Story 12

Posted: November 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

Got this done earlier than usual. So this time around, there’s one with Trav at work. Takes place prior to Visions.

Bet

Today threatened to be another slow day at the comic shop. Sundays were traditionally slower for the shop, which made the fact that Sloane insisted on the whole staff being there seem mildly insane.

They’d been told something about making sure the place looked good for Monday…despite the fact that the busiest day of the week was generally Wednesday, when the new books came in. Ah, well. It at least gave them some time to hang out.

At the moment, Travis was leaning against the wall, standing next to Hal. The latter was a recent hire, and was flipping through the channels of the flat screen TV mounted on the wall. Of course, this TV didn’t have a decent cable hookup. It only picked up network stations. Which meant that finding something that wasn’t an infomercial, the news, or a televangelist was going to be difficult indeed.

“Could we just throw in a DVD or something?” asked another of Travis’ coworkers.

“Anything in mind, Bruce?” Hal asked.

Bruce ran his hands through his dark hair in thought. “I don’t know exactly what we want to go with…but I know that if I hear this car dealership ad one more time, I’m probably gonna snap.”

Travis held back a laugh. He had seen Bruce angry before. And he wasn’t exactly what one would call intimidating. He was slim and would stumble over insults. His mother had raised him to stay the hell out of trouble.

“Well, I dunno…that one car looks pretty sweet…” another of the staff.

This time, it was Peter. He was staying away from the window, though. His natural albinism and the sun did not quite agree. He was Bruce’s stepbrother, and most of the time, they avoided conflict. This time, however…

“Peter, I swear, I’m gonna be hearing that same pitch over and over in my sleep tonight. Remember last time that kind of thing happened?”

Peter chuckled. “How could I forget? You were having those night terrors about a tax agency mascot…”

“Hey! Those eyebrows kept moving in ways they shouldn’t, and the little bastard never blinked!”

“Yeah, that is kinda out of the Uncanny Valley,” Travis put in with a shiver. “It’s like he’s staring through your fucking soul…”

Hal stared at him. “D-didn’t Sloane say not to use that kind of language?” he asked, tone nervous as could be.

Travis shrugged. “Eh, it’s Sunday and she’s not here. I’m sure she won’t mind. Hey, did Leo ever show up yet?”

Another entered, this time from the back room.

“Nope,” scoffed Tony, as he adjusted his shirt. “Maybe he decided to bail?”

“I don’t think he’d bail, Tone. Leo’s been known to play things loose from time to time, but he’d call in,” Trav replied.

As if on cue, the door swung open, bell chiming. Welp, there was Leo. His hair was even more of a mess than usual, and he looked like he hadn’t slept in a while.

Hal was the first to walk over to him. “What happened to you?” he asked.

“Been petsitting for this one family,” the newcomer replied, setting down his duffle bag. “I know, Sloane said to get in on time, but I had to wait for the dog’s owner to get home.”

The guys exchanged glances, before Travis asked the question on his mind.

“What kind of dog?”

Yes, of all questions, that was his main one.

Leo chuckled. “Big-ass St. Bernard. They named him ‘Tiny’…that’s like calling ME ‘Tiny’, y’know?”

“It at least go well?” Bruce asked, arms crossed as he leaned against the wall.

“Yeah. Wondering why it is the bigger dogs tend to think they’re lapdogs, though. And then there was the food… I don’t know what’s in that stuff, but it smells awful. Don’t tell the owners, but I shared some of my steak sandwich with Tiny last night.”

“How bad did this stuff smell?” Travis asked, head tilted to the side.

Leo looked around.

“See for yourself,” he said, pulling out the can.

He’d put a plastic lid on the already opened can. On the can was a date. This stuff had expired a week ago. And once he lifted the lid, it was like he had opened the Pandora’s Box of food. There was an industrial bent to it, first and foremost. None knew exactly what was used to make this dog food, but there was no way it was real meat. Well, okay, maybe there was a real liver. And there seemed to be some fish in it, either extract or byproduct. Either way, it had a certain fishy smell. Not to mention that it just smelled “old” overall.

“Damn…is that the cheap stuff?” Peter asked.

“Somehow, no,” Leo replied. “It’s one of the premium ones.”

“Yeah, premium for a dollar store,” Tony scoffed.

“I wonder how any dog could even eat this crap…and I’m sure as hell not trying it for myself. You guys?”

Leo held out the can. Tony glared at him. Bruce backed up. Peter held his two index fingers in front of him like a cross. Hal merely shivered at the thought. And Travis…

For whatever reason, he seemed to be considering it.

“Y’know…that stuff looks and smells nasty as hell. But my mom’s one of those that likes to encourage scientific curiosity.”

A silence washed over the room.

“Really, Travis…” Leo began, smirking slightly. “Then what would you say to a little wager?”

This piqued the half-monkey’s interest. “What kind of wager?”

“If you can eat this whole can without throwing up, you’ll win money. If not, you have to tell me just how awesome I am. In Klingon.”

Travis shivered at how high those stakes were. There was no way in hell he knew how to speak Klingon. At best, he’d have to ask Spencer (or Spencer’s dad) for help in that department. He thought about the bet, tapping his finger on his chin.

“How much money?”

Leo held up a $20 bill. “Anyone else wanna chip in?”

Tony brought out another 20. Bruce did the same. Peter had pulled out his wallet and was rummaging through it.

“This idea is as nasty as they get…I’ll give you fifty bucks if you do it.”

Hal stepped back.

“My mom always told me not to make bets…said that gambling is the worst thing anyone could do.”

“Really?” Travis asked.

He could think of at least ten things that were worse.

“Well, yeah…”

“How is it the worst?” Tony asked.

Hal shrugged, not sure how to answer that one. It probably didn’t help that his mother had kept a stranglehold of his life during childhood. He was so repressed for most of it that it wasn’t even funny.

“Okay, so Hal’s not getting involved,” said Leo. “But we ready to do this?”

“Hell yeah,” Travis said, stretching a bit. “Bring it on!”

The can was set down in front of him, the putrid fumes assaulting his nostrils. A normal man might have hurled right then and there. A sane man would have backed out, period.

But Travis stood up.

“I’m just gonna go grab something from the back room. Need something to eat this with, y’know?”

“Yeah, I get it,” said Leo. “Hal, since you’re not betting, could you go back there with Trav?”

Travis chuckled. “What…worried I’ll get lost on the way back there again? Because I keep telling you guys, it was dark and I was half asleep.”

“Just wanna make sure you don’t back out on the bet.”

“Fair enough.”

Travis started walking toward the back room, Hal walking with him. His tail swayed behind him as they got there.

In one corner was a collection of napkins, straws, and plastic utensils. Digging around in the box of utensils, Travis pulled out a spork. Good enough. He grabbed that and a napkin or two, ready to head back out there and fulfill his part of the bet.

As they headed back to the main room, they paused. Someone had seen fit to start playing some music. Was that the theme from Batman: The Animated Series blaring?

Yeesh. Today really WAS a slow one, wasn’t it?

Travis sat down at the counter, taking a couple of breaths to psych himself up. The guys had all crowded around to watch. He could hear them begin cheering him on. He put the spork into the can, starting to scoop it out.

“…What. The hell…are you guys doing?” asked a female voice from the doorway.

Collectively, they could have sworn they’d heard a record scratch just then.

Sloane.

“Hey, boss…” said Travis. “So…um, uh…Leo, you wanna explain this one?”

They looked to their boss. She looked back, eyebrow arched.

“Well, Leo? I’m waiting…”

Leo bit his lip. “Sure, I could explain it…but not as well as Bruce!”

Bruce muttered a threat under his breath.

“Nah, I suck at explanations…Peter?”

“Hey, don’t pawn this one off on me. Hal, you got this?”

“I don’t think I could really do this,” said Hal, before all eyes landed on Tony.

“Fine, fine, I’ll tell her,” he said. “These idiots had a bet going about dog food.”

Leo cleared his throat. “Hey, dude. You chipped in $20. You’re just as guilty as the rest of us.”

Hal shrugged. “I didn’t pitch in anything. I’m innocent.”

“Guilty by association, Hal,” Peter told him. “Guilty. By. Association.”

Sloane sighed, pushing up her glasses and rubbing the bridge of her nose.

“Just what are the parameters of this bet…”

Leo rubbed the back of his neck. “I bet Travis that if he could eat the dog food, he’d get the jackpot. And if he loses, he has to make a statement in Klingon about how awesome I am.”

Sloane blinked. And then reached into her pocket and pulled out a small wallet.

“What’s the going rate, here? I want in.”

“Twenty bucks.”

She handed over a twenty, joining the group.

Okay, so now their boss was in on this whole thing. As the group began chanting his name, he dug the spork back in and grabbed a bite. He opened up, taking the sporkful of dog food into his mouth.

Upon swallowing it, he looked at the others.

“So…how bad is it?” Peter asked.

“Know how it smells like demonic crotch?”

“Yeah…”

“For all that, it really has no taste at all.”

They all stared, dumbfounded.

“…For real?” Leo asked him.

“Yeah, really. So…do I win?”

Sloane shook her head. “Not yet. You need to eat the whole can.”

All of it?

Well, damn…

Ah, well. He shrugged and went to town on the rest of that can. He paused a few times to retch, but didn’t throw up, somehow.

He eventually finished the can. Sometime after he completed the task, they got a few customers. But that was really about it for the time being.

The day ultimately ended up being very slow. But one thing went well…

Travis went home $130 or so richer. And his coworkers learned that Travis’s stomach was an entity to be both feared and respected.

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