Bonus Story: Scylla and Charred Burgers

on December 1, 2008 in Other Tales

Once again, there was a surprising rush of emails asking about a particular character… or actually, two of them, as I also got three requests for Jimmy the Necromancer. Luckily that works out.

A long-fingered hand covered in scaly skin and fringed at the wrist with a “sleeve” of black feathers reached out and lifted the bun off the burger, then pushed the lettuce, tomato, and onion aside. The unusual appendage’s owner looked at the patty the way most people would look at roadkill.

“This is not rare,” Scylla said, shaking her head in disdain. “I knew they would fuck it up. I knew it. This thing is fucking burned beyond all recognition.”

“That looks pretty fucking rare to me,” her boyfriend said, before swallowing the bite of chicken sandwich he’d just taken. “I mean, what do you consider rare? Bleeding?”

“Twitching,” she said. “Of course, I’ll make an exception if the meat’s high enough quality… there was this great little steakhouse down the road from the aerie, right across the border, you know? Catered to more ogres and folk than humans. They did hand-cut steaks, aged for six months…”

“That’s, uh, a little riper than I like my meat,” he said.

“Yeah, but you wouldn’t believe how tender they were.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Jimmy said.

Scylla pushed her plate away.

“So, what, now you’re not going to eat it?” Jimmy asked.

“I didn’t even want hamburger,” she said.

“Then what did you order it for?”

“They don’t cook chicken to order.”

“So you ordered it but you don’t want it,” Jimmy said.

“I’ll pay for it,” Scylla said.

“No, I’ll pay for it,” Jimmy said. “I’m just trying to wrap my head around this, the logic of ordering something you don’t like… knowing you’re not going to eat it…”

“I would have eaten it if they’d cooked it right!”

“But you said you knew they’d fuck it up,” Jimmy said. “Listen, I’m not just bitching at you, I’m trying to show you a pattern. You do this all the time. You set yourself up…”

“I do not set myself up, I’m an omen of ill fortune,” Scylla said. “I’m already set up. I am a living breathing set-up.”

“It’s not some shitty destiny that made you order something you were confident would suck,” Jimmy said.

“Yours came out okay.”

“Like you said, they only cook chicken one way.”

“Right, and that happens to be the way that you like it,” Scylla said.

“Yeah. Fully. But that’s not because I’m lucky or you’re not,” Jimmy said. “It’s because I’m a human and we’re right the fuck in the middle of Humansville, population me. I can walk into any store and get a shirt that looks good on me and I can walk into any restaurant and get food that won’t turn my stomach or eat my face off. That’s just the way it is.”

“So, it isn’t lucky for you that you were born into a huge empire that dominates most of the continent while I got stuck out in the badland boonies?”

“Well, not particularly lucky,” Jimmy said. “There’s a whole bunch of us. Anyway, it’s all situational. Here and now, you can’t get a burger you like, but if I went back home with you for the Feast of Plentitude, I’d probably be starved before we got back.”

“No, I’m pretty sure you’d be stuffed before I got back,” Scylla said. Her mouth, with its protuberant and slightly hooked upper jaw, didn’t have the flexibility and animation of a human’s, but she smiled with her eyes.

“Ha fricking ha,” Jimmy said. “And that’s exactly why we’re not going to your place for the holidays.”

“I guess that makes it your place,” Scylla said.

“Yeah, I actually thought I’d wait until they finish paying for my classes before I tell my parents I’m with a harpy.”

“So you expect us being together in four years?”

“I don’t expect anything,” Jimmy said. “That’s why nothing ever surprises me.”

“Huh? Wouldn’t that mean everything always surprises you?”

“No, surprise is what you feel when your expectations are shattered,” he said. “For instance, my mother expects that I’m going to come home one day with a beautiful red-headed human girl. Because she expects this, if I showed up with a black-plumed harpy or a human boy, she’d go completely orcshit. If she didn’t have those expectations, her reaction would be more like, ‘oh’.”

“Why a red-head?”

“Because guys are supposed to end up with girls like their mothers,” Jimmy said.

“Your mother has red hair?”

“So did I.”

“Did you dye it?”

“No, that was a side-effect of soul-leeching,” Jimmy said. “But I let my mom think I dyed it. Same reason I’m not telling her about you. You don’t volunteer unpleasant information to somebody in a position of power over you.”

“You’re so smart, Jimmy,” Scylla said.

“Well, yeah… but, I mean, I just stop and think about these things,” Jimmy said. “Some kids write home to tell their parents to tell them they’re gay, or they’re becoming an Arkhanite, or they want to major in Illusions and then act like some terrible fate’s befallen them when they get an earful. What did they think would happen? Life’s unpredictable and dangerous enough as it is… you never just stand back and hand it a weapon.”

“See, you’re lucky you’re so smart,” Scylla said, hitting the table with her hand. “I would never have stopped to think like that before I ordered that stupid burger.”

Jimmy sighed.

“Babe, all you have to do to ‘be smart’ is quit thinking that way,” he said.

“But it doesn’t matter whether I’m smart or not because my luck…”

“You know, never mind,” Jimmy said. “Forget it.”

“Fine,” Scylla said. “So where do you want to go to get holed?”

“Pierced,” Jimmy corrected.

“Yeah, that. How about The Ring?”

“Nah, they’ve got some sweet pieces but I wouldn’t want to get pierced there,” Jimmy said. “And most places won’t sell you body jewelry unless you get it done right there, so their rep doesn’t get hit for somebody else’s bad service.”

“So what, don’t you want Caron to pierce you?” Scylla asked. “She looks like she does it a lot.”

“Have you ever heard the saying ‘When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail?’” Jimmy asked. Scylla stared at him blankly. “Okay, well, it’s a saying. And I think whoever invented it was talking about a dwarf… a dwarf with a great, big, heavy hammer the size of my head.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah,” Jimmy said. “We’ll poke around the bazaar until we find some place.”

“Where’d you get the rest of your stuff done?”

“Back home. But I had to work my ass off this summer and it was easier to find a job without any more metal in my face.”

“Why did you have to work so much if your parents are paying for everything?”

“They pay for everything essential,” Jimmy said. “But I won’t get to take my work home at the end of the year unless I pay the cost of the materials to the school.”

“So… you don’t think showing up at home with a zombie wouldn’t shock your mother’s sensibilities?”

“I won’t be sleeping with it,” Jimmy said.

“You don’t sleep with me.”

“That’s because you sleep standing up. In a tree. A hundred feet in the air. But you know what I mean.”

“You really think your mother will let you keep a zombie?”

“Why? You don’t even know my mother,” Jimmy said.

“No, but we just had this whole little conversation about you tip-toeing around her…”

“I don’t ‘tip-toe’! I manage the distribution of information.”

“Oh, you know that freak storm that was on the news?”

“Yeah,” Jimmy said. “I kind of wish we’d been there for it.”

“I don’t,” Scylla said. “I sleep up in a tree, remember?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Well, anyway… you remember that dwarf storm giant who tried to go out for the team and when the coaches told her they couldn’t take her because she’d bankrupt their point pool she started crying?”

“Yeah, you’re going to have to narrow it down for me some more,” Jimmy said.

“Oh, shut up. Anyway, that was her, having another little tantrum.”

“Shit,” Jimmy said. “What about?”

“Well, I heard from Gladys, who heard from Trina, who heard…”

“Okay, here’s another patented Jimmy Jurgens Life Tip,” Jimmy said. “Anytime you say the phrase ‘heard from’ three times in the same sentence, you’re about to say something that nobody actually needs to hear.”

“Oh, fuck you,” Scylla said. She pulled her rapidly cooling burger back towards her and started picking it apart.

“So…?” Jimmy asked after a minute of silence.

“So what?”

“You were saying something about the giant girl. Giantess. Whatever.”

“’Whatever’ is right. You didn’t want to hear so I’m not going to say.”

“I was just poking a little fun at how you said it. I didn’t say I didn’t want to hear.”

“Okay, well, apparently she signed up for the arena…”

“Of course,” Jimmy said. “That’s where everybody goes when they can’t hack the field.”

“Listen to you,” she said. “When we got conscripted you were all, ‘this is bullshit’.”

“It is bullshit,” Jimmy said. “But it’s bullshit I can hack.”

“Well, anyway Trina heard from one of the other gladiators that she—the giant girl—bumped into a friend of yours wandering around the arena cellars.”

“That’s ridiculous slander,” Jimmy said. “I’m a practitioner of the darkest arts. I don’t have friends… only pawns, and enemies… who will become pawns once their pitiful little lives have been ended. How’d that sound?”

“You shouldn’t use passive voice when you’re talking about killing people. It kind of ruins the menace.”

“Uh… plausible deniability?” Jimmy said. “Anyway, back to the story.”

“Okay, the giant girl…”

“Are we going to keep calling her that?”

“Do you remember her name?” Scylla asked. “I mean, what are we supposed to call her? ‘Tiny’?”

Jimmy laughed.

“Heh,” he said. “We almost should.”

“Anyway, I guess she bumped into your enemy,” Scylla said. “Though… considering how much you talk about her…”

“Oh, quit being so coy and spit it out,” Jimmy said. “Who was it?”

“Steff Johnson,” Scylla said.

“Fucking Steff. Last time I talked to her alone in the lab, she had her daggers out and she was twirling them. Like, balancing the points on her fingers and shit. She was trying to act all casual like she didn’t even know she was doing it, but she was totally trying to intimidate me. People do that all the time when they know you’re a skirmish caster, you know… they won’t pick a fight with the warriors but if you use magic they think they can score Big Dog points for pushing around someone on the team.”

“Were you intimidated?”

“Not a bit,” Jimmy said. “She likes to think she’s some bad ass mistress of evil or something, but take away her half-ogre boyfriend and her pet demon and she’s just another elfblood bastard coasting through life.”

“Okay, well, anyway, she came on to little whats-her-face, who didn’t realize what she was saying until she went back into the locker rooms and started telling the other fighters about it.”

“If it was Steff, she probably was being weird,” Jimmy said. “I don’t think it really reflects all that poorly on somebody if they don’t recognize what Steff considers flirting.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Scylla said. “But back in the badlands, we say that thunder means somebody told a giant a joke three days ago.”

“Dude, not funny,” Jimmy said.

“What?”

“Racial jokes.”

“Oh, shut up,” she said. “You’re a human.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means when you act all sensitive about race, it’s comes off as an act even if it’s not,” Scylla said. “Which it is. You even said you don’t feel bad about being born into the dominant whatever.”

“I don’t,” Jimmy said. “But that doesn’t mean I’m racist. Okay, well, the next time you see our weepy would-be warrior woman, why don’t you try sharing your ‘humor’ with her and see if she thinks it’s funny.”

“I would, but I don’t have that kind of time,” Scylla said, and Jimmy cracked up. “See? You think it’s funny.”

“A little, but that doesn’t make it right.”

“Let’s not talk about this.”

“Okay,” Jimmy said. “So when she found out she’d been hit on by a dick girl, she… what? Got pissed off about it?”

“No, it was when the locker room burst out laughing when she said ‘All I did was explain how I love to polish my spear…’, or something like that,” Scylla said. “She, uh, stormed out after that, and the next thing anybody knew the campus was getting hammered.”

“Shit… well, there’s another reason not to make fun of a storm giant for you.”

“At least not in front of anybody who’ll explain it to them.”


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7 Responses to “Bonus Story: Scylla and Charred Burgers”

  1. pedestrian says:

    Whether we like it or not
    as weather-bound as we are
    the weathercock we follow
    is the weather we’ve got.

    Current score: 1
    • Jechtael says:

      Whether the weather is cold,
      or ever the weather is hot,
      we have to weather the weather
      whether we like it or not.

      Current score: 0
      • Lara says:

        I thought it was
        “Whether the weather be cold,
        Or whether the weather be hot,
        We’ll weather the weather,
        Whatever the weather,
        Whether we like it or not.”

        Current score: 0
  2. Triof says:

    Fair play to Jimmy, even if he is a bit of a dick, he does at least consider Steff to be female. He could score cheap points on someone he hated if he wanted to.

    Current score: 7
    • Jechtael says:

      I noticed that back when he was talking about Steff’s reaction to the body they dragged in after the storm. This chapter has narrowed my possible opinions of him down to “probably a nice person whose opinion of people he barely knows is too easily biased by incorrect information from people he knows to a greater degree”.

      The most frustrating thing about his negative relations with Steff is that she probably DIDN’T notice she was doing the thing with the daggers. Or at least thought she looked clumsy and stupid as she practiced during a few minutes while her hands were available. You’d think she’d be able to realize that humans aren’t as good as most elf-kin or any elves elves in objectively measurable ways, given the nearly equal time spent with humans, but that’s an inferiority complex for you.

      P.S.:I loved the Scylla and Charybdis pun in the title.

      Current score: 3
  3. Anthony says:

    Awww… poor Pala. 🙁

    Current score: 5
  4. zeel says:

    I loves Jimmy’s philosophy here.

    Current score: 0