27. Says Who? Squiggle Man?

“Sit or lean?” Brimsnod asked. She gave the rock a kick with her high heel.

“This part of the program? See how I choose?”

“This is just trying to get comfortable.”

“I’m a leaning kind of guy.”

“You go back topside, you can get clean clothes. Not like there’s an underworld wardrobe department.”

“You’d rather sit?”

“If you don’t mind.”

We arranged ourselves on the rock. Our feet dangled.

“Rocks feel harder in the underworld,” I said.

“Maybe you noticed? Beauty and comfort. Not what this place is about.”

Brimsnod reached into her suit and pulled folded papers from the breast pocket.

“You ever take aptitude tests?” she asked.

“Hasn’t come up. I’m busy, but I don’t exactly work.”


“It’s been a while.”

“Trust fund?”

“Inheritance. Uncle had a farm in Eden Prairie. Sold it.”

“Never been out there hustling?”

“Hustle has not been a major part of my life.”

“Never too late,” Brimsnod said. She set a hand on my forearm. 

I groaned.

“It’s not that bad.”

“That’s where Pimlipper stabbed me.”

“Let’s just get going here,” Brimsnod said. Dead and still she was a hard charger.

“Abstract thinking. Take a look at this. You’ve got your shapes. Sequences. Your job: figure out the next shape in the sequence. Eight minutes. Here’s a pencil. Go.”

“The light here is terrible.”

“You’re wasting time.”

Circles. Squares. Triangles. Probably arranged in some way. Some way that would be evident to the type of nerd who thought it would be a good idea to arrange squiggles on a piece of paper, create far-fetched rules, test others and then insist that the results were something other than a reflection of a mind similar to that of the Nerd-in-Chief.

“You’re done,” Brimsnod declared.

“Maybe I should review.”

“It’s not that kind of deal.”

She glanced at the sheet. “Two out of eight. Not much of an abstract thinker, are you?”

“Says who? Squiggle Man?”

“Are you always argumentative? Doubting of authority? This is the Plotsmear Test. Raymond Plotsmear. Luminary in the field. Let’s move on to verbal.”

“Let’s not. Why don’t we try talking? You ask me some questions, I give you some answers, we discuss.”

“You read the contract you signed?”

“Of course not. We’re two people sitting on a rock in a dustbowl. Why don’t we act like human beings?”

“Technically? There’s a problem with that.”


“Okay, you want to talk, talk. Tell me. Life. What do you want to get out of it?”

Tomorrow: Bang, bang, bang, bang

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