I come to in the morning to discover that I’ve actually come to in the afternoon. The Meadows’ artificial sun is high in the artificial sky, impossibly bright. I roll over in bed and groan, my head throbbing in protest of my existence, my eyes burning like they’d had needles shoved into them the night before. Which I suppose is a distinct possibility, albeit an unlikely one.
A litany of thoughts goes through my head. I should get up. I don’t want to get up. I should at least look at the time. Oh, God, it’s probably four in the afternoon, how could I let myself sleep so late? Ah, screw it, I’m on vacation. Still, I’m not optimizing the time I’m spending here. I don’t have to optimize my time because that’s the point of a vacation. It’s not like anything in this place ever closes and I’m somehow going to find myself wide awake with nothing to do. Man, I’m hungry. I should eat breakfast. Lunch. What-the-fuck-ever.
I push myself upright, swing my legs over the side of the bed, and stand still for a moment as I interpret the stimulus and sensations my body is feeding me. The carpet is soft beneath my feet, some kind of luxurious deep pile thing. The room isn’t spinning and my headache isn’t getting any worse so I’m probably not as hung over as I’d initially feared. Thanks, tiny little robots in my blood stream that were originally designed to help combat oil spills and were subsequently repurposed to prevent feeling unwell from overindulgence! Oh, the bathos!
I take a few steps towards the door before I hear the talking and laughter coming through from the other side, noises that intensify as it swings open and I make my way towards the living room. There’s the sound of something heavy striking something thick, like an axe biting into a tree trunk. A grunt of exertion. An appreciative gasp. Soft clapping. I have no idea what I’m about to walk into, but I assume I’m about to come face-to-face with some sort of combination of a stripper and a personal chef.
I’m half-right. Instead of a naked woman, there’s a wizened old man of Asian descent in what appears to be a labcoat and a chef’s hat. He is standing at the dining room table, an assortment of colorful meats and a few different vegetables before him. My friends’ back are to me, Monk and Googe and Erb in the assorted shirts and shorts that pass as their pajamas, Papa Chub in the clothes he fell asleep in. I look down and realize that I’m wearing nothing but my underwear and wonder if this will be an issue. After a moment’s consideration, I decide that the risk of my penis escaping through the hole in front is unacceptably high and return to my room to throw on a pair of jeans. As I return and slide into a seat next to Googe, he glances over at me and frowns. “Where’s your shirt?”
“You’re lucky I’m wearing pants,” I mutter. “What’s on the menu?”
He just grins, nods his head over towards the food arrayed before him. Meat, but with a certain delicateness to it. It’s colorful, orange and red and yellow and pink and white. There’s a faint scent to the air, salt and the sea.
I arch an eyebrow, meet Googe’s grin with a look of mild amusement. “Did you do this?”
He nods, an eager child. “I figured, hey, we’ve got to eat and we can afford the good stuff now. Why not, right? I’m paying for it out of my share of the winnings, so no harm done even if nobody likes it.”
I nod along with his reasoning until that last part. “Wait, what?”
“My share of the winnings. When you got us to all pitch in before you went to the craps table, you told us that whoever paid in would get out an amount proportionate to what they put up. Remember?”
“Oh. Yeah. I mean, no. I was blacked out pretty much that whole time. Did Erb and Monk not tell you guys this?”
Googe’s jaw drops. His expression flits uncertainly between disbelief and rage.
“Uh… hey, look! Sushi!”
“We’ll talk about it later, no harm, no foul, et cetera, and now you’re rich enough that you can afford actual sushi and not fish-flavored TIP. All is well in the world. Hell, better than it was before.”
Papa Chub leans forward, looks across the table at me. “Wait, did I just hear you say–”
Word Count: oh no i am running out of emojis