Rule of Thumb in King Joffrey’s Court: A Game of Thrones Extension

In King Joffrey's Court

Cersei entered the hall with her usual escorts, and a groan escaped from her son’s mouth, as he sat atop his sword seat.

“Mother, must you interrupt justice?” he said with mock sternness. She said nothing and continued to approach him, indifferently stepping around a fresh puddle of blood and other indistinguishable bits. She was wielding a polite smile, in full view of the king now, and her guards fell back. She began to ascend the stairs while utilizing both hands to pinch her skirt so that it would not drag underneath her.

“What is it mother?” the king moaned. “I only have two more cases.”

“Cases? Are you a detective now too?” she smiled, showing genuine interest in her son’s growth as a king.

“Well mother, I have a hunch for figuring out the inner workings of my subjects, so yes I am quite an exceptional detective as I don’t need many clues, if any, not to mention that I can do all this while also judging.” He looked at his hand stretched low, pleased with himself. “But my talents are too many to list, and I would get quite winded telling you of all of them. Besides, it’s frustrating—my talents are too often wasted in the service of justice for the realm, and not often enough used for my own benefit. To that end, I have just two more cases, mother, and then I will go take care of my own interests, not have you dawdles beside me.

“Well it’s of those two cases, actually the next one really, your Grace, that I have come to discuss with you” she said courteously, in a lowered tone.

He adjusted himself to a lower tone: “I can’t be seen taking advice from you… make it fast please before the people start to notice.”

“I understand,” she said. “Your next accused is Walton Wissel of House Melcolm, and I think we’d be better to not upset any potential allies from the Vale.”

Joffrey was just going to speak when a side door clanged open and four guards, two in front and two behind, entered with a haggardly looking man. The man looked as if he weren’t aware that his surroundings had changed from the days of a solitary prison cell. Joffrey smiled.

“Ah, Ser Wissel, so nice of you to join us,” Joffrey got up from his seat. “Guards, you can leave his side, we are all friends here.” The guards stepped away and found wall spaces that were empty.

There was a nervous tension in the room that only Joffrey and Ser Wissel didn’t notice. Someone cleared their throat and Cersei looked up and swallowed, chasing away some inner thought.

Joffrey cleared his throat, “Ser Wissel, I have often been appreciative of your creative mind. As it is you are the only knight I have ever heard tale told of who has never owned armor. Your words are a real talent to you, something I can really relate to as an artist of the letter myself. You are a real muse to me, really,” he said with questionable sincerity. He let that last phrase linger in the silence.

“On previous occasions, when others had advised me to treat you with the full weight of the law,” he shot a stare at his mother, who was now standing very awkwardly. He continued, “When others wanted you brought to justice, I looked the other way, and took your perverted thoughts as necessities to generate your artistic proclivities that I find so akin to my own.”

Joffrey’s smile faded, and his demeanor became stern and thoughtful. He began pacing back and forth across the small platform, his hand pinching his chin as in deep reflection. Ser Wissel looked up at him, anguish now in his face.

“Sadly, Ser Wissel, this time your thoughts have led you astray, and I must assume my post as supreme protector of the realm, both it’s body and mind. I can’t have you disrupting the counting traditions in the kingdom. Peasants are confused enough, and what would The Seven think if they were no longer seven out of ten, but seven out of four?” Joffrey laughed aloud at his own comical mathematical analysis. “I have considered this too in my infinitely subtle mind, and in consulting with my own godliness,” he paused so the hall could consider his deity claim. “No god would stand for being counted as double digits.” Joffrey leapt from the upper to the lower platform of the approach to the throne.

“Just imagine!” Joffrey laughed, getting into his element. He mimed a hidden form: “Here is one god”. He stepped laterally, “here is the second god.” His mother stepped forward to say something to him, but he gestured her a look that made her step quickly back. She held her arms and took to biting her thumbnail and looking down and away. Joffrey moved another spot over.

“Here is the third god,” he outlined. Then he stepped over again, “and then here, here Ser Wissel, is your tenth god.”

“I won’t…” Ser Wissel began to say, but Joffrey continued without acknowledging him.

“Here is your eleventh god, Ser Wissel, and your twelfth god, and your thirteenth god!” his voice growing louder as he spoke.

“Thirteen gods! Just imagine the confusion of my people, Ser Wissel. Many of them are, well, not up to our caliber I’ll say. A base ten number system is challenging enough, moving to a base four system would cause great confusion among my people, it might cause a shut down to the economy. Thumbs should not be counted as fingers!? We have four limbs and four digits on the ends of them all, so four-ness carries the day. Do I have your argument right, Ser?”

“Your Grace, it was just an intellectual musing,” Ser Wissel pleaded “I didn’t mean for it to become anything more than…”

“Just,” Joffrey emphasized, “jussttt an intellectual musing? Well my people’s confusion isn’t the worst of it. What would god’s ten through thirteen think of your,musing?”

“I won’t do it any more, your Grace,” Ser Wissel said in the most apologetic tone he could muster. He was still kneeling but he began to approach Joffrey, grovelling in his own fashion.

“No, you won’t” Joffrey said, in lower tones, disappointed actually. “Maybe, you will,” the beginnings of an idea were evidently growing in Joffrey’s mind. “Since you have an obvious disdain for thumbs, lowering their rank in the hierarchy of digits, I’m assuming you won’t miss them.”

“No, Your Grace!” Wissel pleaded. “I’m only suggesting that thumbs be understood actually as part of a greater order.”

“Are you correcting me Ser?” Joffrey asked. “No, you are quite upset, I can understand why, my being someone who is also often frustrated by the stupidity that leads to misunderstandings of my great ideas.” He looked over to his mother.

“Your Grace,” Wissel ventured. “I am guilty as charged, and I had not considered my claims to the depths that your great mind has taken them. I never intended any offense to you or The Seven.”

“I understand Ser Wissel, I understand,” Joffrey said in a strong and reasoned voice. “All the same, a punishment must fit the crime.” Wissel was crying. Joffrey motioned to Ser Ilyn. “You may keep your fingers, for your counting, but your thumbs are mine.”

Ser Ilyn took out a peculiar device that he regarded as a wonder as he brought it to fix on Ser Wissel’s thumb. Ser Wissel screamed out in pain, but the guards holding him didn’t show any signs of emotion. “I want his big toes as well,” Joffrey said, “I wouldn’t want to rob him of the symmetry.” Wissel now had to be propped up as his old body was giving out.

“Ser Wissel” Geoffrey said walking down onto the hall’s floor, but Wissel could not respond in between his furious sobbing. “Ser Wissel” Geoffrey said louder, standing a short distance away.

He gestured at Wissel’s groin, “Do you consider that to be a thumb, or just a mere finger?” Joffrey now began broadly smiling, he walked right up to the whimpering Wissel, “Finger? Is that finger, I heard you say? Good choice! You can keep that digit for your counting, though I’m sure it is, should we say, quint unessential, ha!” he laughed to himself. “Yes, I believe his counting days have long been over by the looks of it,” he said to the guards with a smile, and he regarded the old man with kind pity.

He walked back towards his throne. “Dog, take him away.”

[minor edits on 2016-03-30]

Previous Game Of Thrones Related Writing –


Allegory Of The Carve

A man is living in a cave, when a number of people enter from the opening. “We are all one family,” one of them beckons to the man, encouraging him to join them.

“No, you are just seven people,” replies the man, seated.

Most of the people exit the cave, but one remains, and declares, “I am one person, and I am here to take you home.”

The man rises and quickly pulls out his hunting knife and slits the man’s throat. He proceeds to carve out all his organs, as he would an elk. At last he speaks to the decapitated corpse laying before him, “you are fourteen organs, and twelve hunks of meat, by the knife’s count.”

The man starts to sit down, when a chill overcomes him.

Look into the mirror” a voice echoes in the cave. The man cleans the blood off his knife and looks at the reflection. “What do you see?” asks the voice.

Nothing,” the man replies.

Zero?” the voice asks.

Yes…” the man replied, as if waking from a daze, “zero.”

Then you count correctly, at last,” said the voice.

At last…” the man said, falling onto his knife. The last thing he heard, as he lay dying next to his father’s body, was the voice:

Too much light, just like too much dark, can make it difficult to see; in this cave you have been pulled apart by both extremes…”

**Alternative Titles: Encountering the Polymyth, and A void multiplicity

Searching For An Enemy Is Quite Different Than Searching For The Enemy

… “searching for an enemy”, Catal lectured on, “is quite different, than searching for the enemy.”

Johan rubbed his eyes dry of the waning teardrops, and gave Catal a look of confusion that resolved into agitated disinterest. Seeing this, Catal continued: “I think you see the world, and desire from the world, an enemy that will draw you out of your slothful tendencies.” This truth being revealed to Johan, and striking him through his usual mental fog, hung his attention on Catal’s advancing words. “I know this, Johan, because I have been seeing in you a rage against me, as I give you difficult but honest insight… it’s a rage that puts fire into you…”

Catal hesitated, as if overcome by too many directions to take his pedagogy. At length he spoke again: “fire is great… but that you would risk me—your brother—by turning me into kindling, will provide no solace once I am revealed as not your enemy, but no longer your friend either. You shouldn’t need enemies outside of you to keep you going on, but you should have friends outside of you, not mere allies… this I have found very important.”

“Important to what?” Johan asked, looking up at Catal, not revealing if he really cared to hear the answer or not.

“There have been plenty of obvious enemies, and because our hearts are in the same place, Johan, we both have seen them as such. But there have been many friends, who are harder to define ourselves with, to be unique from, because they don’t contrast against us so much as those enemies that make it clear to us what we elementally are.”

Catal stepped closer to the seated Johan, hoping for an added effect. “We need these people… why?! For nurture, for support, because they keep us from becoming the enemy. The enemy I have not found; it seems like all the obvious enemies—corporations, mafia bosses, politicians—these are all feigns… fronts really, of some deeper and more sprawling enemy… one that we can all sense is out there, and warriors like you and I want to have a final fight with, to get rid of that awful feeling in us that something isn’t right in this world. And so I search on for the enemy. But I am different from you Johan, because when I see no enemy present, I don’t try to conjure one up. Doing this is all too similar a method of the enemy, and it could even be said that it is the enemy co-opting us by enticing us to the adoption of its own arts.”

“To put it philosophically, because you know that’s what I’m all about,” Catal half-laughed to himself, “is that you are succumbing into a harsh and alienating dualism, when really you should just accept the monism reality which contains within it, at present at least, a viscous, cannibalizing, shit-spewing enemy. We can be akin or estranged from it, but never opposited it.”

The Daughter Trade, Chapter One and Done

Vrye was waiting nervously for his sister to call him in; he knew she had watched midwives deliver other babies, but had never done so herself. So many months of waiting—years really—to have a child to call his own. Vrye needed a new person to put all his hope and efforts into, a bit of light to outline the tunnel, “or is it really just a deepening hole?” he would ask himself pessimistically.
He used to have a very close connection to his parents, until he found out that their adoration for him was tainted by what his birth had meant. He was the force that put them into “the winner’s bracket” so that they might accrue a large family with the requisite dowries of fortune and land. However, in his original innocence, he had loved his parents and was very appreciative of the love he had received. It was the only time he really felt happiness until the dark reality of his corrupted people set in on his mind. He believed having a son that he could keep would be the first step in a new direction. His wife, Taya, he knew to be too much like the rest of them, too invested in the current system—that is after all why she was so happy to be married to him and all his acquired wealth.
Etianya, his sister, poked her head out the door and whispered “brother, I think you should come here.” Vrye quickly walked over and swallowed.
“Is it over? I didn’t hear any crying,” he looked a little panicked, “is the baby dead?” tears started to well up in his eyes, as he hadn’t even considered this possibility, so much riding on the others.
“No,” she looked down, “no, sometimes they don’t, I’ve seen it a couple of times before, it doesn’t mean anythings wrong.” Vrye looked relieved a bit, having things now in perspective. “But,” she continued gravely, “she is in danger.” Vrye looked very knowingly at her, and he almost blamed her for it, though he knew she was his only ally in all of this bad joke of a life. He hesitated to say anything, grounding himself and remembering his values. Then resolve took him.
“Does Taya know?” he asked suddenly, revealing additional fears that had been previously repressed.
“She was so out of it, and now she’s passed out…” Etianya hesitated, “I don’t think she even thought of it, she was just so out of it.” Vrye looked nervous. “She didn’t bleed much, I think she’s just very exhausted… and your daughter is quietly suckling, so I thought it was a good time to leave them.”
Vrye then got a very determined look. “My daughter,” he put his fist in his hand, and then started walking towards the door. “It’s settled then,” he said to himself, as he quickened his pace.
“Vrye,” his sister cried after him, seeing him grip his sword, “Vrye!!” He turned to look at her, “don’t start her life with a death.”
“You misunderstand me, sister, I am going to cut the cord,” and he turned through another doorway and headed down the hallway leading to the bedroom.
“I already cut it,” she whispered as loud as she could.
“One less thing to do then, but as long as I have her, I’ll need my sword. You know how they act when the stability of their system is threatened.” He paused and looked in, his eyes adjusting to the firelight. There was his daughter, so small, so needy, getting nurture from a mother that was imminently going to reject her. So far she hadn’t, and Vrye getting to actually see this connection, in the flesh, his attitude started to change, to soften. Maybe this time Taya would think differently, on her own, or even at his prodding, but this was so right and so natural, how could she so easily give it all up? He sat down next to the bed.
“Brother, what are you doing? You shouldn’t linger, you should go now,” Etiana insisted.
“I’m waiting until she wakes up… I won’t take my daughter from her mother without giving Taya a chance to see her face and realize what is right,” he said calmly. “Besides, I will not interrupt her first, and maybe only nursing from someone who truly loves her.”
“But she doesn’t love her, and she might not even have loved a him… you’ve said this so yourself.” Etiana reminded Vrye. “Look, I hate this whole thing, but I admire you and have always looked up to you, and what you are doing might be the one thing that I can truly keep in my mind and know is something good, worth making it through another day. I have a son, and that made me accepted in this world, but if I had the will to reject the world like you do now, having had only daughters… I was never really given a chance, luck made me fortunate, but I cannot say I truly enjoy it. Does anyone? Are the wealthy any less miserable than the poor? Certainly more comfortable…” Etiana came back to the present, she looked at him, “you need to go.”
“I don’t deny what you are saying, and I don’t change my mind, but I have a feeling she loves them when they are inside of her, and this is still very close to that. You’re right, I will not start her life with a death, and so I will not kill a relationship where there is hope it might survive. I need to give Taya this chance, I have to hope that she can change for her child, her fucking child. Gods damn us, why is everything so fucked up!? Today, I right things.”
“Just don’t spend too much time worshiping yourself brother, and make sure you are watching your back. Remember what you told me about cult followers: there are two types, those that want to catch up to you so that they can be like you, and those that want to catch you and slit your throat. You and I know that there are a lot more of the latter on this island; and for the rest of the world, that is a real mystery. But I have my doubts…” she was silent. Vrye seemed lost in thought, forgetting—perhaps intentionally—the gravity of what he was going to be doing once this tender family moment had to awake to the harsh reality. Why couldn’t things be like this and embraced, an aunt, a mother and father, and a beautiful new baby daughter, all in candlelit mellowness.
“Yes, but there’s got to be more people that are hiding in plain sight… but they’re cowards, you’re right, we know that and they might as well truly believe in this terrible system so they stop teasing us with hope. They are able to sow just enough doubt to make you waver. Then you bide your time instead of actually taking action, comforted by the fantasy that they might fight our battles with us, or for us. Either way, its not for me to rile them up anymore, its for you or others like you.”
“Once you’re story reaches them, you will have riled them up…” she started, but he put up his hand to cut her short.
“Etiana,” he said in a different tone, “don’t be naïve… I see it as a strength for you, but they will use it against you. You know my story will not be their story. Speaking of which, you should get back before you are implicated as part of this. You have already taken on an awful lot of risk for me, and I have been selfish with your time. I am very scared and you bring me comfort, but my daughter is born and very healthy, and I cannot ask you for anything more.”
“Vrye, this is the last time I will ever get to see you. If you would repay me for all that I have done, let it be by allowing me to choose to leave once I choose. Remember, I am never again going to get to see my older brother. I was so lucky to be brought into this family, but now my luck is literally going to run out…” she started to get teary eyed.
“I would like to go with the thought that I could come back and find you well, not dead or maimed,” he said, “especially knowing that it was because of me.”
“I chose to help you, and this is my fantasy too, but I would like to part with you at my own choosing,” she said.
The baby stopped suckling, and made a slight whimper, and then seemed to fall asleep. Vrye knew he couldn’t wait forever, but he didn’t want to wake Taya up just to lay on her the hardest decision of her life: to leave the only place she ever knew. He sat back and sighed, putting his hand on his daughter’s back and caressing her. He only had a boy’s name picked out, thinking a girl would not be an option. In his deepest honesty, though, he was glad it was a girl, it gave him the excuse to give a big “fuck you” to the system he so loathed. He had wanted and won agreement from Taya for his name to be Turo.
“I think I will give her the same name, Turo,” he said to Etiana, now lying down on one of the adjacent cots lost in her own thoughts.
“I’m sure you have a good reason,” said Etiana.
“I do”, he agreed. He took that as an invitation to explain his reasoning: “Because just like it shouldn’t matter whether or not a boy or girl is born first, it shouldn’t matter either if a name is supposed to be for a boy or a girl. Though…” he fell silent, hushed by some doubt. “I don’t know its tough, because I don’t want to get rid of this terrible system only to start new evil, laborious traditions. At best I go on to create a family that grows into a people and they—we have our own unique directions, and those are somehow corrupted and turned to evil use; at worst I do not get far enough away, or some plague takes me and my daughter and we die. Its so interesting how evil acts go beyond themselves and are able to corrupt good intentions. I know that the originals who came here to start this repatriarchalation weren’t totally corrupted, just men and women who…” Taya coughed, having been awake and listening to her husband for some time, able to gather that she had given birth to a girl. Vrye got up to fetch the water for her.
She started to speak but her voice was hoarse, “Vrye, immediately after giving birth and being exposed to those horrors of pain, I feel very courageous,” his eyes widened with hope, as she caught her breath. “Courageous enough to stand up to your boyish idealism. You are not taking her or yourself, though at times I wish you would disappear. You make my life a headache, even right after countless hours of labor.”
“It’s settled then, we need to leave, tonight, now, before any mention of this gets out,” Vrye said. He moved to take Turo, but Taya gripped her close to her bosom. “You would stop me from taking our daughter, but you wouldn’t stop them from taking her?”
“We’ve had this conversation a hundred times, I’m really not even sorry I didn’t give you a son. You would have ruined him and all his sisters…” she winced with pain and grabbed her side. Etiana moved to comfort her but then stopped when her brother responded.
“And I would’ve given him ideals that would keep him from ruining them himself—like all the other son’s we know of, who rape their sisters and kill their younger brothers because they see them as rivals, not as blood. Is that the kind of world you accept and defend for our daughter to go out into!?” He knew his arguments were futile, but he also knew that he had to give one last attempt at it getting through to his wife.
“What’s going to happen to me? You never think about me in any of this”, she cried allowed.
“You are plenty good of taking care of yourself”, he replied. “You play the game so I don’t know what you’re worried about.”
“I’m not saying about in the long run, but If you take her tonight, don’t you think you are putting me in a lot of danger?”
“Just play dumb, because that’s what you always do,” he said. He continued, “and you know, it amazes me how not good you are at it since you do it so often.” He repented these last words, he was just so angry.
“You never loved me,” she cried out. She looked at Etiana, “you love your sister more than your own wife… you probably have children with her that I don’t even know about. How are you any better than the other men out there?”
Vrye chose to not defend himself against this last accusation, it was mostly untrue and wouldn’t bring them to a better position. Calmly yet impassionately he said, “I love the you that loves our children, that loves the bump in your belly… but you always crush that you and replace another you. You are part of the sick irony of the land: that a man can have eight daughters and no children… this is sick, Taya, sick. Be healthy and come with me.”
Vrye was now standing next to her and calmly caressing their sleeping daughter. “Come with me,” he said, “come with me. The men who created this system were thinking it would make them stronger, when really they are at their lowest point, they are so weak because they cannot imagine or live in a world without this system. They thought they were rejecting feminism by creating this system, but really they were bringing it unto themselves. The imbalance has spread to both men and women. Be rid of it and come with me.”
After a long while Taya shook her head, “No, Vrye… sorry,” she was looking down at their daughter, still sleeping quietly. “Take her, take Turo. Go soon, before its too late.”
Vrye snapped out of a daze, grabbed his daughter, and was gone.

Burning In The Night

The hum of the crickets was deafening to the point of being a comfort, taking away any anxieties that a prey might have in leaving a noise for their predator to detect them.

Roger shifted his grip on the blow torch, which was feeling less and less tame in his sweaty palms. He was in a mood of heightened anticipation, almost to the point of optimism.

“It’s funny how in the dark all our planning seems like it might actually work. I mean, this is stuff I usually just write about and throw out, but here we are just waiting for Bogues to get nestled into his spot down the road and give us the go ahead…. it almost GO TIME baby! Fina-fuckin-ley!”

“Yeah” replied Dave, too deep in his own thoughts to offer anything more tangible. He wasn’t the craziest about their small group’s grid down tactic, and thought they should just keep doing guerrilla gardening style acts and let the system implode on its own—why accept the risks of downing the grid when you could just be a bit buddhist about things and let it happen on its own? No, he was just along for the ride, albeit with some reluctance. He let his mind be preoccupied with his own peculiar interests: he wanted to test out his tree rotting theory on some obnoxious pines behind his parents’ house, and if he could do it with a silenced drill in the night—no one would ever know . Should he ask if such a tool existed, or should he just rig his own muffler on his DeWalt?

But now Dave was waking from his daydreams, and the reality that they were here in some hot summer brush plotting to bring down an interstate, long distance electricity tower was unnerving. Was he so shallow that he was doing this out of peer pressure? No, he believed that the unity of their group was important, and that it took such unified acts as these to make it concrete. He sighed, thinking to himself “you can choose your friends, but you can’t always choose their thoughts on stratagems.”

Meanwhile, Roger was suffering from time elasticity, and it seemed to him an awful long while that they were waiting in those bushes. He couldn’t take waiting any longer, so he barked out an order to Dave to go set up the tanks. He wanted them to be placed by the tower leg furthest down the slope, and didn’t care that Bogues hadn’t messaged with the go-ahead text yet. “What’s the big deal? We aren’t starting, we are just setting up.”

“Dude, just keep your voice down. I know we’re in the middle of nowhere but you never know what kind of weirdos… like us for example, are out doing a moonlit bush walk with their dog or somethin. I’ll go ahead though.” Dave then took the extra effort to drag the tanks through more brush to get down to that far leg. Roger had wished for him to just go under the structure, but Dave liked the concealment of the bushes. The rustling became too much for Roger to bare.

“Speaking of being quiet” Roger whispered loudly, “you’d be a lot quicker and quieter if you got out of there and just went underneath.

Dave shrugged and saw the logic in this, and thought to roll the tanks down the gentle slope, so he laid the oxygen down first and started to roll it in a straight line for its destination to the far leg of the tower. This too made Rogers nervous, but before he could say anything…

“CLANK!” Dave had misjudged the width of the opening between the adjacent leg and a supporting steel angle, and the tank turned perpendicular and came to a halt, leaving both of them standing there tense as freshly tuned piano strings. The crickets had seemed to defect on the side of silence, and Dave and Roger now felt intensely vulnerable and naked in those awful moments when it seemed the metal was still reverberating, just to spite them.

“God fucking damn it man.” Roger said angrily.

“Well maybe if we got normal sized tanks instead of these clunky large fuckers you could have walked over there by yourself with them on your back, and I could have been a second guard down the road instead of being here, already nervous enough to shit myself.” They had had this argument before, but Dave already knew Roger’s reply. Roger had said that buying more portable tanks might expose them to some economic activities surveillance type radar, whereas “borrowing” these industrial sized burn tanks from his uncle’s welding dock would be much less conspicuous.

“You know why these were the best option,” Roger said. “Besides, now that I see how thick these polls are, we might need more fuel than those little ones could’ve provided.” This was one of the many weak points in their plan: the length of time the burns might take; what sort of metallic alloy the towers made out of; what temperature would they burn at as opposed to just heating up and getting flexible and melty. Biggest of all: was collapsing this tower even going to take the grid down? It’s these very type of doubts that stay the vast majority of attempts towards revolution, and Roger, Dave, and Bogues knew it, which is why they had decided to roll the dice rather than live with regret. “We must try to do something while atmosphere still fills our lungs,” Roger had said in a poetic attempt. “This is for our grandchildren what our grandparents did not give to us.” Bogues had then pointed out that he hadn’t even been with a girl, so he needn’t be worrying about his own grandchildren.

It was Bogues they were now waiting for, to make sure that the noise had not been heard as far away as his location. Dave went for his phone to call Bogues but Roger pushed his hand down, fearing that Bogues may have forgotten to silence his ringer or might still be getting set up in his nest at the t-section a quarter mile away. Dave started to hope that maybe Bogues had heard his bang, and that they would have to abort this insane mission, when the text came from Bogues: What r u up to. This was the green light.

Roger nodded to Dave to call Bogues. “Nothing’s wrong. Well, maybe. Did you hear a noise before?” he said to his phone. “The tank banged against the tower.” He wiped sweat from his eyes, but you could only tell by the faint glow coming off his dimly lit phone. “Well, even though you didn’t hear it, do you think it was still too much of a risk?” The moon came out again from behind a cloud, and now the shadows from the trees were stretched longwise. Roger was leaning up against the acetylene tank, his left hand palming the cap and spinning it clockwise as he listened in on the conversation. “Alright, fine we’ll do it. See you in prison.” He ended the call and returned his phone to a pocket, and motioned to Roger to waddle over the other tank behind him.

Without any other incidences the tanks, tubing and torch were all connected and Roger had the striker held up in front of his goggles. “I guess just keep track of time and just make sure that the tarp doesn’t fall or blow into me while I’m cutting. I fucking hate irony when it happens to me.” He was referring to the black quilt Dave was holding, meant to muffle the light from the burn but at an obvious risk of accidentally catching fire and exposing them to the night. Dave nodded and tightened his grip, as Roger plucked the little flame out of the striker and began his work, his life’s work.