Today brings us the second chapter of book two of the Infinite Limits tetralogy. This one is told from the point of view of Huey Douglas, giving us a new glimpse into the world of the owners of Inland. I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, think about picking up a copy in print or ebook format through this link. Thanks for following along, dear readers. Here’s the chapter:
Huey sat—as he preferred to do any moment he could find for himself—drinking sweet tea in the office and staring out of the wall-sized window at the wilderness scene beyond. He wished to join the animals as they bounded and played along the rolling green hills, freer than anything he had ever known. But alas, that wasn’t the life for Huey Douglas. Huey Douglas was designed for acting a part well enough to convince the owners that he was one of them and nothing more. Sometimes he thought he was designed too well.
He sighed, sipping his tea. He longed for Mr. Kitty—such a stately cat—to give him some news of the free world, but as always, he was alone—until the office door opened, that is. “Mr. Douglas,” came the voice of Rosalind.
“Please, Roz,” Huey said. “Call me Huey when no one else is around. You know I hate it when you call me Mr. Douglas.”
“Yes, sir, Mr. Douglas,” she said.
She did it to grind his gears, and he knew it. She always resented the fact that he was the owner and she was the secretary. He couldn’t help that, though. It was the way they were built. Or—no—Rosalind would say it was what society demanded, not the way they were built, but what did she know? She was only a secretary.
“You’re right, sir,” she went on. “But your meeting’s in ten minutes, sir,” she added with a curtsy.
Huey cursed himself as she left. What could he do? They were given their roles by the Creator and they were forced to fulfill them, whether they liked it or not. He finished off his tea and made sure to wash the glass himself before joining Rosalind in the hall to take the elevator to his meeting.
“I wish you wouldn—” He tried to say, but Rosalind cut him off.
“The elevator’s on its way,” she said. “They’ll probably want to talk about the wall. And our operations in Two should be well under way so they’ll bring that up, too. Are you ready for this, Mr. Douglas?”
“Preparing for this is all I’ve done since—”
“You’re lift’s here, sir. Should I accompany you?” she asked as the elevator opened.
Huey sighed. “Is it a feast?”
“It is New Year’s Day, sir. And isn’t every day a feast with you owners?”
“Well I can’t very well be seen at a feast without my secretary, can I?”
“No, sir.” She curtsied and stepped into the elevator. “I guess you couldn’t. Could you, Mr. Douglas, sir?”
Huey followed her in and the doors closed behind them. The elevator was gold-trimmed and regal, lined with mirrors. The only thing it contained—other than their bodies—was a purple suede couch that never got used. “I know you hate this,” Huey said, staring at his own reflection.
“No.” Huey cut her off. “I know, okay. It sucks. For me, too. But it won’t be much longer, right? Let’s just get this over with.”
Rosalind nodded and the elevator door opened, revealing a red-carpeted dining room, full of white-clothed tables, the walls of which were almost imperceptibly concave windows, indicating that the building was round. The elevator opened onto a view of a snowy mountain range, but Huey knew they were slowly spinning and, if he stayed in the elevator door there, he would next see a beach, a meadow, the jungle, and a cityscape as the room rotated. The tables were all large enough to seat the largest people in existence, and they were all filled with owners who were drunkenly stuffing their faces with food. Huey and Rosalind took a hover platform up to the central balcony where a single table held four fat men in tuxedos who were already eating and laughing together. From up there, they could see any view they wanted simply by turning their heads.
“I’m sorry, sirs,” Huey said, bowing to them. They all looked up at him, and most of them scowled. “Am I late?”
“Oh, no no. Ho ho ho,” Lord Walker, the fattest and richest of the four at the table, said. “We’re early. We always are, you see. The early owner gets the profit, you know. Ho ho ho!” The rest of the three laughed with him.
“Yes, sir,” Huey said with a bow. He turned to Rosalind. “Drink, please,” he said. “Strong.”
“Yes, sir.” Rosalind curtsied and left down the hover platform to the kitchen.
Huey took his seat on the far side of the table from Lord Walker. As the second richest owner in Inland, he was entitled to sit at Lord Walker’s right hand, but Huey preferred the side of the table where he didn’t have to smell the disgusting fat pig.
“So,” Huey said, trying to force a smile, but his top hat was too heavy and his monocle was slipping out of his eye. He didn’t know why they had to wear such ridiculous uncomfortable nonsense every time they had a meeting—which was pretty much all the time, as it turned out. “Is there anything specific today or just the usual beginning of the year business?”
“There is the little issue of the wall in Five being down.” Mr. Smörgåsbord sneered.
“Oh, Hand, the wall.” Mr. Loch took a swig of his drink. It was pink and fruity.
“Yes, yes,” Lord Walker said. “Let’s get the numbers out of the way first. Smörgåsbord?”
“Yes, well, with the influx of low wage work from Six, our costs of production have bottomed out across the board. We’re paying half as much for labor and getting twice the work done. That’s not to mention the fact that there are still ignorant saps desperate enough to line up for any menial task we’ll throw at them. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure that we should be bringing the wall back up at all…”
“Now, now,” Lord Walker interrupted. “We’ll save that discussion for later on in the feast. Anything else?”
“R&D is asking for more money, as usual. And… Well…”
“Spit it out Smörgy,” Lord Walker bellowed.
“The protectors are eating up a lot of money, sir. They’ve had to increase activities across all Outlands. There’s just no—”
“Alright, Boardy Boy,” Lord Walker said. “That means protectors are in high demand, am I right?”
“Right-o, Lord,” Mr. Loch said, raising his glass. “Right-o!”
“Enough,” Huey said with a sigh. Where was Rosalind with his drink? “We can get all of this information ourselves, we don’t need a meeting to discuss it. There are more important things at hand. Let’s get to the wall.”
“Yes, the wall,” Mr. Angrom said, speaking up for the first time since Huey had arrived. It almost surprised Huey, though the change wasn’t at all unwelcomed or uncalled for. Finally, the old man seemed a bit defiant of Lord Walker for once.
“Alright, alright you two. Settle down,” Lord Walker said. “Mr. Smörgåsbord, I guess you can continue with what you were on about before now. Go ahead.” He waved him on.
“Well.” Mr. Smörgåsbord took a sip of his drink. “As I was saying, the influx of a reserve army of labor into Outland Five has decreased the cost of production by half. Even taking into account the extra protector costs we’re seeing, none of our profits have ever been higher. Sure, we have more troubles in Five now, but who cares about that? Five’s worlds away, and as a consequence, it’s of no concern to us.” They all laughed together, but Huey didn’t join them.
“Yeah, well, half cost sounds good to me,” Mr. Loch said, chugging his drink. “Isn’t there supposed to be some food soon?”
“Talk to your secretary about that,” Lord Walker said. “Now, Mr. Angrom, Mr. Douglas, do you agree with Loch Ness and our Scandinavian buffet’s plan? Shall we leave the wall down and reap the profits while we can?”
Mr. Angrom nodded, sipping his drink without a word. He didn’t seem too sure about it, but who could argue against half costs?
“Do I agree with their plan to make me more money?” Huey said with a straight face.
Lord Walker smiled behind his shaggy white beard. “Well do you?”
“I eat a lot of those protector costs,” Huey said, looking Lord Walker in his twinkling eyes.
“I eat most of them,” Lord Walker said, nodding. “But the difference is that I have a healthy appetite. Ho ho ho!”
“A tiny majority.” Huey said, ignoring what was supposed to be an insult.
“Yes, well, I agree with the idea,” Lord Walker said, looking around at the group. “What do you say, comrade Douglas? Are you in it with us?”
Oh, Creator. Huey went back in his head over Rosalind’s story about punching one of the owners in the face at Christmas Feast and imagined that it was he who got to do it. That would probably be the most satisfying thing for Huey right now, to punch Lord Walker square in the jaw and end this charade once and for all.
“Well?” Lord Walker said, tapping his glass with a heavy platinum ring.
“Profits before all. Right?” Huey sighed.
A secretary who looked exactly like Haley came up on the hover platform, carrying two drinks. “Ah,” Lord Walker said. “Haley, dear. My old fashioneds. Just in time. Bring them here, please.”
“Well it’s settled then,” Mr. Smörgåsbord said. “We’ll leave the wall down and reap the rewards we deserve for our genius.”
“To the profits!” Mr. Loch said, raising his glass.
Everyone else but Huey clinked their glasses to Mr. Loch’s and took a big gulp of their drink.
“So,” Huey said, clapping his hands together and rubbing them. “Is that it?”
“Oh, no no,” Lord Walker said. “No ho ho. Now we get to the real business.”
Huey sighed, but Rosalind finally returned with his drink. “Real business?” he asked after taking a long draught of the scotch, finishing it.
“Outland Two,” Lord Walker said with a smile. “Mr. Loch.”
“Huh?” Mr. Loch looked up from his drink, smacking his lips and rubbing his face with one fat hand, then shook his head. “Oh, right right. Of course,” he slurred. “Well, as you all know—of course how couldn’t you, we’ve just discussed it—but that’s all said and done anyway, so… As you know, the walls between Five and Six have come down.”
“They’ve been torn down,” Mr. Angrom muttered too quietly for anyone but Huey—and maybe the secretaries—to hear.
“What was that, Angry?” Lord Walker asked with a chuckle.
“I said, We all know this already,” Mr. Angrom snapped. “Let us get to what we really came here for. Or is it the company you’re after, Lord Wally?” He raised his glass and sneered. Huey—and he was sure everyone else, too—could hear the disdain in Mr. Angrom’s voice.
“The likes of you have never been in better company, Angrom my boy. Ho ho ho!” Lord Walker patted Mr. Loch on the back, sending his fat jiggling the same way Lord Walker’s did as he laughed. “Right, boys?”
Mr. Loch and Mr. Smörgåsbord laughed with him. Huey tried to sip his drink before he remembered he had already finished it. He scanned the secretaries behind their owners, stopping at Haley’s doppelganger. If he didn’t know that Haley, the real Haley—or should he say the first Haley?—if he didn’t know that his Haley was back at the lab with the Scientist, he, too, would be fooled like everyone else at the table into believing that this was her.
“You know, Lord Walker,” Huey said when their laughter had died down. He sipped his empty drink to build the tension. “Your Haley there is looking as good as new after that heinous attack at the Christmas Feast. I never had a chance to mention it before now, but it’s nonetheless true.”
Lord Walker put his drink down and eyed Huey. “Yes, well…” He coughed. “I was fortunate none of her vital systems were damaged, you see. She even stayed awake throughout the entire ordeal, bless her little robotic heart. As for looking as good as new—well…she looks better than new. Like a fine aged wine. Isn’t that right, dear?” He turned and reached his hand out to her, but she wasn’t paying attention. She was looking through Lord Walker, off into the distance. “I said, isn’t that right, dear?” Lord Walker repeated.
Haley shook her head. “Sorry, sir,” she said. “I mean, Lord. Excuse me, but—”
“Spit it out, dear!” Lord Walker demanded. “What’s gotten into you?”
“Maybe she’s not as right as you thought,” Mr. Angrom mumbled.
“It’s just—sir, I’ve received notification from the protectors.” She looked around the table as if she weren’t sure she should say what she had to say in this company.
“Is it about this reclaim the grounds nonsense in Two?” Lord Walker demanded. “Spit it out, dear. We don’t have all day.”
“Yes, sir. Well, they’ve started gathering, sir. There’s at least fifteen already. The protectors want to know what to do about it.”
Lord Walker looked around the table. “This is what we’re here for today, comrades,” he said to them, glancing from face to face. “While the destruction of the walls between Five and Six, and the intermingling of the lowest classes in all of Outland, has proven itself a blessing in disguise, Five and Six are not the only worlds that have intermingled. We saw the first signs, even before the terrorists struck, when our friend Russ Logo met with that Sixer on the streets of Three.”
“Our friend Russ Logo whom you own,” Mr. Angrom reminded him.
“Yes, but only since after his transgression,” Lord Walker went on, waving the criticism away. “Under my ownership, he has done nothing but further the interests of our economy, and none of you can argue against that. I’d like to see you try, in fact.” He looked around, challenging them to respond. When no one did, he went on. “That’s what I thought. Now, what we are seeing at present in Two—which the always lovely Haley just alerted us to—is another example of the leaks between the worlds. After all, my brothers, we are all living in a submarine, and every tiny leak is an assault on the safety of our vital systems. There’s a reason you separate your bulls from your cows and your chickens from your garden. There’s a reason a submarine is air tight. And we must do everything there is in our power to stop these leaks before they start, or we will face an unending torrent the result of which would only spell our demise.”
Lord Walker took a deep breath, full of himself. “Let me ask you, my friends, my comrades, my brothers, do we put an end to this threat the old-fashioned way and kill it before it grows, or do we sit on our hands and wait for the competition to come to us?”
Even Mr. Angrom raised his glass at that. Huey didn’t, though. He let them cheer themselves on before he spoke.
“Have you had enough of your circle jerk to get off?” he asked when they all started to notice that he hadn’t joined in their mirth. “By all means,” he went on. “Don’t let me interrupt your fun, boys.”
“C’mon Douggy poo,” Lord Walker cooed in a babying voice. “What’s with you? You don’t think we should kill this threat while it’s still in the cradle?”
“How exactly do you propose to do that, Lord Walker? For all your talk, you sure have managed to avoid saying anything of value or substance.”
“How do we propose to do it?” Lord Walker said, raising his eyebrows and looking around at the others. “Why didn’t you just hear me? The old-fashioned way, Doug. How else would we do it? We send the protectors to shoot them down, and we hold them up as an example of what happens when little nothing twerps like them try to spread fraudulent libel about the existence of other worlds.”
“And who will you punish?” Huey asked with a scoff. “Do you know who’s responsible for this leak or are you at yet another dead end? I hear your search for the terrorists responsible for the Christmas bombing isn’t going very well.”
Lord Walker stared hard at Huey. Mr. Loch looked away from the table, ordering another drink from his secretary to get away from the tension between them. Huey thought he heard Mr. Angrom stifling a chuckle. Mr. Smörgåsbord didn’t make a noise.
“We’re closer than ever to finding those inhuman beasts,” Lord Walker growled through gritted teeth. “I can assure you of that. No one is more interested in finding them than I am, either. Me, Mr. Douglas, the Lord of Inland, the very one of us whom those cowardly terrorists attempted to assassinate. Or do I need to remind you? Our protector force is doin—”
“Ah. Ha ha.” Huey chuckled. “So it’s back to being our protector force again now that we’re talking about their failures.”
“Our protector force,” Lord Walker went on, his face red with embarrassment and anger. “The protector force that protects everyone here at this table no matter who of us owns them, is ready to free all of us from this particular thorn in our side. All it takes is one word, my word. Now, I’m bringing this to you as a gesture of cooperation, not because I’m obliged to. So can we all agree that the protectors should be used as they were originally intended to be used by ordering them to destroy this threat to our property?”
“Crush them!” Mr. Loch cheered, raising his glass.
Mr. Smörgåsbord grunted and raised his glass, too.
“Angry? Do the Dougy?” Lord Walker said. “What do you two say?”
They looked at each other. Mr. Angrom shrugged and drank his drink. It didn’t really matter what they wanted anymore, anyway. Lord Walker already had the majority, and the Lordship.
“Do what you will,” Huey said. “But know that you’re not the only one investigating this particular threat. The protectors respond to more than one word, and at some of my words, they’ve embedded themselves in the crowd in Two already. They are some of your body count. So when your old-fashioned approach inevitably fails, Lord, don’t worry. My people will be there to pick up the pieces.”
Lord Walker sneered. “Hopefully they’re not too far undercover, friend. We wouldn’t want one of your boys mistaken for a criminal and beaten themselves. Ho ho ho!” He looked around at the table to make sure the others were laughing too then turned to Haley’s doppelganger. “You hear that, dear? Send a couple hundred men. Make sure that no one who hears what happens today ever steps out of line again. Ho ho ho!” He raised his glass over the table and waited for everyone to clink theirs against it. “To the safety of Inland,” he said when he was satisfied.
“To the safety of Inland,” they all mumbled together.
“Well then.” Huey stood from the table and rubbed his hands together. “If that’s all the business we have to cover today, I really should be going.”
“Yeah, yeah, Dougy,” Lord Walker said. “Some other business to tend to, I’m sure. You always have to be up to something if you want to catch up to the best.” He smiled wide.
“We’ll see who the best is yet, Lord and sirs.” Huey bowed to the table. “Good feast to you.”
Rosalind was waiting for him down at the elevator. He didn’t know how she always got out of there so much faster than he did. It was like she had an eighth or ninth sense for it, depending on how you classified android senses.
“You didn’t have to tell them that much,” she said when he walked up.
“What are you talking about?” He frowned. He hadn’t told them anything, really.
“The agents in the protest today,” she said.
“Ah.” Huey nodded. “Well, Wally won’t even remember that by the end of the night.”
“It’s not him I’m worried about, Mr. Douglas, sir.”
“Well, who are you—”
“Mr. Angrom, sir,” Rosalind said with a curtsy and a smile, looking past Huey who turned to find Mr. Angrom’s flabby mushroom frame being carried over by his pneumatic pants.
“Mr. Angrom.” Huey bowed.
Mr. Angrom wiped his face with a handkerchief as he lumbered ever nearer. “Oh, sonny boy,” he said. “I’ll never get used to these pants. You’re blessed not to need them.”
Huey nodded, thinking it would only take a better controlled diet and some exercise for Mr. Angrom to get out of his pants—no blessing needed—but he didn’t say anything.
“Well, sir.” Mr. Angrom looked behind himself. He was nervous, Huey could tell. “I have something important to discuss with you,” he said. “Do you mind?”
“Go ahead, sir.” Huey bowed again.
“Well, uh…it’s about Mr. Walker…and his lackeys.” Mr. Douglas looked around again at the motion of a server out of the corner of his eyes.
“What about them, my lord?” Huey asked, bowing. He knew that Mr. Angrom had been slowly separating from the others in the Fortune Five—had urged Mr. Angrom to do just as much, even—and now seemed like as good a time as any for the old man to make that obvious. With things mixing up like they were, Mr. Angrom probably thought he could climb a few rungs on the ladder.
“Oh, no no.” Mr. Angrom chuckled. “I’m no Lord. It’s just… It’s how they’re handling this leak business, you know. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind leaving Five and Six together. I’ll take a profit as quick as the next man.” He chuckled.
“Yes,” Huey said. “And you eat none of the protector costs.”
“Yes—well… Exactly, sir. Exactly what I mean. We should be working together, right? Sharing costs. Strategizing our economic decisions. And with the protectors—with the protectors especially—we should be utilizing our resources in the most efficient manner possible. Now wouldn’t you agree with that, Mr. Douglas?”
“I agree with the spirit of what you’re saying, Mr. Angrom. I’m afraid, however, that the devil is in the details. Isn’t he?”
“Well then,” Mr. Angrom said, wiping his face which had grown sweaty from the conversation. “Let’s take their response to this ordeal in Two for example. How do they want to handle it? The old-fashioned way, as Mr. Walker says. Beat the problem into submission with a big stick. Now, would you say that theirs is the most efficient method of approaching this particular obstacle in our path?”
Huey shook his head. No. He did not. But he had assumed that Mr. Angrom was with them on this much at least. Mr. Angrom did very little talking so it was difficult to know what was actually going on inside his head.
“No, you don’t,” Mr. Angrom went on. “As evidenced by the fact that you’ve already embedded protectors in this…movement—or what have you. Your way is the more efficient way, Lord Douglas. Them? They’re fighting a gasoline leak with fire, and they’ll still be surprised when it blows up in their faces. But us—you and me—we’ll be there to pick up their pieces, just like you said. Or should I say ashes to keep the metaphor consistent? Oh, it’s too late now. You get the point. But first we have to agree to cooperate with one another. So what do you say?”
Huey took another look at the flabby form in the tuxedo and top hat in front of him. He looked exactly like all the other owners. There was nothing to set him apart. Huey read Mr. Angrom’s every heartbeat and eye dilation before he said, “What did you have in mind, sir? I mean, I know why you would want to work with me, Mr. Angrom. I own a forty nine percent share in the protector force.”
“Forty eight point nine percent, sir,” Mr. Angrom said, raising a finger.
“Yes.” Huey smiled. “And your major holdings are in—”
“Food and energy, sir. The laws of physics dictate that there will always be a demand for food and energy.” Mr. Angrom smiled and buffed his monocle with the same handkerchief he had wiped his sweat with earlier. “And you know who eats tons of food and uses more electricity than anything but the walls?” he asked, smiling wide. Huey wouldn’t give the old man the satisfaction of a response so Mr. Angrom went on. “So I was thinking,” he said. “I’m full owner of some private subsidiaries. I’m sure you are, too. So why don’t you let me eat some of your costs with discounted food and electricity, and in turn, you share any intelligence you gather with me, taking care to ensure special protection of P.J. Angrom Corp. and subsidiaries. Do we understand each other?”
Huey smiled. His long hard work in poking and prodding Mr. Angrom away from the rest of the Fortune Five was starting to pay off. He had been building up to this moment for so long that he didn’t want to hurry his answer and muddle it all now. He buffed his own monocle with his pocket square then took his time folding it and putting it back in his pocket. “I think we understand each other,” he almost whispered when he was done.
“Very good,” Mr. Angrom said, smiling wide and clapping. “Then it’s agreed. You’ll have your secretary give mine the names of the firms which you want to receive the discounts, and I’ll be waiting for word from you on any new intelligence from your side. Right, my Lord?” He bowed and tipped his hat.
Huey nodded, surprised Mr. Angrom could bow so low, even with his pneumatic pants.
“Very well. Ta ta, then.” Mr. Angrom waved, heading back toward the hover platform. “I have some feasting to get to. Until you have some news, adieu.”
Huey could hear his steps as the pants stomped away, carrying Mr. Angrom with them. He turned to Rosalind who huffed and stomped into the elevator. When he followed her in, she said, “Yeah. I know. I heard. I was standing right there. You don’t have to tell me.”
“I didn’t say anything,” Huey said, shaking his head and shrugging.
“But I know what you were going to say.” The doors closed and the elevator fell into motion.
“I wasn’t going to say anything.”
“Sure you weren’t.” When the doors opened again, she stomped through the short hall and slammed the door behind her.
When Huey opened the door, she wasn’t in the office behind it, but Haley was. His Haley. The real Haley and not some doppelganger. She was sitting on one of the puffy chairs with her feet up on another of them, looking out onto the wilderness scene below. She didn’t notice Huey until he sat on the chair her feet were resting on, brushing her shoes as she jerked them to the floor.
“Mr. Douglas!” she said. “I’m sorry. I didn’t notice you.”
“Huey, dear. Please.” He smiled.
“Oh. Of course.” She hit herself in the head. “I’ve been here so long and I still can’t get that right.”
“It hasn’t been that long. You’ll get used to it yet.”
“I don’t know.” Haley shook her head. “I mean, everything has been great, you know. But I don’t know. Just—Creator, I don’t know what I’m saying. There are so many words. Have you ever noticed that?”
Huey laughed. “I know all too well what you mean.”
“And bacon,” she went on, leaning closer and smiling. “Have you had it yet?”
Huey shook his head. “I don’t eat pork.”
“Oh. Well… The food’s great, though. You know that, right?”
Huey nodded. He was never a big fan of food. Being around owners stuffing their faces so often had turned him off to it. Eating to him was simply a necessity to go on living. But he understood why Haley would be so excited to taste all kinds of food she had prepared for someone else for so long without ever getting to eat it herself.
“And Ansel and Pidgeon,” Haley said, chuckling. “Oh. I just love those two. They have so much to teach me.”
Huey smiled. He hadn’t spent much time with the new boarders, but he did admire Ansel’s ferocious will.
“But still…” She looked a little nervous to go on.
Huey thought he knew what she was hinting at from his own experiences in finding freedom. “You’re bored,” he said.
“Bored?” Haley looked confused, tilting her head like Mr. Kitty when he didn’t understand something. “What do you mean, bored?”
“Well, you’ve tried all the foods you wanted to try, and the kids can only spend so much time with you, and now you have nothing left to work toward. You’re bored.” He shrugged.
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “I can’t be bored. I’ve never been bored before. Not even sitting in my closet, playing with Springy, and waiting for the next meal to cook.”
“That’s because you’ve never had anything to do but Mr. Walker’s work for him,” Huey said. “You had to put his clothes on for him and even clean his body for him.” He shook his head, cringing. “Your life was filled with boredom. You were bored all the time. All you knew was boredom and you had nothing else to compare it to.”
“No, well—” Haley started.
“Now you have TV and food and the kids and countless other things to make you forget you’re bored, but most of them are boring, too. But there are a select few of those activities that you actually do enjoy. You haven’t quite figured out which ones those are yet, though, so you’re still bored. It’s as simple—or as complicated, I guess—as that.”
Haley thought about it. “I guess you’re right,” she said, nodding. “What can I do about it, though?”
“Well, that’s difficult to answer,” Huey said. “The only thing you really can do is live through a lot of boredom until you find the thing you really love. But once you get through that, you can devote your every waking moment to that one thing that’s actually not boring.” He shrugged again. He didn’t really know what he was talking about. He had never said things like that to anyone else before, only thought them in his head. “That’s the only successful method I know of for fighting boredom anyway.”
“But how do you know when you love something?”
“That,” Huey said, “is a question I can’t answer. I’m sorry.”
“What do you love?” Haley asked, looking in his eyes.
“Well, I… Hmm.” He knew how to answer that, but he wasn’t ready for Haley to know the answer. “That’s another question I don’t think I can answer,” he lied. “Maybe I’m bored, too,” he added to try to cover it up.
“Bored?” Haley chuckled. “You? But you’re so busy.”
“Busy’s one thing,” Huey said. “Bored’s another. If you’re busy with boring work then what’s the point?”
Haley scrunched up her nose and nodded. It was the face that Huey had come to learn meant she was trying to understand but couldn’t quite. He smiled. “You’ll find what you love,” he said. “As long as you don’t stop looking.”
“But what if I don’t find it?”
“Well, I’ll help you,” Huey said. “There’s no way you’ll fail.”
# # #
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