Saturday, November 6, 2010
Teresa had expected a cramped, dismal waiting room in some desperate no-name clinic, filled with cheap plastic seats and screaming children and reeking with the delicate bouquet of "eau de ammonia and ass." Instead, it reminded her of the first-class section in an airplane: the seats were wide and comfortable, the décor was tastefully understated, and it smelled of lightly-perfumed professionalism. Even the receptionist slightly resembled a stewardess, with her long perfect hair and brilliant blue eyes, though her figure made her look more like a high-class call girl who had been poured into an office-casual dress.
Of course, considering that they weren't at an ER at all, but a plastic surgeon's office on the outskirts of Las Vegas, the receptionist (whose name was Candi or Barbie or something else equally saccharine – Teresa hadn't bothered to pay attention) probably served double duty as a billboard for the doctor's skills with cosmetic enhancement. Given the young woman's obvious 'qualifications,' there was no doubt in Teresa's mind that the surgeon was very, very good at his trade.
"So Esther," Teresa said, tossing the corpse of another broken-and-consumed paperback onto the coffee table, "why exactly do you call her 'Mister Netty'? Seems pretty damn feminine to me, with the lipstick and painted nails and all."
Yarrow, who had been fidgeting his coins with boredom, spoke first. "Netty isn't a he or a she. The conscious mind of the Internet doesn't need gender. Any avatar it adopts is deliberately androgynous, allowing the mind of the viewer to fill in the details. You see feminine features, so to you Netty is female. Fulcrum here perceives Netty in a more masculine way, and therefore to her it is male." He smiled at this, pleased to be able to answer a question within his sphere of authority.
Teresa shot him a sidelong glare. "And I bet that whatever it looks like, you jerk off to it."
Yarrow just stared at her, open-mouthed, his expression a mixture of shame and bewilderment. Teresa could practically hear the gears turning inside his head as he desperately sought for the proper comeback. "Oh, I'm sorry," she said in a sing-song voice, "has your buddy the Internet not shown you what masturbation is?"
Esther's eyes snapped upwards with a quick hissing inhalation of breath, the needle of her stitchery poised between her fingers like a miniature poisoned dagger. "You leave him alone," she said, in that intense mom-voice which promised ultimate suffering while remaining perfectly composed. "We have done nothing but help you since we found you, Reecy: saved your life, got you fed, got you cleaned up, gave you hope, and all you've managed to do is hurt everyone you meet. God love you, girl, is there anything that don't make you angry?"
"Cigarettes," Teresa answered. "Which I ain't had any of since you and boy wonder there kidnapped me. And I saved your lives, not the other way 'round, 'cause if I hadn't smoked the Pink Peril there – and don't think you don't still owe me an explanation for what that shit was – she'd have popped you both."
"And what about you?" she continued, somewhat less quietly. "You're all God-this and God-that, got all the answers to everything and knows what's best for everybody. Well, let me tell you, concha, you ain't my mother and you ain't his, and you're letting a face on a fucking screen jerk you around and tell you what to do! Why the fuck are you even here, anyway? You're, like, a bake sale away from being a one-woman church social, why are you hanging out with a baby-killer like me and a know-it-all atheist like him?" Without waiting for an answer, Teresa stood up and stormed towards the receptionist. "The doctor had better be goddamn ready to see me now, because if I have to spend one more minute with these people there's gonna be blood across your carpet."
Candi-Bambi just nodded, her eyes wide in shock, and ushered Teresa towards the nearest examination room before buzzing for the doctor.
"Your… mother?" Yarrow ventured towards Teresa's receding form, like a child using a new vocabulary word for the very first time.
"That's right, baby," Esther said, reaching out to pat him on the knee. "You tell her."
The Fine Print
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