“I can’t, man—there’s a reason they call it live feed. Because it’s live.”
“I don’t even know why I keep you around,” I said, turning in disgust. Technically, he’s the one that keeps me around, but we aren’t really into technical shit around here.
“You keep him around because it’s his house,” Mandy said from the speaker.
“Hey, that’s right,” Arnie said. “It is my house.”
“I don’t mean why do I keep you around your house, man—I mean, I don’t know why I keep you around as a sidekick.”
“Because he’s the one with the money,” Mandy piped up again. “Without him paying to get the Portmobile fixed, you’d be walking around the city, trying to avoid crime.”
“You can shut up any time,” I told the TV screen that counts as Mandy.
It was ten in the morning, I was awake, and I was trying to get Arnie to fix it so that we could control the live internet feed of the Portmobile.
It had been almost three weeks since the incident with the burning neighborhood, and we were just about to go get the Portmobile out of the shop. Tonight was my first night back out as Portly Boy.
It had been a good few weeks, full of booze and sloth and happiness. Or, if not happiness, something that seemed very much like it, due to all the booze.
Arnie’s lawyer had talked to a judge and fixed it so that we got a few weeks to recuperate after saving the lives of so many voters. It had been a great time—like the summer vacation of one of those kids you always see on after-school specials, you know? The summer vacations they have before they start selling themselves in back alleys and get the horrible STD, I mean. Full of drunken shenanigans and hilarity.
We had even gone out on the town a few times, and you know what? Nobody tried to kill us! Yep, that’s how magical of a time it was.
But fun time was over now, and we were about to leave to go get the Portmobile. I was trying to get Arnie to revamp it before we went out for the night, but he was being a total chode about it.
“Look, man,” I told him, “It’s still live…practically. I mean, who’s gonna know, right? Besides, radio stations and TV stations do it all the time. Like that seven-second delay thing or whatever? It’ll be like that.”
“Howie, a seven-second delay is one thing. You’re asking me to not only delay our feed for approximately twenty-four hours, but also allow you to edit it. Our viewers pay for second-by-second action!”
“Oh get real, man. We barely even have day-by-day action. I mean, usually what they end up seeing is me sitting there eating a sandwich and you getting blitzed out of your gourd.”
“Apparently that’s what our viewers really love.”
“Bullshit. They love watching me look like a total horse’s ass.”
“Which is exactly what you would be taking away from them if you were allowed to view the live-feed,” Mandy said.
“Didn’t I tell you to shut up?” I asked her.
“Nope. You gave me the option of shutting up—not the same thing.”
“Okay, then consider this an order: shut…up.”
“You’re not the boss of me.”
“Real mature, Mandy.”
“Why do you want to edit the live feed anyways?” Arnie asked.
“‘Cause he’s trying to impress that little chick that he saved in Astoria the other day,” Mandy said. “And if you guys have another live show like you did that day, he’s just going to look like an ass.”
“Hey,” I yelled at the screen. “I saved those people.”
“You let one fat lady drop, you let another fat lady crash into the Portmobile, and the guys pretty much saved themselves.”
“Well, I saved the one person who matters.”
“Ahhh,” Arnie said, “Thanks, buddy!”
“I was talking about the girl,” I told him, stepping away to avoid the hug he was trying to give me.
“See?” Mandy said. “I told you it was about the girl.”
“And what’s wrong with that? At least she’s not one of the bad guys!”
“What the hell does that mean?” Mandy asked. She was still pretty touchy about the fact that she wound up getting down and dirty with Captain Pizza guy. Lucky for me, Arnie had also spent a considerable amount of time sleeping with the enemy.
“Don’t get your panties twisted,” I told her. “I was referring to Arnie. But good to know that you still feel bad about-”
“Finish that sentence, and I hack into the G’s computer systems and turn you into a child sex offender.”
I’ve always heard that real hackers are nothing like the hackers you see in movies. I’ve heard that the shit they do in movies, that stuff is impossible. I’ve heard that real hackers spend almost as much time on the phone as they do in front of their computers. They call and trick people out of passwords, or get certain phone numbers for modems or whatever. Mandy isn’t one of those kinds of hackers, I don’t think. She’s the kind you see in movies, where they’re all talking about how they just need another second, and sure enough, you’re suddenly looking at all sorts of confidential files that you have no business looking at. Impossible or not, I’ve seen her do some crazy shit crazy fast, and I doubt it’s because she spends a lot of time on the phone.
I wasn’t sure if she had the “skillz” to bust into a government database and register me as a convicted pedophile, but I didn’t particularly want to find out, so I let the sentence die.
“If I’m trying to get a little action, what’s the harm in that?”
“The harm,” Arnie said, “Is that you’re asking me to slight our fans. They pay for live feed, they expect it to be live.”
“Since when did you get all moral? When we first started this gig, didn’t you trick people into paying for the live feed by promising something like, ‘hot young web-cam sluts, dripping wet?’”
“Technically, none of that was a lie. We’re pretty hot, temperature-wise—look at the perma-pit stains on all your t-shirts—and we’re still relatively young. Mandy calls me a slut all the time, and I’m constantly spilling my drink, which constitutes the ‘dripping wet’ part of the equation. So see? Honesty.”
“You know what? Fine. Fine. But next time you’re stuck up on top of a burning building, and you’re wondering where the hell I’m at, I hope you remember this moment. And then I hope you realize that I’m probably just hiding around the corner, out of range of the live-feed camera.”
“Don’t be that way.”
“Don’t tell me how to be.”
“Besides, if you were so into this chick, you should have asked her out already,” Arnie said. “I mean, come on, man—we just had a ton of time off. Why didn’t you ask her out then?”
“I didn’t feel that the timing was right.”
“He was scared!” Mandy laughed. “‘Ooh, look at me: I’m Portly Boy, and I’m scared of asking girls out!’ Dude, seriously, how can you be such a wimp?”
“You know what, Mandy? Piss off, that’s what. Just because I don’t run around tagging everything that buys me a drink doesn’t mean I’m scared.”
“What are you implying?”
“One thing I’m for sure not implying is that you’re a pathetic, easy loser who is so desperate for love and afraid of being alone that you’ll spread for anyone with a nice smile and a basement apartment in his mom’s house.”
Arnie laughed. “Howie, I don’t think that she thought you were implying that. I mean, damn, man—that was really out of left field.”
“I don’t know what your problem is,” Mandy said, “But I’m getting kind of tired of this shit.”
“And then what happens? Heaven forbid you get mad and go away, as you’ve been such a valuable asset lately.”
“You make it sound like a bad thing that I have better things to do than hang out online and watch a couple of dorks make asses of themselves.”
“No, Mandy, it’s not a bad thing. I mean, shit—it’s not like you’ve been part of this team lately, anyways. Every time there’s trouble, you’re gone. You’ve been impossible to reach for the past few weeks.”
“I told y-”
“Yeah, you told us—you’ve been real busy. You know what I think, though? I think we’re just entertainment for you. I mean, sure that’s what you’ve told us from the very beginning, but I started believing you were actually a friend, you know?”
“Oh, cut the shit, Howie—I am your friend.”
“Then either start acting like it or piss off,” I said. “Let’s go, Arnie.”
“Geez, man, you were really going off on Mandy. I haven’t heard you get that emotional about anything since that time I ate your last Hot Pocket.”
The place that was working on the Portmobile was just down the street, and since it would be almost as hard to find a cab, we decided to just walk.
“Yeah, well sometimes she just pisses me off. Besides, we’re probably going to end up needing her help now that we’re going back to this Portly Boy/Drunkard shit. I figure guilting her back into hanging out with us is just as good as anything to get her to come help us.”
“But weren’t you just basically calling her a slut? That’s no way to enlist help from a friend.”
“Arnie, she isn’t a friend. She’s an asset.”
“Oh, don’t act so surprised. We use her for her brain, she uses us to make her laugh.”
“So you meant all that, about how it feels like we aren’t friends, but just entertainment?”
“Man, we’ve never been her friends. She comes around to laugh at us, and because she has nothing better to do. The second she has something better to do, she does it.”
“You can’t honestly think that.” I stopped walking and looked at him.
“Why wouldn’t I think that?”
“Because Mandy’s our friend,” he said.
Arnie’s an optimist. No matter what happens, he always sees the best in people. Trying to explain to him how the world really works is like trying to explain trigonometry to a retarded puppy.
I thought about trying anyway, just to break his little heart, but it was stupid hot outside, and I didn’t want to show up at the garage with a crying drunk by my side.
“We’ll see, buddy,” I told him. “Now let’s get our ride back, huh?”