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Please Use Rear Exit

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

(( the master and margarita ))

“Just because you can hear what I’m thinking doesn’t mean you know what I want,” Mikhail said. “I don’t even know what I want, I’m just trying to survive a Friday night.” “If survival was truly the case than I’d be talking to you from the foot of your bed or maybe even one of the hospital routes. And yet, you’re thinking about sleep when the night ain’t over,” the cat said. Her eyes were a divisive green and he couldn’t tell where she was looking or even if her eyes were actually crossed. “Strike that. I wouldn’t be in your bedroom. I refuse to step foot on Compton’s Circle. The Brown BTWN makes me nauseous. The smell of that place is worse than a litter box.” This cat is so full of...“I don’t know a damn thing about Compton’s Circle either, I’ve only been there once and it was to visit a sick friend,” Mikhail said. The cat was wearing a vest and it was starting to creep him out. 492


“You don’t like my vest? Whatever, this shit is snazzy and the fit is right. I don’t trust your opinion anyway, you can’t even admit where you live. You think I have sympathy for you? I know everything, Mikhail. Let’s just get past that and move on.” “Well then, I’m sure you’re sick of being called the cat inside my head...what’s your name? You know mine.” The cat stood a hair above three feet tall. She walked on hind legs without a hunch in her back and carried herself like a woman sexually confident about XXL stretch pants. There was no paunch to the cat, she just gave that air, especially while exhaling a menthol cigarette without purring. 493


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“Roxanne Shanté, it’d be best if you called me by my full name,” Roxanne Shanté said. She tugged on her vest and then flicked her cigarette. “Mr. Sallow agrees with me, you know, that you should keep going. It matters to people if you do or don’t. Pastor Shakur is betting 3:1 odds that you won’t meet his challenge...as we speak. Shawn Carter is doing the Jay Face right this minute because he likes the odds so much.” “What’s it matter?” “Saffron was counting on you and you gave up like some kind of pussy. Now, you’re trying to pull the same shit again... thinking about how you just need to go home and forget all 494


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these troubles. Is it that much easier to avoid conflict than to just pull your boot straps up and face what’s in front of you?” “What’re you trying to say, Puss ‘N Boots? I fought off a goddamn squid tonight! What else can I do to stay standing?” Mikhail asked, obviously embittered. “You want me to walk forward too? It’s been a full night of that advice and I’m getting ready to be as lazy as I can. Let me lay in my bed and enjoy the battles I don’t have to fight. There are battles on my screen every night...I can pick Avon Barksdale’s or Hunter Thompson’s or Murakami’s, it doesn’t matter. It’s easier to watch than to do. “I’m starting to think that not giving a shit is actually helping me out here. The ordeals I’ve been through tonight—well, you know—I didn’t make any of them happen but I survived nonetheless. And I don’t even want to put that much effort into it anymore. Who has the energy to chase down girls and be charming when you’re busy getting drinks or running from club to club and always standing in line, the entire time?! I certainly don’t, but I’m supposed to find it twice over while finding the right combination of mythical hotties who can play nice and share me. Pastor 495


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Shakur has to be out of his damn mind about this. Is there even enough of me to be shared?” “There is hardly enough for me to care whether or not there is, but it’s still more than my interest in most of the bores on this bus.” Mikhail scanned The Smoke Thing for anyone he knew, but there was no easy way out from such a conversation. Roxanne Shanté said nothing and just stared at him. She didn’t even bob her head to Top Bananas’s “Waiting For My Time To Come,” which had just come over the speakers. It was the second time that Mikhail had heard the song that night. Roxanne Shanté’s cat ears must’ve picked it up, but like so much, it didn’t matter. “Well, if you don’t care about their stories then what’s your deal, Ms. Shanté?” “Mine is a breeze compared to yours, Mikhail. I know where people’s minds are at, so I get to pick the conversations that I want to avoid. And thus, my night was completely 496


by Brandon Perkins

uneventful. But yours was better than that with far more questions. For example, why did you fight the squid and not Robert Horry?” Then she paused and coyly added, “Do you get that yet?” “Get what?” Such a weird remark from such a suspicious character. He was exasperated with the sudden accumulation of random expectations, and drunkenly decided to take it out on Roxanne Shanté. “Am I crazy? What’s Saffron want with me? Why didn’t Tupac’s goons just beat the shit out of me and forget about it before smashing the next broad? This was supposed to be a night and that’s it...you can read my mind, why so many questions? I don’t know why I fought the squid and not Robert Horry, do you?” “How drunk do you feel right now?” “Enough.” “Enough then...just focus on what’s next. Forget about Robert Horry, I’m already bored by it and you’ll surely see Saffron again if you choose to. What are your options for 497


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So surrious.

what’s next? I’m ready to click to someone else’s page if you don’t grab my attention again.” “I’m sick of replaying my options,” Mikhail said, wearing all the truth in his shoulders that such sentiment could bear. “Why don’t you tell me?” “Somewhere you already know, otherwise I wouldn’t. And because of that nugget I just revealed, I’ll save you the details. The night has been long and now my energy is spent.” “You already spent nine whole lives?” “Other than my energy, your joke is the only thing spent,” Roxanne Shanté said. She straightened her whiskers like an ancient villain might frisk his mustache. “Say you’re a quarterback and you’ve already looked past the play’s top 498


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Srsly sad.

two options. There’s a blitz and things are getting hairy. You have three-quarters-of-a-second before getting sacked and three choices to ponder until that crushing reality: loft it out of bounds, drop to the ground like Chris Everett, or hope to squeeze in the perfect throw to your running back in the slot. The first option is probably text book and as long as you get it far enough out of bounds, you’ll be alright. Jim Rome is a smarmy bastard in that second clip, so you don’t wanna be like either of those d-bags. But you have to be wearing your Manning-face if you wanna be the hero and go for the final option. And I’m talking about the serious Manningface and not the sad Manning-face. There ain’t much room for error on the play and you have to wear your game mask 499


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so tight it becomes your own skin. Someone gets a fingertip on that ball over the middle and you could be looking at an easy pick-six, but there’s a lot of green around your running back. What do you do there, huh Mikhail?” “I think I just proved myself in the Brown BTWN with that major task...you know, staying alive and keeping Saffy and Jayson out of The Internet too.” “You’re just the offensive lineman if my metaphor rattles around your brain on that old business, we’re way past that, Mikhail. Horry was the MVP and pretty girls don’t date the left tackle. The Calamari Bowl is over now...you’ve already changed uniforms.” 500


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Mikhail was a little hurt with the overall accuracy of her analogy. He tried to think of a rebuttal but his mind kept going blank. And then he started worrying that Roxanne Shanté would see his thoughts as the static gray screen they were. The channel suddenly changed back to life... “Why are you helping me?” “There seems to be so much at stake with tonight’s outcome, and I like to use my talents in entertaining situations. I’ve seen every video on YouTube and there’s only so much kitty porn or cheezburger a cat can haz stomach. Take my uncle for instance, Behemoth—no, literally take him, LOL—he ran between the legs of Pontius 501


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Pilate and Jesus Christ during their whole ordeal. He once watched this famous poet get decapitated by a train, frightened into suicide by my uncle’s citizen colleague. Later that week, Behemoth emceed a circus-style artinstallation which ended with rich housewives horrified in the streets, confused in their underwear. This was back when there actually was an outside, so you better believe it was cold. He was doing things that actually mattered, not just playing with string in an adorable matter.” “That’s quite a life.” “That isn’t even the whole shebang. He’s the one who got cats to be The Internet’s official animal. It’s all gotten so twisted since his retirement, so many cats doing the same tricks. Alas, that’s another story for another day.” Like a slow-motion coin-flip, an unlit cigarette flicked from her paw to behind Mikhail’s ear on a graceful arc of somersaults. There was nothing else hiding under Roxanne Shanté’s vest-length sleeves until a cell phone started humming an Aloe Blacc acapella. “Right now, think about the time it takes to make plans. Go ask more advice, or don’t. Maybe you should look up or maybe down, find J Hova or the first bus home...because 502


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one will be there before there’s enough time to drunkenly find your lighter for that come-on-bus cigarette that you think speeds up life. That bus will always come. A lot of people are rooting for you, Mikhail, but all the pull in the interwebs won’t make up for pussy-footing around.” Roxanne Shanté covered one of her calico ears and finally answered the phone call that hadn’t quit ring-toning since its first hum. It too appeared out of nowhere and then she disappeared into thin air, answering the call of a bus that finally came.


Please Use Rear Exit

“Bottom line, Mikhail, score that touchdown,” Roxanne Shanté said, with only her voice as evidence of an existence. Mikhail wondered if CGI was visible to her in this invisible state. “And while you’re moving down the field, steal all of the emperor’s clothes. Come to think of it, it might be a positive that you still think survival and a notch on your bedpost are the only things in play right now, but even more likely, some further analysis of the game tape could be the extra help you need. If only you had time for that tonight. You might not get that you do or what the haute couture fashions of the wealthy have to do with it all, but one day you will. Just go after the goal line tonight.” And with a loud bang, Roxanne Shanté’s voice disappeared just as her body had seconds prior. The exit was both impressive and startling, even for a clever cat like her. It jostled Mikhail out of a trance. He made sure his last cigarette of the evening was firmly tucked behind his ear before walking off towards Something. He’d have to confront Pastor Shakur sooner or later and if anyone would know where the B-I-T-C-H’s were at, it’d be the Pastor.

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Ch. 32 : The Master & Margarita  

Mikhail continues his conversation with Roxanne Shante and finds new insight to his predicament.

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