Age and worry creased Ro’s face. She spooned up the dregs of my chocolate ice cream sundae with a french fry.
I held my belly while the ice cream I’d eaten attacked my stomach with razor blades. Rocking, I regarded the Hudson River for signs of an inbound alien invasion to put me out of my misery. But the river flowed on, white capped where the wind whipped it. Gray water rushed under a gray sky choked with clouds.
A bell jingled as the diner’s door opened to admit Phil from Homeland security. The fellow happened to be one of my neighbors. I blamed Indian Point, a nuclear reactor which powered NYC and its ‘burbs, for the high residency rates of law enforcement personnel.
Just my luck, the cover up would start in Croton, which made no sense considering the things happening in the city. CNN replayed the alien ship exploding on all four flat screens suspended over the bar. Every eye except Ro’s and mine avoided watching the cross-shaped ship blossom into flames.
Phil’s gaze landed on our table. He pulled up a chair and sat at the head of our booth without asking if he could join us. He seized my laptop before I could react and flipped it open. The screen powered up and loaded the last thing Ro and I had looked at: the countdown. My eyes skittered away from the ugly numbers dwindling on screen.
“You want to explain this?”
“It’s an old web page.” I folded in around my throbbing belly. Had the ice cream morphed into a monster? Because it felt as if it something was trying to tear its way free of my stomach. I flashed back to a late night flick called Aliens and shivered.
“Give me some credit here. I know an old web page when I see one. I want to know what this is.” Phil stabbed a pudgy finger at the neon green numbers flipping over. “What is this counting down to?”
Ro barked a laughed. “What makes you think we know any more than you do?” She slid her bulk along the leather upholstering the booth’s bench seat and rose. Turning to me, she extended a hand. “Come on. You look like you’re going to throw up. The bathroom’s the best place for you.”
I grimaced but followed her lead. Phil gripped my laptop, so I left it on the table. Waddling in my snowsuit, I walked in Ro’s wake. I heard her car keys jingle in her pocket, and I understood the plan. We meandered around tables full of townsfolk and hooked a left towards the bathrooms and the kitchen.
I willed the ice cream monster to back down and accept a truce. Later I could be sick after we gave the Feds the slip. Right now I needed a stomach of steel. Where was Superman when you needed to borrow his organs? And why was there never a superhero around when you needed one?
To be continued in Fed Up.