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Distilled Spirits: Ch. 5 — Sidney

August 20, 2013

What is Distilled Spirits?

Episode 2: “Troubled Times”


            The best part of having a business meeting at Burger Palace was the French fries.  They weren’t better than any other fast food chain, but they were better than having no fries at all.

Sid watched the workers huddle around a deep fryer, pointing fingers at each other—everyone was laughing but Sid’s employer, Jim.  He did all of the yelling, and by the time Jim came out from behind the counter for their meeting, the sounds of hamburgers frying had begun again.

“Sorry,” Jim said, sitting down.  “I work with idiots.  Those people can’t make a milkshake without burning themselves.”

“Those people?” Sid asked.

“Yeah.”  Jim pointed behind him with his thumb.  His coworkers were all Hispanic.  “You couldn’t guess what they put in the fryer.”

Sid pushed his fries away.  There were only two left.

“I read your first draft and it’s fine,” Jim said.  He pulled a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and smoothed it.  It was the game’s script that Sid had wrote.  “I want you to add more of a back story for Toby.”

“Like what?”

“Like some kind of opening segment that really grabs the player’s attention,” Jim explained.  “It’s not enough for Toby to fight the evil black cats—he needs a reason to hate.  Like, really hate them.  Like they killed his parents when he was a kitten or something.”

“I can work with that,” Sid said.

“Like Batman, right?  But don’t make it obviously a rip-off,” Jim said, pushing the paper across the table.  “We’re trying to get the player to really hate the blacks.”

Sid took a slow sip of his soda.   “The blacks?”

“The evil cats—the whole point of Cat Tales II.”

“Right.  The cats,” Sid said.  “How far along are we?”

“We’re mostly just waiting on the voice work.  Get me your final copy and we can publish by the end of the month.”

“Do I need to worry about canon?” Sid asked.

“The what?”

“Story contradictions with Cat Tales I,” Sid said.  “If I add this back story—”

Jim interrupted Sid with a look that he probably saves for his coworkers.

“Hey,” Jim said, “if we really polish this game right, there’s a chance it’ll make the Xbox marketplace.  Just write it, okay?”

A large family came into Burger Palace and Jim stood up.

“I better get back there,” he said.  “You can’t leave those people alone for two minutes.”

When Sid finally got outside, Cait was leaning against a parking meter, waiting for him.  She had a way of looking like she thoroughly belonged wherever she happened to be in the city.

“You said 3 o’clock,” she said, starting down the street.  She had her sunglasses on and it was impossible to tell if she was actually upset.

Sid followed her.  “There was something about a deep fryer.”

“I love the way you look when you’re thinking hard,” Cait said.  “What’s wrong?”

“What time’s the showing?” Sid asked.  They were about a twenty minute walk from the small neighborhood theater.

“Your eyebrows do this thing and you bite your lip,” Cait said, checking her phone.  “You should see yourself.”

Sid sighed.  “What time is the matinee?”

“We’ll miss the trailers if we walk,” Cait said, “but there shouldn’t be a line.”

“That’s fine,” Sid said.  “Are they meeting us there?”

“They’re not coming.”

Sid stopped. “What happened?”

“I didn’t invite them,” Cait said.

“Is it Glenn?”

Cait nodded.

“Still trying to save you?” Sid asked.

“Forget that,” she said.   She put a finger on Sid’s chest and pushed him lightly against a store’s display window.  “I know something’s bothering you.  Out with it.”

They had stopped in front of a Chinese bakery.  Bread smells coming through the open door didn’t smell any different than any other bakery.

“Let me ask you something,” Sid began.  “If I gestured to a group of Chinese people—”

“Why Chinese?”

“Just—just follow me on this.  If I gestured to a group of Chinese people and said—‘Those people are lazy’—how would you take it?”

Cait started walking again and Sid leaped to catch up.  They went half a block before she answered.

“Am I Chinese in this situation?” she asked.

“No, you’re not.  You’re Caitlyn Hash, and no other—“

“Am I Asian at all?”

“—no other details matter.” Sid finished.

She glanced sidelong at him.  “You want me to say it’s racist.”

“Is it not?”

“It could be,” she said.

The light changed and Sid stopped her from walking into the street with a hand on her arm.

“Maybe,” Cait said, “maybe you just don’t like Chinese people?”

“How the hell is that any different?”

“Wait a minute.” Cait prodded Sid forward when the ‘walk’ signal flashed.  “I read your plot points for this game.  Aren’t the evil cats all black?”

Sid nodded.

“And the hero—Toby?”

Sid didn’t answer.

“He’s white, isn’t he?” Cait said.  “A white cat?”

“You know,” Sid said, scratching the back of his head, “when you phrase it that way—”

“You’re working for a racist.”  Cait stepped through a rain puddle without changing her stride.

“Goddamnit.  I didn’t need this.”

“You’re being paid by a racist,” Cait said and Sid recognized her tone of voice.  There was something that she wanted Sid to do and she could usually get him to do it.

“Are you gonna give me a lecture on morality?” Sid asked.

“Do you need one?”

“The rent, Cait, the rent,” Sid said.  “We need this paycheck.  The landlord does.”

“It’s not a big deal,” she said, “if you’re okay with supporting hatred.”

“Stop,” Sid said, rubbing his head.  “It’s his story—I’m just writing it.”

“You’re supporting his platform—helping him spread his views.”

“It’s a phone game.  Caitlyn—”

“You sound like my father when you use my full name, you know,” she said.

“I sound like . . . Cait, how long have you known me?”

“Since 4th grade,” she answered.

“And is it fair to call me a racist?”

Cait thought a moment while they waited for another light, and Sid watched the expression on her face change.  She was trying to stop a smile.

“Well,” she said, “there was the time I convinced you to get high with me and you didn’t tip—”

“No, wait—stop,” Sid said.  “We agreed that everything said—said or done that night doesn’t count.”

Cait’s grin widened.  “I thought that only applied to the naked part.”

Sid tripped over the curb.  “You said you couldn’t remember if we actually—”

“I can’t.  You?”

“No,” Sid admitted.

“I do remember though,” Cait said, “that you have a birthmark on—”

Sid held his hands up.  “Can we stop—can we go back to talking about how I’m a bad person?”

“Here’s my only point,” Cait said, smile gone.  “I don’t think you’re taking feline racial violence as seriously as you need to.”

“Take off your sunglasses,” Sid said.


Sid reached up and plucked them from her face.  “Because I can’t tell if you’re making fun of me.”





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