Short Story: The Deal by Dean Blake
I met Bernard or Bertrand or whatever his name was at a café in the Valley, the one near the juice shop – you know, that juice shop we always used to go to, with all the green wheatgrass shakes and shit… remember? Besides it was that dark car park full of BMWs and the fat security guard? You don’t remember at all, do you? Anyway, the point is I met him at a café, and it was at the Valley, and it was August, and it was one week after your birthday.
He sat down. He had a beard, which he totally shouldn’t have had, and he was grinning like a madman, which he totally shouldn’t have been doing.
“Have you ordered yet?” he asked me.
“Of course not.”
He leant back, crossed his legs, still grinning. He was wearing a large V-neck shirt and one of those try hard surfer necklaces. I didn’t like him, but there was nothing I could do about it. “Isn’t this the perfect scene for smoking?”
“What do you mean?”
“Like if this were in a movie back in the nineties or whatever, we’d totally be smoking right now. Like, you’d be killing your cigarette on an ashtray, and I’d be leaning back and smoking and telling you something vital about the story, you know? Like maybe about some guy we just killed, or a lover you should be trying to win over again.”
“You’re weird,” I concluded.
He picked up the menu, squinted at everything that was on it. “Then what does that make you?”
“I’m a normal person.”
“You’re a student. You go to uni,” he said.
“What’s wrong with going to uni?”
He shrugged. “What are we eating?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“You’re hungry,” he said.
“I’m not hungry.”
“I’m getting this.” He pointed at the menu. “Looks good. Has eggs, salmon, toast. Heaps.”
The waitress came, and he ordered the food and I ordered a tea. There was music playing in the background, and I remember thinking that I should write down the lyrics so that I could look up the song later. I never ended up writing down the lyrics.
“Why didn’t you get breakfast?” he asked me.
“I already told you I’m not hungry.”
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” he said.
“I don’t care much for breakfast.”
“But now you’re going to just watch me eat.”
“I think I saw you at Matt’s last night,” he said.
“Yeah, I was there. Where did you park just then?” I asked him.
“Just over there,” he said, without pointing at anything.
I didn’t want to ask him where “Just over there” was, so I didn’t. “Anyway, I won’t waste any more time.” I picked up my purse from a nearby chair and placed it on my lap. I rummaged through it to find my diary. I placed my diary on the table, opened it, pulled out an envelope. I carefully opened the envelope and, as delicately as possible with my thumb and index finger holding its edges, pulled out the photo, revealed it to him, then put it back in the envelope. I resealed the envelope, placed it back into my diary. I placed my diary back into my purse.
“So it’s true,” he said, his eyes now a lot wider. “You’ve found one.”
“You’ve really… eaten one before?” I asked him.
He leant back, smiled. “I have.”
“So you really know how to catch it?”
I looked at him, stared at him. “What does it taste like?”
He closed his eyes and smiled. His face completely relaxed, and all of a sudden, the entire world became quiet. “It’s, it’s just…” he trailed off for a while; a few tears streamed down his eyes. “It changed me. It made me, me. I was taken, and I was placed.” He opened his eyes again, and his right hand was trembling. He noticed me staring at it, so he hid it under our table. “Do you get it? Do you understand? You probably don’t. Not yet, until you try some for yourself.”
My heart was racing, but he couldn’t see that. “If you can catch it, you can have most of it. I just want one piece, the size of a brain.”
“Do you want the actual brain?”
“Any piece, as long as it’s the size of a human brain.” I glanced around the café. “I just want a decent meal… with enough for leftovers.”
“Your friend,” he said out of the blue.
“You know which friend,” he said.
“What about her?”
“She gave me the brief.”
“I have a team,” he said. “It’ll be easy.”
The food and my tea arrived, and I watched him eat in silence. His beard was long, orange, wild; it wasn’t maintained at all. Thank goodness he didn’t have a smell. After he finished his eggs, I asked: “And I don’t have to pay you?”
He smiled. “You don’t have to pay me. Money is nothing.”
“It’s paying for your breakfast.”
He chuckled. “I guess so.”
“How many guys in your team?”
I leant backwards, doing a few mental calculations. “You need fourteen guys?”
“You have to be careful.”
“Do they all get to eat some?”
He started slicing his salmon. “Not all.”
“It’s highly guarded, and deep. Very deep. But you’ve seen the plans already. Are they trained?”
He wiped his mouth with a napkin. “Very trained.”
“How many years?”
He looked curious, or irritated, or a bit both. “Does all this information… does it, like, matter to you?”
“I guess not.”
He kept smiling. “What matters is that we’re both going to make history.”
“I just want it all to run smoothly.”
Of course, we were talking about the Baby Silver Ocean Lion. A lot of people believe that the Baby Silver Ocean Lion is a myth. Only a small percentage of people, people like me and you, believe that it’s real. The original Baby Silver Ocean Lion came from space, from beyond the stars, from beyond the suns. It was formed from vapour, from spirits, from depression and hope and substances you can’t even dream of. For a while, we all thought that there were only two Baby Silver Ocean Lions in the world. The first one was found by my father. He found the Baby Silver Ocean Lion in a forest, nesting against the tree. It took him three months to wear it down, and when he did, he beat it to death with his own hands, with his own fists, and, despite its cries for mercy, he tore its skull away from its soft body before eating the fat of its head, raw. The meat of the Baby Silver Ocean Lion changed him, it moved him, it helped him abandon the confines of our own limited beliefs, our own cumbersome fears. The first thing he saw were red lights, then pink lights, then beams, then himself. I would grow up witnessing my mother’s grief and his bliss. I would grow up hearing his laughter in his room, I would grow up coming home from school and him smiling and embracing me and telling me not to fear. We were all born happy, and I’ve told you this, but because of Evil that happiness is taken away, and we’re only given drips of it, tiny tiny drips to crave and long for; with the Baby Silver Ocean Lion, this Evil will no longer be a burden. My father died beyond happy. Anyway you know all of this, so why are we talking about it?
Bernard nudged his plate towards me. “Are you sure you don’t want any of this? It’s really good.”
“I’m not hungry.” I faked a smile.
I watched him finish his meal, suddenly feeling incredibly desperate for what was to come. We talked a little bit more about parties and people we both knew and about something on the news and a whole lot of things that I actually didn’t care much about. I wished him good luck and paid our bill and drove home, called my mother, told her that I was going to have some Baby Silver Ocean Lion and that I was going to give her some. We both cried on the phone, and after I hung up I walked towards my bedroom door to make sure it was locked, and as I walked I absorbed everything: the creaks of my footsteps, the traffic outside, floating lint, my mind, you, your teeth.