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“From this position” –

“From this position,” says the fat guy sitting in the chair, “there’s six, from this position there are six defenses.” He’s holding a soft brown briefcase in his lap, buckle clinking as he fondles it.

“There are seven working defenses from this position,” says the tall guy standing behind him, scissors in his hand wavering over the fat guy’s scraggly hair.

“And one of ’em hurts,” says the fat guy with a guffaw. He’s wearing a khaki-colored T-shirt printed with a faded picture, a bearded man holding up a pistol. Damage my calm, it says.

“Hold still,” says the tall guy, snipping a wisp.

“Man, they don’t, they just don’t make comics like that anymore, do they?” He sighs. Wraps his arms more tightly about the briefcase. “All blood and thunder. Goddamn. Not too short, right?” He leans forward, looks back, the tall guy rolling his eyes as he lifts his scissors up and away. “Not too short, okay, Abe?”

“Not too short,” says the tall guy, nodding.

The fat guy sits back. “Just, neaten it up a bit,” he says. “Make it look good, though.” Wrapping his arms again about the briefcase. “But quick, quick,” he says, leaning forward again, looking back again, and again the scissors lift away. “She could be here any minute. Queen of the fucking world, man.” Sitting back. The buckle clinking again. “Queen of the fucking world.”

“Timmo, hey,” says Abe. “Hold still.” Snip, and snip.

“Any minute now,” says Timmo. “Come on, man, come on.”

“Hold,” says Abe, snip, “still.”

“It’s gonna be incredible,” says Timmo. “You don’t mind, do you? Stepping out for a bit? When she gets here?” Undoing the buckle with a click, snapping it shut again. Open, close.

“I’ll just go get another key from Zach,” says Abe. Snip. “Hardly nobody here anyway.”

“Because it might, she might just,” squirming in the chair, and the scissors lift up and away again. “She might just, I mean, right out of the gate, you know?” Clink. Snap. Open, shut.

“You think,” snip, “you think I want to stick around for,” and then there’s a knock at the door.

Abe looks up, Timmo sits up, briefcase clutched to his chest, “Shit,” he says, and “Yeah, yeah,” says Abe, stepping back, swatting wisps of hair from Timmo’s shoulders, Timmo shrugging him off, batting his hands away, briefcase in his other hand now, by his side. The knock again becoming a pounding, a muffled Hey! Timmo!

“She knows your name, man,” says Abe.

“Of course she knows my name,” mutters Timmo, heading past the two rumpled queen-sized beds for the door there by the picture window, curtains drawn. Undoes the chain lock and the deadbolt, the briefcase still in his other hand. Opens the door.

“God damn man can I come in? It is fucking crazy out here.” Stomping the snow from her running shoes sweatpants a long green coat a hoodie under it throwing it back from her head her hair scraped down to patchy stubble around a floppy mohawk. Snow caught in the parking lot light, bright white and pink and orange out there swirling, dissolving the rusty black parking lot behind her. “Timmo? Hey? It’s fucking Arctic out here.” A fluttery laugh. “Global warming, right?”

“So is that her?” calls Abe from inside the room.

“Mel,” says Timmo, and she says, “So can I come in?”

“Hey,” says Abe, coming up behind him. “That’s Mel.”

“Yeah,” says Timmo.

“That’s not her.”

“No,” says Timmo. “It’s not.”

“Who,” says Mel, and then “Come on, aren’t you freezing?” and then, frowning, “What’s with the briefcase?”

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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, written and drawn by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, and Lynn Varley, © 1986 DC Comics.

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