Hello Internet! I want to apologize for the lack of updates last week, Bru Baker and I finished our first co-written novel Some Assembly Required and I was so zonked I decided to give myself a week off blogging. I think that might become the norm from now on.
Anyway! It’s game on! Since Monday’s posts seem to be a mix of Monday Spark flash fiction and Sneak Peeks, I hope you guys are cool with it. Today’s offering is another sneak at Some Assembly Required. It’s the afterlife meet-cute in IKEA purgatory you never knew you needed.
Some Assembly Required by Bru Baker and Lex Chase
Coming from Dreamspinner Press February 2016
There was something peculiar about Benji. He definitely was a cute one. Sandy mop of hair, fresh faced, and dark eyes like he waltzed out of a Disney movie. His shirt was a bit loose on him, but the way that his skinny jeans were one size too small might have contributed just a sliver of a percentage to the cute.
But it wasn’t that. And Patrick wouldn’t admit it under penalty of death as if that mattered anyway. Benji made his time in IKEA seem easy and more tolerable. Maybe Agnes had been right. All Patrick had to do was to try on being a Guide for a new visitor for a while and see how that fit him.
That curious sensation of camaraderie was fascinating. Now the literal sparks between them when Patrick made the slightest touch, that was the intriguing stuff. One could get high, horny, or both on that business if they abused it. The temptation was there, but when Patrick acknowledged it, the self-disappointment kicked in. He’d have to wait it out for Benji’s energy to taper off before Patrick decided to give it up and go for it.
“Hey,” Benji said as they meandered through the herd of shoppers. “Hey!”
Patrick blinked, his throat clenching. He covered for it by stretching out his hands and cracking his knuckles. “Yo, whattap?”
Benji smiled. “I asked about you.”
The shoppers sidestepped around them, permitting them to pass like fish through water.
“How did you get here?” Benji asked.
“Same as you,” Patrick said as he scanned the crowd. The howler monkey of a spirit was nearby. Sooner he got him out of the damned store he could think without his head pounding. Even Tommy refused to go into the entertainment showroom. Poor weird friendless kid.
“Which we’ve already covered is something I don’t remember, so why not tell me and answer two questions in one?” Benji prodded.
Patrick shrugged. “I was popped out of my mother’s womb, I grew up, drew the short straw, and whack here I am? What more are you looking for, sweetheart?”
Benji coughed into his fist and then cleared his throat.
“You should really get that checked out.”
“By you, good doctor? Open my mouth and say ah?”
It was Patrick’s turn to flush as he sharply turned away and faked a sneeze. Dammit. Benji was definitely stepping up to the plate. He came to a halt and shut out the noise of customers chatting amongst themselves. The howler seemed to be coming from the entertainment showroom, but his voice carried over the expanse of the floor. Benji didn’t seem to notice, but his mind wasn’t fully wrapped around not being on a different plane as everything else.
“Am I going to move on?” Benji asked as he stood at Patrick’s side.
The customers slipped around them, unconsciously shifting just out of the way as they wandered the aisles. A woman stopped next to Benji as she checked the price on a SPÖKA nightlight. She turned over the rubbery turquoise cat-shaped light and flicked the switch. She gasped with the changing colors and then dropped two boxes in her cart.
Patrick arched a brow at Benji’s question and then sighed. “Couldn’t tell you, cupcake. IKEA is a harsh mistress. She decides who leaves and who stays.”
“But you said you help people leave.”
Patrick pointed a finger. “Ah! Now you’re catching on.”
“But you just said IKEA decides. And…that IKEA is a she?” Benji knitted his brows. The brow knitting thing was quickly becoming Patrick’s kryptonite.
“You just said it.” Patrick said and then headed off again toward entertainment.
“Do you know how unhelpful you are?”
“Unhelpful?” Patrick asked over his shoulder. “I’ll have you know I’m employee of the decade.” He patted his hip and snapped his fingers. “C’mon, pup. Let’s go.”
Benji frowned and kept in step. “Unfortunately, I liked cupcake better.” He jogged to keep the pace. “Why don’t you move on?”
It was an innocent question that crashed Patrick’s mood as easily as his interest in Benji had risen.
“I don’t.” Patrick didn’t need to elaborate.
“But you said everyone does.”
Benji’s innocence was very quickly becoming Patrick’s least favorite quality. They had to find the howler and fast. Patrick’s good night sleep depended on it.
“Some people are different.” Patrick clenched his fists at his sides, and he stepped up the pace.
“What’s so different about you?” Benji asked, hurrying behind.
And now Benji was rapidly becoming less attractive.
“This way.” Patrick commanded him and snatched Benji by his shirt.
Benji yipped as they took a sharp right through the office furniture. Patrick crouched low behind a diving wall, and peered through the network of table legs. Benji stood over him, and not getting with the program as quickly as Patrick had hoped.
The howler had claimed the HASSELVIKA TV stand and shambled around it drunkenly. He was a disheveled mess of an older guy with a pot belly and broken glasses. At least he hadn’t shown up covered in dog shit.
“Have you seen my wife?” he asked a customer who passed him by. “Have you seen her? Gray hair? Flowery dress? Her name’s Mary. Have you seen Mary?” Another customer pushed along with her cart. Her beeper sounded that she was needed in Småland. “Mary! Mary!” he screamed as he burst into tears.
Benji’s lip trembled as he stood out in plain view. “He’s so sa—”
“Get down.” Patrick yanked him by the waistband of his jeans.
Benji flopped like a marionette to the floor next to him.
“Welcome to your crash course in showing someone the exit,” Patrick whispered out of the corner of his mouth.
“Did you have to nearly rip off my pants?” Benji said as he awkwardly readjusted.
Patrick didn’t pay him any mind. “You need a smaller size. I’ll get Karin on it.” He pointed toward the sobbing old man. “Here’s how it’s gonna go. You’re my trainee so it’s your job to observe on this one. Got it?”
“I’m not a kindergartener. I teach them, you know.” Benji whispered.
“Well, this isn’t painting pine cones time.” Patrick snapped his fingers. “Stick with me.”
Copyright © 2015 Bru Baker and Lex Chase. All Rights Reserved.