a thing the purpose and value of which were not publicly known, and I won1.

Grimy Toolkit
Looks about as indistinct as you'd expect from a bitter husk of a tool utterly bereft of even the crudest of instructions and entirely intent on obscuring its utility from the feebly throbbing folds of its owner's tortured mind, no? And the "grimy" apellation doesn't really suggest anything other than that the kit belongs in this decidedly downcast world, home of disgusting goop, penance clogs, petrified feelings, and so forth. At first I thought it was a gold panning device. But the sea is wide, and I'd have no idea what to do once I got there; so let's stay in the relative warmth and safety of "town", that unwelcoming bald spot in the grass populated by quivering humanoid boxes, and fuck around with this thing.

Initial observations: like certain items2 it can be equipped in either hand. Unlike many tools3, it is not a container. That latter bit means using the thing won't be as easy as putting something else in there and pressing a magic button. But if other tools that are equipped in a hand are any guide, the Grimy Toolkit'll need some sort of written command to work, just like the mining tools are used via /explore. I was loathe to try that very same command with the new toolkit equipped given the distant memory of someone's magic bag breaking under that operation. Eulora is a harsh mistress apparently unhappy to be explored by items that don't meet very strict slag-on-a-stick criteria.

What else is there? Uselessly, /sit and /stand came to mind (I tried anyway). Eulorum has a list!. But it's mostly procedural stuff for moving around. There's gotta be a file with an actually complete list of these somewhere though, right? And the command that makes use of this new thing'll have to be in there, so let's dig4. Going straight to dev/EuloraV(ersion) seems a safe bet since that's where juicy stuff like configure lives. Grep it for /sit, no dice, move on. I'm sure plenty of folks would've speedily deduced their way to the right file, but I've been hittin' the Crumbly Rock a lot lately as shinohai said and it took me a few minutes of diddling around in directories to find a pretty obvious suspect: cmdusers.cpp in /src/client. Lovely, alphabetized list, certainly some commands I've never seen before.

The novel ones were tried (I even proposed marriage to Heina as I moved down the list...alas, I was rebuffed). The novel ones told me pretty much nothing. Until /repair. "You do not seem to have the right equipment for this kind of work," it said, a suspiciously specific error amidst "Invalid work command"s and unresponsive spittles of syntax. If the toolkit itself isn't the right equipment for repairing though, what would be? Well sometimes crafting requires the player to wear certain items, like a Chair for the Head...so that and all other such equipment I had in stock was tried on in every permutation possible. Same error message. But there are other wearable pieces of equipment I don't have, or at least, their blueprints are around. Before commissioning the tinkerers to make me a full set of everything they knew about, I made the one thing I had the blueprint and all the ingredients for: an Early Technicolor Dreamcoat. It happens to call for 24 two-leaf clovers, which would've been a bitch if I didn't have a glut from earlier sacrificing activity. There's little I love more in Eulora than sacrificing, as it yields either hard-to-find harvestable resources or certain potions that grant skills5, along with special tokens that go for half a million ECU each. But about that toolkit....

Once the dreamcoat was ready (it doesn't look so technicolored, which I guess is why it's the "early" version), I put it on, tried /repair again and got...a new error message! Which was slightly encouraging, even if by this point I was imagining myself stuck with the same unusable item in a year's time. "This item is already perfectly dysfunctional." I was trying it on my altar, which is the tool used for sacrifice. Mostly because wouldn't that be awesome, a way to extend the life of that rather rare6 font of unfair advantages? My altar has a healthy durability left yet though; what about another container-tool with such low durability it has no clicks left in it? Coat still on, I gave a decrepit Worn Old Screens7 a try, and behold! They regained about 12k durability points.

The repairing process uses the McGuyver skill, and I've yet to determine if higher or lower ranking is ideal for durability points repaired versus Grimy Toolkit decay. I'll be holding that determination for the day when my altar is broken enough to be saved. And on that day, you'll most likely also see me gloating, for the toolkit won will recoup its costs at auction in a mere twenty clicks, not counting whatever items I might loot in bonuses. Everything from there is upside, and this in a land where upsides are usually either infinitesimal, illusionary, or both.

***

  1. For 10MN ECU, ten bitcents. []
  2. Pickaxes, adzes, hoes, and magic bags. []
  3. Bandar toolkits, craft tables, worn old screens, samovars, turning wheels, and grotesque altars. []
  4. Stuff like this really makes Eulora shine, I think; whereas pretty much every other game I've played would depend somewhat on players not digging around like this, and even attempt to penalize those that did, Eulora outright encourages it. For all I know this was actually imagined as the way to get the mystery demystified []
  5. This is how the mining and lumberjack skills were found this year, via imbibing The Good Hammer and A Butch Man's Buttered Scones, respectively. []
  6. Public records suggest I have one of three extant, with the other two belonging to Daniel P. Barron. The same fella has some blueprints to make more, but I alone have one of the key ingredients, and we haven't managed to reach any sort of arrangement, so miserly has the trade made us. []
  7. A tool for shredding recipes to yield maculature, among other things. []

Alcachofa 7515

June 19th, 2016

The house was an eyesore even among the set of crumbling pueblos and thoroughly de-modernized apartment blocks that lined the quiet street. None of the white pickets in its fence were straight, as though each piece of whitewashed wood had an argument of its own, with no point clearly winning. Long ago someone had started painting the exposed brick of its facade in flat black, but it seemed the painter had given up a third of the way in, leaving a tentative malignancy inching towards the entrance. Flanked by unruly rectangles of dirt in which not even the weeds had cared to venture, the door did in fact close but otherwise showed little resemblance to the item that was ostensibly intended.

And it was from this door that Senor Flocop emerged one autumn's dusk, his arms swathed in an old dander-smothered sweater, his torso still testing the air in a stained franchise uniform polo. Flocop scuffed down the dusty, broken concrete of the pathway, past a worktable covered loosely in a tarp --a decaying monument to some project long since forgotten, but never thrown out. He paused at the threshold of the sidewalk on Calle Alcachofa and peered into the semi-darkness of the intersection at the corner. A few old women walked their yipping cotton-coated mutts; a pair of ancient mopeds droned out what must've been, what had to be, but what Flocop knew really weren't their last drawls down the asphalt, the noise clearing, or rather, eradicating, his thoughts.

A gust of wind sent a cloud of yellowed leaves tumbling from the old oak outside the fence. Flocop started as a few brushed his head, and he shot a hurt look at the tree as he pulled the rest of his sweater over his temples and obfuscated his protruding belly in the indistinct sack of fuzz and warmth. He was nearing his fiftieth year, though he told anyone who inquired (which was, so far as he could recall, only the one, the doctor he'd seen a few months prior) he was approaching forty. His mother had taught him from a young age to subtract always a decade, a lesson that worked better now that he'd grown beyond twenty, even if it didn't work very well at all.

Flocop slowly came to terms with the increasingly undeniable fact that he couldn't remember why he'd left the house. The cold was beginning to bite, but then, he reasoned inwardly, he'd gone ahead and fully put on the sweater. After a minute's worth of resting his eyes on the contemptibly familiar features of the street in front of him, he conceeded the fight and marked putting on the sweater as the height of his conceivable accomplishment. As he turned to walk back inside, he noted that he hadn't closed the front door behind him when he'd left, and in the modest crack of light the meagre sillhouette of Bombonella, his own vague Bichon-frisee of markedly impure breeding, quivered and shook with excitement. Flocop walked briskly back towards the door, sending the dog skittering noisily inside, where it sought out some other, lesser, vantage point from which to watch the street. The moment before Flocop's meaty hand reached the peeling plate of the door handle, an unfamiliar voice just behind him growled "Stop!".

Flocop wanted to freeze where he stood, but his customary reaction of surprised victimhood overrode what his bowels told him was right. So he turned around, and looked mournfully at the young man in the greasy, tilted mini-mohawk, and opened his mouth to ask why he'd said it so unkindly. Then he saw the newspaper folded over the young man's forearm, which was pointed at the apex of Flocop's belly.

"You're coming with me," said the mini-mohawk, unconvincing to anyone but those he chose to say it to --which, in these parts, constituted just about the whole.

"Please don't hurt me." Flocop managed to mumble, feeling his skin shrink somewhere beneath the worn old sweater.

"Yeah, yeah. Come on."

The young man motioned back down the pathway, towards the intersection, and started walking. Flocop followed him, scrambling to keep up with the young man's gait. "I'm only forty, well actually thirty-nine, you wouldn't hurt me, I'm young like you, we can get along, I have many projects--"

"Shut up. Jesus christ."

At this invocation Flocop pictured El Senor and attendant saints in miniature, their idols swirling around in his fantasy field of vision, offering their protection if only he could sort them all out and put them in the correct order. He began muttering their names in sequence, stopping every few seconds to re-arrange the lineup.

"Jesucristo, Santa Eva, San Francisco de Asís--"

"Jesucristo, San Adria, Santa Eva, San Cornelio Papa, Santo Tomás de Villanueva, San Fructuoso de Tarragona--"

The young man stopped and turned around, looking at Flocop quizically. When the latter saw that folded newspaper again, he quickly spat out a new list:

"Jesucristo! Jesucristo, San Ateo! San Clemente Ignacio Delgado Cebrián! San Serafín de Monte Granario de Nicola! Santa María Josefa del Corazón de Jesús Sancho de Guerra! Santa Potenciana! San Severino recluso!"

"Don't you ever shut the fuck up?" the young man managed in between saintly outbursts.

"San Telmo Confesor!"

"I said can it already!" The newspaper-covered hand rose from hip to heart. "The fuck you think you're going, church? Save it, shut up, gaiete, keep quiet. You'll have the rest of your natural life to disappoint the big man upstairs if you keep me from gettin' disappointed first."

Flocop gathered after a few slack-jawed moments that he oughtn't name any more saints, though he wasn't sure why and in truth he felt far more wronged by the injunction than the threat of what was under the newspaper. Flocop nodded, and started following the young man again down the sidewalk. He saw Senora Almendrada coming down the street on the opposite side, peering at the pair while her old hound shuffled mournfully a few steps ahead. Flocop felt certain she'd help him escape.

"Hola Senora!"

The young man stopped cold and crossed his arms, tucking the newspaper into his elbow.

"Hola Senor Flocop." The woman shouted back.

"Como estas? Todo bien? Como esta su familia?" Flocop could feel a mystical wave of help and safety honing in on him from somewhere distant off the coast of his predicament. The dog straddled his owner's boot and commenced extruding the day's malnourishment.

"Bien, bien, pero, entonces, sabes que mi primo fue en la hospital para su una encarnada, si? Y esta ahora de vuelta a casa, pero la clima es tan fria y el necesito medias mas gruesas. Es la verdad que la clima actualmente es mas fria de lo que era la semana pasada, no? Ah, si, tenes un sueter! Yo tengo un sueter tambien pero yo no lo puse a cambiar con mi pe--"

"Wrap it up, we're leaving." The young man whispered at Flocop's side.

"Ah! Mil disculpes Senora, necesito ir con mi amigo aqui, perdon, perdon, buenas noches!"

"Buenas noches Senor Flocop, suerte!"

The woman and her dog and its shit walked away, leaving Flocop devastated at the receeding hope of her assistance, and moreover deeply embarrassed at having had to cut her off so very quickly.

Flocop plopped himself into the passenger's side seat of the car at the young man's prompting. It was a nicer vehicle than he'd ever been in, one of those European makes, but which actually looked and felt as good inside as its outward appearance suggested. He imagined it must've cost the young man a great deal of money, which is what he asked him about the second he got in and closed the driver's side door.

"Your mother bought it for me."

The answer was too unexpected and confusing for Flocop to digest, so he just pretended to understand and nodded his head as if considering some sage bit of wisdom.

The young man drove quickly, and Flocop spent more time watching the spedometer and admiring the burled wood finish of the interior than contemplating where they were going; after all, he'd seen the streets around his house thousands of times, but he'd only been in such a car this once. He watched the minutes go by on the softly glowing digits of the clock, appreciating each new number as it appeared. It was nine thirty when the young man stopped the car and turned it off. Flocop had seen the clock at seven forty-five when they'd left, but he couldn't figure how long they'd been driving. It felt like thirty minutes or so, which must've meant they were still somewhere in the city proper.

But Flocop recognized nothing about the street they were on as he got out with the driver.

"I don't know this neighborhood," Flocop said.

"I know."

"So where are we?"

The young man didn't answer, but walked on towards a wrought-iron gate topped with polished copper finials.

"Come on, I'll show you the guest house."

Flocop liked the sound of "guest house", especially from someone with such a nice car. But he wondered why the young man had been so rude when picking him up if all he wanted was to show him his place. There was no newspaper over the arm anymore, and the enormous, souped-up gun Flocop envisioned beneath it didn't seem to exist. He felt at ease as he followed along, through the gate, down a cobblestone path to a small, warmly-lit house sitting in an immense garden. The young man unlocked the door and let him inside, coming in after him and locking the door again.

The television was the first thing to draw Flocop's attention. It was huge --the largest he'd ever seen, and with a soccer match already playing. He eagerly walked towards it until he was only a foot or two away, barely able to take in the whole picture.

The young man poured himself a vermouth at the minibar and put the soccer match on mute, which sent Flocop spinning around.

"Why don't you come have a seat over here." The young man motioned next to him on the plush leather couch. Flocop wasn't particularly interested in anything but the game now, but he wanted to make a good impression on the young man. He sat.

Flocop divided himself between the silent match and the immaculate cleanliness of the room as the young man talked. Everything looked new and expensive; the furniture bore no cigarette burns, he saw no matted pills of dog fur, and all the lamps not only had working, burning bulbs, but were even covered in shades. He wondered if he could get a few pictures on his cellphone without the young man noticing, so he could show his friends. He gazed at the ruddy vermouth in the young man's highball and wondered if there was any beer. The cameras at the soccer match panned over the stadium's crowd on screen, and Flocop watched them jumping up and down with mouths wide open, the action suddenly centered on the field again, but he couldn't tell what was really happening without the sound on.

"...will tell them the meeting is tommorow evening at eight. Hey!"

Startled, Flocop looked over at the young man, without the faintest idea of what he'd been saying.

"Pay attention, I'm trying to work with you here."

Flocop apologized and moved closer to signify his dedication to his host's trabajo.

"I was saying: in twenty minutes, you're going to call your family and tell them you've been kidnapped--"

"Kidnapped?!"

"Kidnapped. You will tell them your price is thirty thousand pesos, to be delivered in cash at the Burger King by the Obelisk, tomorrow at 8pm. That means eight, not eight-thirty, not nine, you will tell them the meeting is tomorrow evening at eight."

Flocop's world seemed to abandon him as the urgency of numbers beat upon his brow for the first time. Thirty thousand, eight o'clock, it was all too much, too precise, too lacking in jerseys and Quilmes wrappers and that heretofore unassailable guarantee, as if from Heaven itself, that tomorrow would merely be a permutation of today, gloriously indistinguishable and void of change.

"My...we don't have thirty thousand pesos!"

"Sure you do."

"But we don't! We don't have a thousand to give you once, but thirty times? I've never...the most I've ever had was five thousand, Senor, please."

The young man frowned into his glass for a moment. Then he closed his eyes and said, "Five thousand."

"No, oh, I mean, I had, but that was years ago." Flocop's rate of speech was several times faster than that of his thought, a feat he'd never before achieved without the aid of alcohol.

"And?"

"And I bought a LG 552CC-X." He knew the name as though it were his own, with the exception that he'd never misspelled the phone's moniker.

"What the fuck is that?"

"Oh, it was a very very good smartphone, all-new, better than ayphone--"

"Was?"

"Yes, it was." Flocop looked at the young man blankly.

"So where is it?"

Flocop wrung his hands in his lap. "I...dropped it in the toilet."

The young man tapped his fingers against his glass.

"And it broke." The tears began to well up in Flocop's eyes.

"Listen, I want you to think about what your family could sell tomorrow to get some money together."

Flocop sniffled. "There's nothing! Ask anyone, we are hit very hard by los buitres, there is not enough even to pay the rent many months."

The young man sighed. "You rent that piece of shit on Alcachofa?"

"Our house! Yes! But always the rent goes up fifteen percent, always, each three months. It is hard in Argentina."

"For fuck's sake." The young man stood up and grabbed something off a desk behind the couch.

"I want you to write down everything you've spent money on in the past month," the young man said, tossing a small pad of paper and a pen at Flocop's lap and turning off the television. "Think carefully, make sure you get everything on there. And by you I mean you and your family."

"My whole family?" Flocop's eyes widened.

"The ones you live with."

"Yes, but I live with my mother."

"I'm sure."

"And my father."

"Uh-huh, fine."

"And my tia, and her five children, and her ex-husband, his two sisters, my brother and his girlfriend, and there are her two children and her brother in law, and--"

"I get it, I get it. Look, write down everything you know about that money was spent on. Okay?"

Flocop hoped he hadn't offended the young man, who, by the looks of things, was bereft of the particular joys of living with one's entire extended family and assorted hangers-on. He promised himself to be nicer, and made the sign of the cross to seal it.

"Hey. You understand me?"

"Yes, sir. I'll do it very well, good and fast." Flocop wriggled in his seat, paper and pen in hand.

"Alright. I'll be back in fifteen minutes. Don't let me down."

"Yes sir, no sir, todo bien, just like you want."

The young man walked out, and Flocop heard the door locking behind him. He immediately went to work, scribbling down everything he could remember their money being spent on lately. A few items in, he realized his handwriting was a little sloppy, and tore off the page, crumpling it into a ball and throwing it on the carpet in front of him. Suddenly full of horror at this messing of an otherwise well-kept room, he jumped up and retrieved the ball of paper, stuffing it clumsily into his pocket. He started a new list, carefully printing each entry, but trying not to take too long.

He had run out of ideas five minutes before the young man returned, but he spent the rest of the time wracking his brain, making sure he hadn't forgotten anything. He perked up when he heard the door opening, and sat up straight as the young man entered the room again.

"Are you finished?"

"Yes sir, everything is there."

The young man took the list from Flocop's outstretched hand and looked it over.

"You sure this is everything?"

"Nothing missing." Flocop beamed.

He watched his host as he paced the room and pored over the list. La casa, of course. Los gastos, almacenes, celular...

"What's this celular? I thought you broke your phone in the pisser."

"That is for my other phone." Flocop said, retrieving the battered old Nokia out of his pocket. "The first smartphone I ever have, but we say it's so-so-phone, not so smart anymore." He laughed heartily, slapping his knee, waiting for agreement. The young man didn't laugh.

"This says 1200 pesos. Why's your shit phone so expensive?"

"Well, it is not my phone, it is my plan, yes? And the plan for my mother. And my father. And my tia, and her oldest--"

"Okay, okay, fuck. Listen to me, you all spend way too much on your celulares, eh? You can't figure out how to get five thousand pesos, you shouldn't be spending twelve hundred every month, no way everyone in that goddamned clown car house needs a fuckin' phone."

Flocop was stunned. He hoped the young man wasn't going to take his cell phone away --how else would he call into the sports radio show each day to play their trivia game? It was less expensive to play with his subscription than by using the house phone. But before he could make this very important point, the young man continued reading out the items on the list.

"Subte, collectivos, cines, restaurantes --wait, you're going to dinner an' a fuckin' movie here? Six thousand pesos? How many times last month?"

Flocop stared at the carpet, horrified at the idea of having to remember the number of times. The number of times that anything.

"How many times?!"

The answer came after a full two minutes of what looked like profound meditation: "Twelve."

"Twelve?! In a month?"

Flocop felt a flash of anger at his mother and sister for having pressed him to go out to dinner so often in the past couple of weeks. If only they hadn't burned the meat and let the vegetables spoil, maybe the young man would like him better, wouldn't be looking at him as he was.

"It was only three times to the cines, but yes sir, twelve restaurants."

"I don't even eat out that often, you know? You ever heard of disposable income?! It's what you don't have, and you're spending it. How the fuck are you even spending it, there's what, twenty thousand pesos on this list. How much you all bringing in?"

Overjoyed at finally having a ready answer to a question, Flocop immediately belted out "nine thousand pesos, sir!". His smile was immense.

"So?"

Flocop continued to smile. When the young man didn't reply, he thought it best to stand up, salute him with hand to forehead, and sit down again.

"You don't see the problem here?"

"What problem. I don't want to make any problems!"

"You're short eleven thousand pesos. Where's it coming from?"

"But not everything we pay is from what we make! How could that be?"

"So where's it from, you telling me you're getting eleven thousand pesos a month in aid?"

"Las ganancias, si, claro!"

"You said the vultures hit you bad, and you're getting more than half your monthly expenses paid for?"

"Los buitres are no good, sir, no good at all. They come in, they destroy the community, they ruin the businesses, we cannot live in progress."

"Eh why the fuck am I trying, you don't have the first clue what you're talking about." The young man muttered, rubbing his hand over an aching forehead. He looked at the list again disinterestedly, and noticed an item towards the end he'd skipped over on the first pass. Blanqueador.

"Hey, what's 200 pesos worth of bleach doing on here, you get yourself into some sort of mess?"

"Ah, si, the bleach, for Bombonella."

"Your maid moonlight as a stripper or something? What kind of name is that?"

"No sir, Bombonella is my dog!"

"...why'd you spend two hundred pesos on bleach for a dog?"

"Well it is in the first place my sister's dog, and since it is always walking around the house and picking up dust on its fur, which gets dirty and brown, she has decided she will dunk Bombonella in the bleach once a week to keep her pretty."

The young man squeezed his eyes shut and exhaled.

"Listen. New plan. You call your folks, your tia, whatever, you tell them to get all the money they have right now, and the dog, bring it to the fucking Burger King at 8pm tomorrow, and they can have you back."

"You want me to go?" Flocop was genuinely hurt.

"Yes I want you to go, and I don't want you getting another dog, either. Or any other pet. Got that?"

Flocop thought it was an odd demand. But he was sure some answer or other he'd given had been very wrong, because apparently the young man didn't want to stay friends.

But there was no more soccer, no hope for the beer he'd been thinking might come at the end of his diligent listmaking, the hardest he'd worked since junior high. There was only the telephone, the old, corded kind, handed to him by the young man. So Flocop dialed.

"Yeah."

"Listen, Silvia, I have to talk to you--"

"You son of a bitch!" His aunt screamed at him through the heavy apparatus. Flocop held the receiver a few inches further from his ear and wished he hadn't fucked up his good phone, so he could ignore her and look at the girls from Page 6 instead as she barked.

"Going out for parilla by yourself, you leave the whole house without any dinner, and I suppose also you're drunk? Where are you?! At the corner? We are coming, you'd better be ready to pay for all of us!"

"Silvia, hold on a moment, listen--"

"Carmilla wants papas con cheddar, and Antonio will have choripan, and--"

"Silvia! I must talk to you about a serious situation, please listen to m--"

"Oh! And you left the door open when you went, and nobody can find Bombonella!"

Flocop felt a new sensation somewhere in his midsection, innovatively uncoddled as it was by the very empanadas and fists of meat his aunt suspected him of gorging upon, as per his usual habit. It was hollow, unsafe, capable somehow of understanding dread more readily than the rest of him.

***
Epilogue

Bombonella padded tentatively past the few blocks native to her nightly piss-and-shit routine, eager for new trees and breaks in the concrete where old rats' tales might whisper, though she was somewhat unnerved by the lack of monosyllabic imperatives, shouted over her head. But the weather was pleasant, and her grid of interest promised to stretch on beyond the few steps she'd known, and so she went, sniffing, searching, for something better, which in this land was anything and nothing at all.