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Friday, May 27, 2022

F³ No Dessert

             I reached for the warm pita bread while waiting for our mountain of kebabs to arrive. We had burned through all the alcohol on the flight over, but we still had storm rider metabolisms. Jack and Anna Maria did the same, but Nat was looking at my phone. I had just buttered some pita when Nat swore.

            “You son of a bitch, Jack.”

            “What?” he asked around a mouthful of pita.

            “Amsterdam’s Red Light District? You’re going to get it on with a hooker after we eat?”

            “Okay, first, the whole area stays open late. Two, what do you care what I have for dessert?”

            “You weren’t talking about the baklava?” I said around my own pita.

            “Why not both?” he said.

            “You know we really do have a problem to take care of. I get taking a short break to get our bearings, but you whoring it up is not what I—”

            She cut off as my phone rang.

            “It’s Kate,” she said, then answered it.”

            “Don’t invite her, she’s a total buzzkill,” Jack said.

            Nat turned away, listening intently.

            “You’re okay with this?” I asked Anna Maria.

            “Joaquim and I have only the most casual affairs anymore. I strongly suspect one of the reasons he wished to trade regions was to enjoy the bikini season along the Mediterranean.”

            “Guilty,” Jack said.

            “Yes!” Nat said triumphantly, hanging up. “Dessert is off. We need to get back to the States. Kate may have found the cure.”

            “Fuck!” Jack said. “Knew she was a buzzkill.”

Friday, May 20, 2022

F³ Planning Ahead

             Jack guided us via cloudsurfing northeast until we reached a city. Jack plunked us down right next to a medieval church, near a bridge. Without a word, Jack took off at a quick walk across the stone bridge, sticking to the pedestrian walks. The church itself had been dark, but the city, especially across the bridge, seemed quite lively, still. Anna Maria quickly joined Jack, shaking her head, but not saying anything.

            “Okay,” I whispered to Nat, who had started moving in the same direction. “What gives? Jack and a church?”

            “Well,” she said, it is a pretty good place for us to dropdown. It’s closed and people aren’t likely to see us. What concerns me is that this place is very familiar to both him and Anna Maria. Unfortunately, after our little impromptu dunk in the sea, I can’t use my phone. Last time I tried, it didn’t do anything. I’m going to have to take it apart to blow all the water out.”

            I fished my phone out, still in its drybag.

            “Since when do you do that?”

            “Since Russia. You can use the phone through the bag. Sometimes the audio gets distorted, but it still works.” I held the bag out to her.

            She quirked an eyebrow at me. “Why don’t you use it?”

            “Positronic lightning. Guessing that won’t work on the electronics too well.”

            “Ahh, good point.”

            “We’re here,” Jack announced, stopping in front of Middle Eastern restaurant.

            “Okay,” I said, “last time I checked, Iran is way southeast of us.”

            “So what? They have awesome kebabs here, but the real reason is the desserts” He chuckled. It was a disturbing chuckle that I had come to know as the Jack chuckle. It wasn’t a good sign.

            Anna Maria rolled her eyes.

            Definitely not a good sign.

Friday, May 13, 2022

F³ Consensus

             The coldness of the North Sea didn’t really bother us. Since we spent most of our lives at altitudes higher than Everest, a little seawater was nothing. However, we had to flop on the sand, and sand gets everywhere, especially on wet clothing.

            “Joaquim, if it were not for your . . . affliction, I would slap you, right now.”

            “What’d I do?”

            I rolled over and punched Jack hard in the shoulder, digging a knuckle in.

            “Ow! What the fuck?”

            “Just shut up, Jack. You’re normally a pain in the ass, but you’re even moreso, now, so just shut up.”

            “Hey, I—”

            “Shut up, Jack!” We all said simultaneously.

            For a wonder, Jack shut up, though he did grumble under his breath.

            “I’m hungry,” Nat said.

            “Me, too.” I said.

            “And I,” Anna Maria added in.

            “Now can I—” Jack began.

            “No!” We all said.

            We stood up and used whirlwinds to blow the sand off and dry ourselves out, though I could swear I still had sand in my shorts and socks.

            “Anyone know where to eat at this time of night?”

            Having never been to Europe for more than a few stops on the way to solve a crisis, I shrugged.

            Jack held up a hand.

            “Oh, God,” Nat said. “Fine, Jack. Where?”

            He retracted fingers on his upraised hand until only one finger remained.


Friday, May 6, 2022

F³ Drowned Sorrows

             Once out of eyeshot in Switzerland, we left via cloudsurfing. There had been no storms in the area, and at least Jack and I could do that. Lacking any leads on how to cure our conditions, we headed west to find out if Belgian chocolate was actually better than Swiss. That had been the rough plan, but a strong desire to push the limits of our ability to metabolize alcohol won out, so we ended up in a sports bar in. . . .

            “Where the hell are we, again?” I asked.

            “Knokke-Heist,” Anna Maria answered, though she slurred a little.

            Jack belched, pointing at Anna Maria.

            Some of the other patrons looked over at Jack, frowning.

            Nat was gradually sampling all of the different beers the bar stocked, and gradually I meant an entire bottle in one go. She had the empties lined up like a curved wall around her, keeping the rest of us out.

            “Why here?” I asked.

            “The seaside is very pleasant,” Anna Maria said. “A refreshing change of pace from the Mediterranean. “ She gestured to the window and the view of the beach, which was dark since it was ten at night.

            “She shells sheashells by the sheashore!” Jack said, butchering the tongue twister, probably on purpose.

            “Jack,” I waggled my finger at him. You might not wanna do that. Think those guys are getting pissed.” I stopped waggling my finger with my other hand.

            “We’re all getting pissed!”

            “Joaquim!” Anna Maria shouted, then backed it down. “Do not cause a scene.”

            “Oh, come on, it’s fucking soccer. No one fucking cares about soccer.”

            Apparently, the men watching the game disagreed and we soon found ourselves being carried out of the bar, down the beach, and literally thrown into the incoming tide.

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