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WEEKLY WHINE

The mind races for ketchup

SUN 01 NOV 2015

00:36 UTC: Rashelle and I are on our way to the resort. She’s driving.

“You excited?” I ask her.

“Yeah,” she says. “Don’t really know what to expect, though.”

“Yeah.”

There is a pause. Then Rashelle adds, “Think they’ll have a telescope?”

I turn and look at her.

“Oh come on,” she says. “You like space too. That’s why you took the internship.”

“It’s a party,” I groan. “Not everything is about space.”

“No, it is.”

“What is?”

“Everything. Everything is about space.”

“Really? What makes you say that?”

“The fact that it’s true,” Rashelle says.

“That’s crazy,” I say. “What about... um...”

“See?” she says. “You can’t think of anything.”

“What about Family Guy? Nothing to do with space.”

Family Guy?” Rashelle asks.

“Yeah,” I reply. “Family Guy is completely unrelated to space.”

“Not true,” she responds. “There was that one bit when Peter says, ‘If you need me, I’ll be in space’. And the bit when Peter gets free gasoline for a year. And he uses it to ride the Space Shuttle.”

“The Space Shuttle?” I ask. “The Space Shuttle uses hydrogen and oxygen. Not gasoline.”

“It’s still a space reference.”

“Doesn’t mean it’s about space,” I insist.

“Okay,” Rashelle says. “What about the fact that it’s transmitted via satellite?”

“Every show is.”

“See?” she says. “All of television is about space.”

“That’s ridiculous,” I say.

“And consider this,” she continues. “When there’s an exterior shot of the Griffins’ house, what is illuminating it?”

“What?”

“Come on. Establishing shot of the Griffins’ house. What’s illuminating it?”

“I haven’t really seen much of that show,” I point out.

“Doesn’t matter,” Rashelle says. “Pick any show. What shows do you like?”

The Big Bang Theory,” I say. “Doctor Who.”

“Okay, take those shows.”

“No, don’t. Those ones obviously are about space.”

“Fine,” she says, starting to sound exasperated. “Pick another show. Something that you think’s not about space.”

“I don’t know,” I sigh. “Pawn Stars?”

“Porn stars?”

Pawn Stars.”

“Oh. I haven’t seen that.”

I say, “I haven’t either. Well, a little bit once, maybe. Yeah, this exit.”

We exit the freeway in Henderson, NV, USA. My telephone indicates that we are to stay on this road for a few miles and then make a left turn.

“Yeah, so Pawn Stars,” Rashelle says. “Where is it set?”

“You mean where is it located?”

She gives me a sidelong glance, briefly, before returning her eyes to the road.

“It’s a reality show,” I tell her. “It’s not scripted. It doesn’t have a setting.”

“It doesn’t have to be scripted,” she insists. “‘Setting’ means where and when a story is set. True stories included.”

“Fine. Anyway, it’s in Vegas, I think.”

“Okay, well, where is Las Vegas located?”

I point my thumb over my shoulder.

“Which is where?”

“I dunno. About fifteen miles behind us?”

“Yeah. Well, in a broader sense, where’s Las Vegas?”

“A broader sense?” I ask.

“Yeah.”

“Turn’s coming up.”

“This light?”

“No. The next one, I think.”

Rashelle moves over a lane.

“Yeah, this next light,” I tell her.

“Okay.” She makes the turn. “So yeah, in a broader sense, where’s Las Vegas?”

“On Earth,” I say. I point a finger at her and add, “Which is not space.”

“Yeah, agreed. We’re defining ‘space’ as ‘the entire Universe except Earth’, right?”

“Yeah?”

Rashelle continues, “Okay, so the pawn shop in that show is not in space. But what is it illuminated by?”

“What’s it illuminated by?” I repeat, finding myself stumped. “Like, fluorescent lights, or something. I don’t know.”

Rashelle makes the turn into the resort’s parking lot. She asks, “Well, when they go outside, what’s illuminating them?”

“The five million neon lights in Las Vegas.”

“All the time?”

“Yeah. Unless, like, there’s a power outage.”

“Sure there’s not another light source?” she asks. “Like maybe one that’s visible about half of the day?”

“You’re talking about the Sun?”

“Which is located where?”

I sigh.

Rashelle nods. “In spaaaaaa...”

“So you’re suggesting that everything is about space because the Sun is in space.”

“Exactly. I mean, without the Sun – without a doubt – there’d be no you and me.”

I realise that Rashelle has parked the car and turned it off. She says, “Come on. Help me get the stuff out.”

We retrieve a few boxes from the trunk and load them onto a couple of hand trucks. We are looking for someplace called the Colonnade, which we find is located behind the main building of the resort, on the lakefront.

“Nice out,” Rashelle says. “Is the party going to be outside?”

“I guess so,” I answer. “That must be the Colonnade.”

There is a large tent ahead of us, lined by a row of columns facing the lake. As we enter, I observe Wen hanging lights from the tent. She stops and waves when she sees us.

“Hey,” she says when she climbs down the ladder. “Rashelle, right?”

“Yeah,” Rashelle says.

“And... sorry, what was your name?” Wen asks me.

“Susana.”

“Susana, right. Sorry. I’m Wen.”

“Yes, I know who you are.”

She smiles for a moment, and then looks down at our hand trucks. “What did you guys bring?”

I turn to Rashelle.

“We’ve got the game systems,” she says.

“Oh, brilliant!” Wen enthuses. “We need those! Those are gonna go over there.” She points to the other end of the tent, where there are four large monitors.

“Should we set them up?” Rashelle asks her.

“Yeah, go ahead. I’m gonna start working on the candypult.”

Rashelle says, “What the fuck is a candypult?”

“Pretty much exactly what it sounds like,” Wen replies.

02:12 UTC: The game systems are set up. Helena, another intern who arrived here shortly after Rashelle and I did, is helping Wen configure the candypult. There doesn’t appear to be anything else that needs doing, so Rashelle and I have begun playing a football game on the Kinect.

“You know, you’re going to have to call it ‘football’ in your article,” Rashelle says.

“I am?”

“Yeah. I mean, that’s what they call it. As in GoobNet Football.”

I ask her, “What if I put ‘soccer’?”

“They’ll just change it to ‘football’.”

“What if I’m talking about, like, regular football?”

“American football?”

“Yeah.”

Rashelle answers, “Then they’ll change it to ‘American football’. Or maybe ‘helmetball’.”

“‘Helmetball’?” I ask.

“Yeah, they’ve used that term a couple of times.”

“So I would have to describe your costume as a ‘Lingerie Helmetball League player’?”

“Well, no. I mean, the league is called the Lingerie Football League.”

She scores a goal against me.

“Do you even read GoobNet?” Rashelle asks me.

“Not really.”

“Then why’d you take the internship?”

I shrug. “The experience, I guess. It’ll look good on my résumé. What about you?”

“I like it. I mean, I like space too. And football.” Pointing at the screen, she adds, “This football.”

“Oh.”

02:23 UTC: The final whistle goes, with Rashelle’s Galaxy defeating my Impact 4-1. I walk away from the game, toward the lake. Rashelle turns off the system and follows me.

“So how did you even find them?” she asks.

I tell her, “Well, I went to Space Academy in high school.”

“You went to Space Academy too?”

“Yeah. You did too?”

“Advanced Academy,” she says. “Sophomore year.”

I reply, “Junior year.”

“Cool.”

“Yeah,” I say. “So somewhere in the documentation, there was a business card for GoobNet, with, like, a contact number for internships.”

“Yeah,” Rashelle replies. “Same with me.”

“So they’re recruiting Space Academy alumni?”

“Looks like it. I mean, it makes sense for them.”

“Yeah, I guess it does.”

“Hey you two!” someone shouts.

We turn to look at the path leading from the main building, where we see Amber Lynn jogging toward us. When she arrives, she wraps an arm around each of our necks.

“Hey, thanks for coming,” she says. She loosens her grip, but still leaves her arms over our shoulders. “You got the games set up?”

“Yeah,” I say, pointing over at the screens.

“Perfect. Hey, I’m gonna go try and set up the big game. Meantime, there’s still, like, an hour and a half until people start showing up. Maybe start getting into your costumes?”

Amber Lynn begins to jog toward another tent.

03:09 UTC: The Sun has gone down, and I am alone in the Colonnade tent, save for Mjölnir at my side. Rashelle went to change into her costume at the same time I did, but I have not seen her since. Nor have I seen Wen, Amber Lynn, or Helena.

03:19 UTC: Two people approach. They are dressed in business suits with FIFA lapel pins. Wads of fake US$100 bills stick out of the pockets, sleeves, waistband, and anywhere else.

One of them asks, “Are we early?”

“Um... yeah, I guess you are,” I reply. “I’m Susana.”

“Angela Ellen,” she says. “And this is Renee.”

“Hi,” Renee says. “Nice to meet you.”

“You too.”

“You’re Thor?” Renee asks.

“Yeah.”

“Well, you look better in the costume than Liam Hemsworth.”

“Chris,” Angela Ellen says.

“What?”

“Chris Hemsworth plays Thor, not Liam.”

“Then who’s Liam?” Renee asks Angela Ellen. “Why did I say Liam?”

“That’s his brother.”

“Is he famous too?”

Angela Ellen explains, “Yeah, he’s an actor too. He’s in the Hunger Games movies.”

“I can’t believe you like those things,” Renee says.

“I can’t believe you don’t,” Angela Ellen counters. “I mean, you like Harry Potter.”

“So?” Renee asks. “They’ve got, like, nothing to do with each other. Harry Potter has, like, a plot. And characters. You know, multidimensional characters who actually have consistent motivations and aren’t just thinly veiled metaphors for unrelateable reality show stars that viewers obsess over.”

“You haven’t even read the books,” Angela Ellen sighs.

I lose interest as they fire up an argument that they appear to have had several hundred times previously.

03:26 UTC: “Where have you been?” I shout.

Rashelle, approaching on the path, holds out her arms. “Like it?” she shouts back.

As she enters the tent, I see that she is in partial American football gear: a white ice hockey helmet with a transparent plastic face mask, a white jersey that only covers the upper half of her torso, shoulder pads, gloves, cleats, and alarmingly small underpants. The jersey bears the number 1 in pink.

“Not bad,” I say. “Come here. Meet Angela Ellen and Renee.”

“Hey,” Rashelle says, extending a hand to each of them. “I’m Rashelle.”

“Ugh,” Renee says to Rashelle’s costume. “What is that, the Sexist Football League?”

“Pretty much. The Lingerie Football League.”

Renee responds, “Yeah, that’s what I call it. The Sexist Football League.”

“Check this out,” Rashelle adds. She turns around and shows us that the back bears the name HE EXPLOIT ME.

“God, that is so true,” Renee says with a scowl. “You know, they don’t even get paid.”

“Yeah,” Rashelle replies. “And they don’t have medical coverage either. If they get injured, it’s just like, ‘See ya! Don’t let the door hit you in that toned, shapely ass of yours!’”

Renee continues, “Well, look at those pads! There’s, like, next to no protection! No wonder they don’t provide health insurance! They couldn’t afford it! They must have players going down injured after every play!”

Angela Ellen steps out of the way of Rashelle and Renee’s conversation. She asks me, “So do you work for GoobNet?”

“I’m an intern.”

“Oh. I didn’t even know they had interns.”

“This is the first year, I think.”

Angela Ellen asks, “What do you do?”

“I work in the SPEED office.”

“The what?”

“The SPEED. The GoobNet Special Projects Enhancement and Enforcement Division. Do you know Rich? Wen?”

“Oh, yeah,” Angela Ellen nods. “That’s where they work?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, so what do you actually do? Do you, like, fetch coffee, or something?”

I tell her, “No. Mostly, I just read the news and look for things that they should comment on.”

“Like what?”

I point to her costume. “Like FIFA.”

“They needed your help to know that they should comment on FIFA?” she asks.

“Well, I mean, they haven’t done anything about FIFA since I joined,” I explain. “But if they did, they would probably have me do all the research. I would look to see if anybody else has already come up with the same ideas they’re proposing, for example.”

“Oh. That makes sense.”

04:50 UTC: People are finally arriving. There are about fifteen people under the tent now, including Wen and Helena, both dressed as Daenerys Targaryen. There are a couple of Carli Lloyds and an Apollo astronaut, but not many more costumes that I recognise.

“Like it so far?” I hear from behind me.

I turn around to find Amber Lynn, wearing a Rocky V shirt with an international no symbol covering the title.

“Hey,” I say. “What are you?”

“Bill Simmons,” she replies. She holds up a keyboard that has been duct taped over. Written on the duct tape are the words LEGALLY PROHIBITED FROM BEING FUNNY ON THE INTERNET.

I shrug. “Don’t know who that is.”

Amber Lynn gives an exaggerated sigh. “Kids today.”

“You’re only, like, five years older than I am.”

“That’s still, like, 25% of your life, right?”

“Yeah.”

“See?” she says. “See, I can remember a time when you didn’t have to take your shoes off to get on an aircraft. Or when half the shows were still in low definition.”

“I remember a lot of low definition stuff.”

“C’mere,” she suddenly says, taking me by the arm. “I’ll introduce you around.”

The astronaut is Karina, and the Carlis are Chelsea and Emmy. Beyond that, it’s just a series of names: Avril, Ariana, Mindy, Whitney, Alyssa, Sheryl, Carrie, Aya.

“Kinda funny,” Amber Lynn says at one point. “I know all these people, but I’m still, like, the forgotten one.”

“Why do you say that?” I ask her.

“Well, I mean, up until this year, I was still the ‘junior contributor’. Eight years, I was the junior contributor.”

I ask, “Well, they didn’t hire anyone after you, did they? So you were still the most junior.”

“It wasn’t consistent with what I was doing for them, was it?”

“Well, you’ve finally gotten your promotion, right?”

“Yeah,” she scoffs. “‘Features contributor’? What the fuck does that mean? And sometimes they put ‘features editor’ instead. They can’t even agree on what my job is!”

“Maybe you should stage a hostile takeover,” I suggest.

“Occupy GoobNet?” she asks. “That could be fun.”

“Or start your own website.”

“Yeah! I’ll make my own GoobNet! With hookers! And blackjack! In fact, forget the GoobNet!”

“Okay, that joke I got,” I say.

“Good,” Amber Lynn replies. “There’s hope for your generation yet if you guys are still watching Futurama.”

“Yeah. And it was still in low definition then.”

06:18 UTC: “Finally!” Karina shouts. “I thought my other Rivers were never going to show up!”

I look down the path and observe Debbie and Charlotte. They, like Karina, have curly blonde wigs. One of them is wearing a white EVA suit with no helmet, and one is wearing a sort of square patterned dress with a vest over it.

“Oh shit!” I suddenly shout.

Rashelle, next to me, looks up and stares at me.

“What?” I ask her.

“You said ‘Oh shit’,” she says.

“Yeah, I know.”

She stares at me for another few seconds, and then she asks, “So are you, like, going to tell me why you said it, or...?”

“She’s not an astronaut,” I tell Rashelle, pointing to Karina. “Well, she is, but not just any astronaut.”

“Oh. I didn’t see a nameplate on her suit.”

“Well, she’s not an actual astronaut. She’s the Impossible Astronaut.”

Rashelle continues to practise staring at me.

“River Song?” I say. “Doctor Who?”

Rashelle turns and looks at Karina, then Debbie, and finally Charlotte.

“See?” I point to Charlotte, in the dress. “Young River after she regenerates.” I point to Karina, in the Apollo EVA suit. “River the Impossible Astronaut.” Finally I point to Debbie, in the white EVA suit. “And old River in the Library.”

“I never liked River,” Rashelle says.

“Really? Why?”

“It was like, she had no characterisation of her own. Everything about her character had to do with the Doctor in some way. Same with Amy. And Clara. God, Clara!”

“What are you talking about?” I ask Rashelle. “What about the whole thing with Danny? And the fact that she has a job as a teacher? All of that had nothing to do with the Doctor! Until he started crashing their dates and trying to go undercover at her school! It’s the Doctor crashing into her life, not the other way around!”

“I dunno,” Rashelle replies. “I didn’t like her.”

06:57 UTC: Red and blue lights flash throughout the tent.

“Hey!” Gaby, dressed as a satyr, shouts. “Come on everyone! Time for the game! This way!”

We move to the edge of the lake. Next to the columns, there is a large screen. In a moment, it lights up with a grid. Letters are hopping around it.

“It’s a seven letter word,” Gaby announces. “‘Puzzling tools’.”

JIGSAWS!” someone shouts.

The letters reform into the word JIGSAWS. Gaby continues, “It’s the crossword game you’ve played all your life, but never quite like this!”

She points at us. Like Pavlov’s dogs, we take the cue and shout out, “Scrabble!”

Gaby says, “And here’s your host, Daenerys Targaryen!”

We give Wen some applause as she walks out in front of the screen. We then play two games of the 1980s game show Scrabble. The first game sees a Carli duel between Emmy and Chelsea – Emmy wins and plays the Sprint round. That’s followed by a River duel between Karina and Charlotte – Charlotte wins a sweep in three words.

“All right, River,” Wen says to Charlotte. “You’re going to play the same Sprint round, with the same four words as Carli. But this time, the clock will count down from the score that Carli set, 21.6 seconds.”

Charlotte guesses the first two words, CENTS and AFFECT, in about nine seconds. She has about thirteen seconds left for the last two words. Naturally, since we in the audience have already seen Emmy play the same words, we know what is coming. But Charlotte struggles on the next word, FRONTIER.

“4.6 seconds remaining,” Wen says. “You can do it, River. The last word is nine letters. The clue: ‘It’s a real page turner’.”

“‘It’s a real page turner’,” Charlotte repeats.

“Ready?”

“Ready.”

“Go!”

Charlotte places the N, S, and last E in PENTHOUSE, but by that point there is less than a second remaining. She’s forced to hit her plunger and venture a guess.

“Um... NONSENSE,” she says, shaking her head.

A buzzer sounds, and her clock changes to :00.0.

“No, sorry. Ten second runoff, and that means you’re out of time, River. The word was PENTHOUSE, and Carli, you’re our winner with 16,384 GoobNet Silly Bucks!”

08:13 UTC: After Scrabble, we have been playing various games on the consoles. I’m watching Renee and Whitney play golf, but suddenly Rashelle grabs my hand and yanks me away.

“Omigod, Susana!” she squeals. “You have to meet these two!”

She leads me back to the columns at the edge of the tent, where there are two newcomers waiting, both dressed only in black robes.

“Susana, meet Mary and Reese,” Rashelle says.

“Um... hi,” I say.

Out of nowhere, they both embrace me tightly. “Hey, nice to meet you,” one of them says.

“Yeah,” the other one adds. “We always like to see new faces here.”

“Nice costume,” the first one says.

“Um... thanks,” I reply. “So... what are you two?”

“The women,” the first one says.

“Any women in particular...?” I ask.

“No, no,” the second one says. “We’re both the Woman.”

I look around, but Rashelle has disappeared back into the tent. No hints from her.

“Irene Adler,” the first woman says. “From Sherlock.”

“Yeah,” the second one adds. “When I saw that episode, I was like, ‘Oh shit, what if she had a twin?’ So here it is.”

“Lot of twins today,” I say.

“Really?”

“Yeah. We’ve got two Carli Lloyds. Um, there’s two Daeneryses. And three River Songs.”

“Three Rivers?” the second woman coos. “The mind races!”

“So there must be plenty of ketchup,” the first one says, flashing a grin.

“No, there’s candy,” I respond. “It’s... it’s Halloween.”

The first woman says, “No, no. Like Heinz ketchup.”

“What are you talking about?” I ask her. The second woman is also perplexed.

“Heinz is based in Pittsburgh,” the first woman explains.

We are still staring at her.

“Pittsburgh,” she repeats. “You know? The City of Three Rivers?”

We are still staring at her.

“Because it’s where the Monongahela and Allegheny join together and form the Ohio?”

We are still staring at her.

“Forget it,” she murmurs. She looks down at the ground, where she is tracing patterns with her toe.

The second one takes her arm. “Come on. Let’s go find Debbie and Lotte.”

08:29 UTC: I find Rashelle again.

“Hey, Rashelle,” I say. “Why is it all women? Aren’t there any guys here?”

“What?” she asks, surprised. “No, this... this is the women’s party.”

“Women’s party?”

“Yeah. Amber Lynn’s putting on the women’s party this year.”

“So there’s also a men’s party?”

“No, the other one is just a regular one,” Rashelle tells me. “It’s got some women. Like, Deb and Nina are at that one. Janet 1 and Ali 2 are there. Vickie. The other Karina.”

“Wait, who’s the other Karina?”

“Like, a dancer or something.”

“But... why are they even having two parties in the first place?”

She spreads her arms, taking in the dance floor. She shouts in my ear, “Would this ever happen at the coed party?”

Over the speakers, Rihanna, heavily remixed, sings about choosing to be happy. One River is dancing with Mindy. The other two are dancing with Renee. Mary and Reese are holding one another closely, as are Ariana and Chelsea.

“Maybe, yeah,” I say.

“Oh,” Rashelle says.

“A bit exclusionary, though, right?” I ask.

“I think that’s kinda the point,” she replies. “You know, to exclude men.”

“Yeah, but... that’s still just two ends of the spectrum.”

Rashelle gives me an uncomprehending look.

“The gender spectrum,” I explain. “You know. We’ve got transgendered people. Genderqueer. Gender nonconforming. People who reject the entire notion of gender.”

“Do we have anybody like that at GoobNet?”

“No, but we ought to be preparing for when we do.”

She nods as we cast our eyes across the tent again.

“Well, anyway,” she says, “this two party thing is probably for the best. What with Debbie and Edvard.”

“Debbie and Edvard?” I ask. “What about them?”

Rashelle gasps, “You haven’t heard? Yeah, they totally split up. They, like, hate each other now.”

“Why?” I ask her.

“I don’t know. Something about wanting to adopt a kid. She wants to and he doesn’t.”

08:50 UTC: Alyssa says, “No, Edvard wants them to have their own kids.”

08:56 UTC: Emmy says, “I heard it was because she wouldn’t move to the Netherlands for him.”

09:09 UTC: Chelsea says, “Yeah, Debbie brought some other guy home. Edvard totally walked in on them.”

09:13 UTC: Aya says, “He does not like having to clean up after her. She makes a mess.”

Carrie says, “What are you talking about? I heard Edvard’s the slob. I heard she hates cleaning up after him.”

09:19 UTC: Mary says, “She just walked out on him one night. Never said why.”

09:40 UTC: I am sitting by the lake, Mjölnir in hand.

“Throwing your lightning around?” Amber Lynn says. She sits down next to me.

“Hey,” I say. “Some party.”

She shrugs. “This is nothing. We’ve had some pretty crazy ones before.”

“Yeah,” I respond. “I mean, most parties, you could go, like, twice as far away as we are, and the music could still make your ears bleed.”

Amber Lynn chuckles. “Yeah. No, it’s actually quite peaceful here.” She reclines on her back. “And... you know... you can actually see quite a few stars. I mean, given how close we are to a big city.”

“You know, Rashelle was hoping for a telescope.”

“Oh, that woulda been so awesome!” Amber Lynn says. “We’ll have to bring one for next year.”

“Evening, you two,” I hear.

I turn around to see Debbie approaching. She sits down next to Amber Lynn.

“Hey you,” Amber Lynn says, without even getting up. “How you holding up?”

“This absolutely couldn’t have come at a better time,” Debbie answers. “I have so needed this.”

“C’mere,” Amber Lynn says, spreading her arms. Debbie leans back and, lying across Amber Lynn’s body, settles into her embrace.

I get up, intending to give them some space.

“Whoa, hold on,” Amber Lynn says. She touches Debbie’s head a few times. “This wig... you can’t have fit it all under... you must have cut it.”

“My hair?” Debbie asks. “Yeah. Of course I did.”

“I... I loved your hair,” Amber Lynn says, somewhat wistfully. “It was beautiful.”

“Thanks. But it had to go.”

“It didn’t have to go.”

“Everything has its time. And everything dies.”

“Life of the party, you are,” Amber Lynn sighs.

“How about you?” Debbie asks her. “Found anyone?”

“No. I haven’t really been putting myself out there. Not interested right now.”

“Not even for a hot intern?”

“Debbie!” Amber Lynn tries to sit up as best she can without tipping Debbie over. “She’s right there!”

I point back toward the tent. “I should... there.”

I hurry back past the columns, not really hearing Debbie’s plaintive shout of “Wait... that’s not what I meant”.

10:16 UTC: I’ve spent a bit of time dancing with Angela Ellen and Renee, but I wasn’t really into it. I’ve drifted over to the games, where I’m watching Avril and Sheryl play tennis.

Debbie approaches. “Hello.”

“Hi,” I respond.

She looks like a hunter approaching a wounded animal, I think.

“Listen, I... I’m sorry, what was your name again?”

“Susana.”

“Susana. I’m Debbie.”

I shake the hand she’s offered up.

“Susana,” she says, “I’m really sorry about what I said there.”

“It’s all right,” I shrug.

“No,” she insists. “It’s not all right. Listen... Amber Lynn and I... we have that sort of banter... but it’s not true. It’s absolutely, one hundred percent not true. I shouldn’t have said it.”

“It’s a joke,” I reply. “I mean... I could tell it’s a joke. It’s no problem.”

“Good. Because...” Debbie slides a hand up and down her elbow for a moment, and then continues, “Look, I know Amber Lynn has a bit of a reputation. But she doesn’t let it into her work. I mean... I know her. I know that when she was deciding on the internships, she was looking only at qualifications. Nothing else.”

“Well, she had to. I mean, I didn’t send in a picture.”

“You didn’t?”

“Of course not. It’s an internship, not a TV gig.”

Debbie makes a strange face.

“Sorry,” I respond.

“Quite all right,” she says. “I mean, you’re right. That’s absolutely how TV is. I mean... you should have heard some of the things people said about me when Interaction first started. There was one review in the Sun that was totally out of line. I was just like, ‘Bloody hell! Did you watch the programme, or were you just staring at my lipstick the whole time?!’”

10:38 UTC: Angela Ellen and Renee are making their way through the crowd, saying goodbye to everyone. When they reach me, I receive a big hug from both of them.

Renee says, “Hey, we’re leaving. It’s Susana, right?”

“Yep.”

“Well, it was really great to meet you. Have fun with the internship.”

“Thanks. I will.”

“Good night,” Angela Ellen says. “We’ll see you next year?”

“I don’t know,” I reply. “My internship is over in May.”

“Tell them you’re coming anyway. No matter what,” Angela Ellen responds.

“Maybe I will.”

“Good. Good night.”

“Good night, you two.”

11:10 UTC: Rashelle and I are playing golf when the lights in the tent are brought back up. By now, only Wen, Amber Lynn, Mary, Reese, Helena, Rashelle, and I remain.

I spot Amber Lynn by the controls. Wen is talking to Helena, and Mary and Reese are sitting in front of the lake. The place is empty otherwise.

“Time to start cleaning up, you guys,” Amber Lynn says, to groans of disapproval.

11:19 UTC: “Hey!” someone says behind me. “How was the other party?”

I look up from the Wii that I’m packing up. It’s Amber Lynn, talking to Deb.

“It was okay,” Deb answers. “I think we needed a better theme, though.”

Amber Lynn asks, “What was the theme?”

“‘Unanswered Questions of Our Time’,” Deb says.

“So what were some of the costumes?”

“Well, that’s just it,” Deb replies. “Nobody wore a costume that went with the theme. Like, did you guys have a lot of Trumps? We had three Trumps.”

Amber Lynn says, “But that kind of fits. I mean, Trump himself is kind of an unanswered question.”

From the corner where Reese and Mary are helping Helena take down the sound system, Helena shouts out, “No, he’s answering a question that nobody asked!”

11:46 UTC: Rashelle and I have loaded the game systems back into the boxes and are trucking them back to her car. Deb and Amber Lynn are in front of us; Amber Lynn is carrying a few unopened bags of candy.

“So what is this thing?” Amber Lynn asks, gesturing at Deb’s costume.

Deb holds her arms out and gives Amber Lynn a twirl. “End of the night. Come on. It’s kind of our thing now.”

“What is?” I ask.

“Well, I like to do avant garde costumes. As you see,” she says, waving her arms across her outfit. She continues, “So every year I ask Amber Lynn what she sees in it. Her answers are usually far more interesting than what I had in mind.”

Amber Lynn thinks for a moment. Then she says, “The TARDIS exploding, but painted by Dalí instead of Van Gogh.”

I burst out laughing. The two of them glare at me.

“Come on, knucklehead,” Rashelle says. “Let’s go.”

As I get into Rashelle’s car, I hear Deb say to Amber Lynn, “That’s close enough.”

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