city stretched beneath them. Jerome took the J from Brad and looked at it
absently. The uncoiling smoke twisted and flattened in the wind that poured
across the top of the skyscraper where they stood against the sky.
Jerome put the J to his lips. Then, his heart pounding in his ears, he looked out at the saturated blue sky, cloudless deep blue, put the J back to his lips sucked in and coughed horribly.
Brad winced at the bronchial depth of Jerome's cough.
"You're sick, man."
"You're fucking right I am. From working in the weapons factory, that's why. Who knows what toxins it's my job to wring out of a mop each night."
"Well. As you know, I've worked out an arrangement with my colleagues where we punch each other in, so we each only end up working a couple nights each week. We get paid for five. But still, two or three nights a week in there is enough to make my hands and wrists change color."
"Am not. Look."
"So you blow off work most of the week and nobody catches on?"
"Yeah. They treat us real well over there. For some reason. They go real easy on us and pay us pretty good. Except no health insurance. Otherwise, it's kind of a cakewalk. For a janitor gig anyway. It definitely helps that at a fairly deep level I don't care whether those labs get cleaned up spotless like they expect. Let those chemical company bastards work in the poison they create, I say. One night I blew off work and ended up drinking at the same bar as an Administrator. She never caught on. You were serving us man. Remember?"
Brad shook his head in disbelief. Jerome, hands on the roofrail, gazed to the east and watched the sun set reflected in a mirrored skyscraper, orange light pooling in the windowframes as liquid fire.
"Weapons factory? You guys still making Napalm and Agent Orange then?"
"Oh, if only things were so simple. The innocence of bygone days. Violins and shit. Napalm. That's like baby food, man."
"Have you seen that photo ... of the Vietnamese girl..?"
"Seen it? It's in my locker at work. Pass that, hey."
"Here. So what you guys building over there?"
"Psh. They won't tell me. But I pay attention. I clean offices at night. I see things."
"You see things."
"This and that. Last night I saw a drawing on a bar napkin. A drawing of like, the world blowing up."
"Oh. Was it a napkin from the bar I work at?"
"Yeah, matter of fact it was."
"I saw the kid who drew that. Orange hair. Glasses. Sits alone. Talks constantly when he's drunk. Constantly."
"I seen him. He's a temp worker I think. Here for the takeover. To train Carbide people. Makes videos."
"Yeah. That's what the napkin was for. A video. Like a storyboard. He was telling me all about it. Safety video. Big concept. Like some worker spills dioxin in the lap and it kills a butterfly in China. Very heavy. He was reaching. The asshole."
"Hey man I gotta go open the bar."
"Yeah I should drop by work and make sure I punched in today. I'll see you in an hour or so."