“Okay?” I ask, trying to be sympathetic. I mean, Rob might be a jerk, but his wife, Mercedes, is actually pretty awesome. Sometimes when Rob's asleep and she doesn't think she'll get caught, she gets online and joins my raid group. That girl can take on a red dragon zombie boss like nobody's business—impressive, even if it's all part of a computer game.
“They were in an accident,” he says, sounding tired and worn-out. Rob works as an insurance salesman, so I can totally see that. If I worked as an insurance salesman, I'd only be at the job long enough to buy a gun and a single bullet.
“Oh, shit, are they alright?” I ask, pausing in the kitchen. It's a disaster of takeout and pizza boxes, and it smells like my cat's litter box. Well, technically, he's not my cat. One of my girlfriends left him here when she moved out, and I kind of like the little bastard. I spy the cat crouched on my stove, completely hairless, a hideous feline monstrosity, and flip it off. Hubert hisses at me and flicks his tail, glaring at me with creepy white-green eyes. The effect is somewhat lessened since he's wearing a black sweater. Hey, this is Vegas and it gets hotter than hairy balls in a pair of briefs. I keep the air conditioner cranked, and Hubert being a hairless cat and all, he gets the chills.
Guess I really am a nerd.
“They're alive, if that's what you're really asking,” Rob says, just before a piercing screech crashes through the phone and I jerk it away from my ear like I've been slapped. Either that's a banshee coming to take my soul to the underworld, or it's Rob's daughter, Kinzie. Yes, Kinzie. Weird name. I know, that's what I thought, too.
I am so fucking glad I don't have children.
I work very, very hard to make sure my dick is sheathed at all times. And I always use my own condoms, just to make sure they're fresh and free of holes. Honestly, if I had to choose between having kids and throwing myself off of a bridge, I'd have to think for a while to give you an answer.
“Well, that's good, right?” I ask, shooing the cat off the stove and sliding an old pizza box forward. The slices inside are stiff and tough, like chewy cardboard covered in melted plastic. I shove the end of one in my mouth anyway and turn around, leaning back against the counter. “So what do you need me for?” I ask around a mouthful.
“You know her parents live in South Africa, right?”
“And that's halfway around the world.”
“Zayden, they're in critical condition. There's a good chance neither of them will make it through the week.” I flinch and swallow my bite.
“Man, I'm so sorry to hear that. Give Mercedes my love and tell her I'm praying for them.”
“Why don't you tell her yourself?” Rob asks cryptically as I snap my fingers at Hubert who's desperately trying to untangle himself from his sweater.
“Put her on, I guess,” I say, wrinkling my brow and finishing up my pizza slice. I scratch my belly with tattooed fingers and wait.
“Zayden, Mercedes and I are flying to Joburg to see them. Tomorrow.”
Joburg. Johannesburg. The city that's home to the tallest building in Africa. That much, at least, I know. Everything else here is a mystery to me. I grab a second slice of pizza and then toss it aside. That one has mold on it. Third one looks fine though.
“What the fuck are you getting at? You know I suck at word games, Rob.”
“Zayden, I'm asking you to drive up here. You know, to take care of the kids for me.”
“Um, no?” I say, barely managing to keep from dropping my pizza to the floor. Take care of Rob's kids? I've met them once. Once. And they were little demons from hell—screeching, wailing, squalling monsters. Oh, and that's not to mention the brand-new freaking baby they just had like last year or whatever. A seven year old girl, four year old twins (who may or may not be human based on their behavior), and an infant.
Oh fuck the fuck out of that.
“Why doesn't Mercedes go, and you can stay with the kids?”
“My wife's parents are on their death beds, Zayden, and all you can think about is yourself? Do you think I'd have called if I had anyone else?”
“That really inspires confidence, bro. Why would you even trust me with watching your kids anyway? I killed two goldfish last week. On accident.” I don't mention the fact that it was actually Hubert who murdered Teensy and Woo-woo, two more pets left over from a past girlfriend.
“I work a shit job. I have no money, no family in this world other than you. Mercedes has nobody left other than her parents. Zayden, please. Don't send my wife alone to watch her parents die.”
I stand up straight and pad across the cold slate tile floor to the fridge to grab a soda. My brother's using the sympathy card on me right now, and it's working. I might be kind of a douche sometimes, but I'm really a nice guy underneath. I think? I mean, I try to be anyway.