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RTA, Chapter Six

road trip to alberta 6.1

Hot air and sugar and fried oil, oh yes. Still, I sneeze as I’m wheeling Grandma into the donut shop. Everyone in line looks over; it gets them off their phones, at least! A lot of people really need help with that sort of thing, and the radio waves can give you cancer. They stare at me as if I’m the one with the problem, but I just push Grandma right up into the line.

I sneeze one more time but I’m in control. I’ve actually been getting better over the last few days, but of course, there’s still Covid-brain to deal with. I’m not going to bother to explain to them that the change of air always triggers my allergies, and it’s really warm and wheaty inside Angel’s. The kitchen is an allergenic typhoon, but I love this place.

Still, a short black-haired lady pushes her mask at me and onto her face reprovingly. She shuffles forward. I’ll give her some space. Not everyone understands masks and mask usage like I do. The research I did was exhaustive.

I can handle it – I’m in an outrageously good mood! With a little luck, we’d just dodged Mwin Stache. That Anglo-Cameroonian-Vietnamese goon has become my personal bane. The fact that I never understand a word he says (while everyone else never has a problem) only makes me hate him more.

Plus, I’d said that thing about tournaments. Mwin was the kind of player who fired three streets and got all in and was always bewildered by whatever he lost to. “Whaht diyu awve?” he would always ask before standing up and shaking everyone’s hand like a new father.

Of course, I do still have the 50K from the Hills game. (I’m not going to tell you exactly where I put it, not yet!)

So, I suppose I can’t really blame him for being mad at me. When we first started, well, advantaging the game, it was really nothing, small stuff. Collusion, you know, some signaling, usually chip placement.

But this is real, I know. The electronics changed everything; believe me I know I overstepped. I’ll make it right some day. First though, I’ve got to get Grandma to Canada, and I just can’t do it without the money.

I’m going to admit that today has not been an entire success. I’ll check my list when we sit down but I’m not sure we will reach any of our objectives. And now we are going back for the dogs? Do we have to? I glance down at Grandma and the poof of her remaining white hair. She’s in her pink puffy jacket and pants, her hands crossed in her lap. Is that her rosary?

The problem is, how am I going to go back into the house? Does Soh Ju know where I live? Is his man Mwin going to just be waiting for me?

Let’s start with donuts. And coffee.

As the line moves, we pull up behind the masker. She notices and waddles forward like an angry penguin, trying to keep a distance. She talks to herself and me in Chinese. Sorry, lady. Leading with Grandma usually is greeted with more sympathy. Grandma is small and bent but has a sweet look, especially when she makes eye contact.

I stare at the old dark and smokey menu above, getting ready to order. I ask Grandma what she wants, but I already know: a jellyroll and decaf. Just making conversation. The secret at this shop is that they never underbake or underfry anything. It’s always just a tad burnt and I love it. Still, I notice it’s not called Angel’s at all, but Angelfood.

You learn something every day. Just gotta pay attention.

Somehow my mood is downshifting. I guess I have a lot to do now, more than ever. We’re going back to the house to get Grandma’s dogs, two Shih Tzus. I had wanted to just let them find their own way. I’d been careful and left out all the bags of food: they could live for weeks, maybe on that alone, until I guess, I returned. They barked and barked as we left, but Grandma said nothing. I know that was wrong, but I couldn’t imagine travelling with them.

Now I know better. Grandma just saved us from Mwin and I am doing this right. And I will get her to dignified death she deserves.

But how am I going to do this? And why was I risking it all to go back to the house? Mwin would be looking for me, if not Soh Ju himself.

We order in a blur and I find myself eating absent-mindedly. I eating my maple bar but missing it. I don’t want to look at Grandma, but I can feel her staring at me, even through the sunglasses.

Has she been mad at me this whole time, despite the situation? This is not going to be easy, getting the little dogs. I gulp down more coffee, heavy cream and sugar. Sustenance.

I can’t help but watch the traffic. My heart beats hard whenever any bass rumbles: no, we’re not safe, not yet. In fact, the sun is still high in the sky, improbably.

Can I even go to the house during the day?

I lean toward Grandma. One of the employees is nearby, turning over the Open sign to Closed. Don’t worry, I whisper, we’re going to get Marx and Hegel, but I can’t go into the house, Grandma. I’m gonna need help.

Grandma stares at me then stoops a bit. I push her up into her chair a bit, delicately. I sigh.

This is a lot.

I down the drops of sugar coffee. I need someone… reliable. There’s only one. I need to call Gila from the Endboss. The only person there who will help me. My friend.

I dash through the digits. Angels or whatever this place is called will give me a few minutes.

Pick up, pick up pick up! 

Yes! Hello?

“IAN YOU GIANT PIECE OF SHIT!!!”

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