Man’s Best Friend, Zombie’s Worst Enemy Part 4

Stacy didn’t like Ethan, but she did like sushi, particularly when someone else paid for it. She also liked Tesla cars, and watching Ethan’s park itself in the spacious Romero City Mall parking deck was pretty cool. Bridges Sushi and Japanese Steakhouse was the sort of place where you could walk onto a wooden boat and reach down with a net into a “river” that was really more like a plastic-walled moat to catch your dinner.

In the first boat from the entrance was Julia Sano and her wolfhound Jack. Whenever Julia wasn’t writing pithy, content-free articles for The Star, she was doing something weird, like piercing her eyebrow or changing her legal name from Julia Sable to Julia Sano and pretending to be some bizarre caricature of a Japanese person.

Jack chewed on the remains of a huge T-bone steak under the table, his good eye fixed on his meal and his odd eye gazing vacantly out towards Stacy and Blas. Or was it the other way around? Julia used to change dogs to suit her mood until she settled on Jack a year ago, and he fit. A weird dog for a weird girl.

Julia herself wore a fluffy dragon kimono and took one gentile slice at a time from a rare steak that looked like it was as big as her plate. She grit her teeth and dropped her fork. Then she rotated her wrist a few times and went back to her meal. She was so involved in her food that she barely seemed to notice Stacy staring.

It took Stacy a moment to realize Ethan wasn’t with her. When she caught up with him, he was in a gondola surrounded by a single stream split in two. “The bento boxes here are really good.” Of course you go here all the time, Stacy rolled her eyes and looked in the party section. When a waiter arrived to take their orders, she asked for The Barge.

Ethan’s mouth quirked up when the waiter’s eyebrows rose. He put his menu down and nodded. He seemed so pleased that Stacy was forced to wonder if The Barge, a double-decker platter of six rolls, thirty-six nigiri rolls, and eighteen pieces of sashimi, was exactly what he wanted her to order for his master plot.

She wasn’t stupid, though. “You clearly can buy your own gadgets, Stowe. What do you really want from me?”

Ethan let out a long, heartfelt laugh and gestured broadly. “Isn’t this place great?”

Yes, of course it’s great. Stacy had done harder interviews than this. “I like Bridges, but we were talking about The Romero Star. What’s it going to take for you to leave the paper?”

“Mr. Gobi would kill you if he learned you convinced me to leave the paper.”

Stacy couldn’t help herself “so you’re leaving?”

“No. I care too much about your safety.”

“If you cared about my safety you wouldn’t pick fights with bears.”

Ethan laughed again, and it was hard to stay mad at someone who seemed to so enjoy her company, even if it made no sense. She tried a different tactic. “If you hurt yourself making the weather section they could shut the paper down. That would make me sad.”

“Oh don’t worry, I have no plans to hurt myself. Imagine, though, what if you had someone with my talents on your investigation team?”

“We don’t have an investigation team.”

“We should make an investigation team and put me on it. You can be on it, too!”

“Why don’t you just ask Mr. Gobi for your investigation team? He seems happy enough to roll over and let you pet his belly.”

Under the table, Blas looked up from his doggie steak to growl at Princess, who turned up her pretty nose and huffed. Ethan leaned forward and pretended to adjust glasses he didn’t have in an imitation of Mr. Gobi. “Stacy Torres, I’m surprised at you! I want to provide a journalism experience for my students, not start digging up scandals and get myself fired!” Now Stacy laughed. She was definitely playing into his hands. She got control of herself and glared at Ethan, but before she could come up with her next move the food came.

Ethan could only eat two meals’ worth of sushi, but Stacy was perpetually hungry for more than just recognition, and cleaned the rest of the broad, flat carved wooden platter. Smooth, sweet California rolls and spicy squid volcano rolls gave way to tangy salmon and tuna nigiri and finally strips of  eel and octopus that had just the right amount of chewiness. Stacy made a strategic decision to ignore Ethan’s pleasure at watching her own.

When the final roll was gone, Stacy looped around to the beginning. “Why are you messing with my paper?”

Ethan stared and burst into laughter.

“They call you the most difficult girl in school for a reason.”

Stacy’s eyes narrowed. “Sorry, I’m not into rich jerks. Get out of my paper.”

Ethan smiled “If I did that, you would forget I exist.”

“I can agree to that.”

“We could be such a great team. I know I joked before, but really you share more of my zombie-hunting skills than anyone I’ve met.”

Stacy remembered Gaston’s song in “Beauty and the Beast”

After all it’s only she / who is beautiful as me.

“I’m flattered. I’ll get an Uber.”

“Hey, have you heard of The Fonduelist? Best fondue in the state. They have a fantastic five-course meal meant for twelve people.”

“Get out of my paper.”

Blas growled as Stacy led him towards the exit. Julia Sano was still working on her colossal steak. This time, her eyes rose from the meat and met Stacy’s as she dabbed a white handkerchief at a drop of red dribbling towards her chin.

She lifted a finger and put three to her mouth with an apologetic look as she finished chewing. Then she spoke, tilting her head, a smile spreading across her lips. Her southern accent was sweet like molasses licked off a kitchen knife.

“Oh, koibito. Things didn’t go well with the Stowe boy? That’s just plain ol’ kanashii. That means sad.”

By Sam Munk

Science fiction and Fantasy author with a focus on philosophical inquiry and character-driven drama.

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