Illustration by Idiots’Books
Kettlewell and Tjan looked up when Perry banged through the door of the tea-house they’d turned into their de facto headquarters.
Perry had gone through mad and back to calm on the ride home, but as he drew closer to the tea-house, passing the people in the streets, the people living their lives without lawyers or bullshit, his anger came back. He’d even stopped outside the tea-house and breathed deeply, but his heart was pounding and his hands kept balling into fists and sometimes, man, sometimes you’ve just got to go for it.
He got to the table and grabbed the papers there and tossed them over his shoulder.
“You’re fired,” he said. “Pack up and go, I want you out by morning. You’re done here. You don’t represent the ride and you never will. Get lost.” He didn’t know he was going to say it until he said it, but it felt right. This was what he was feeling—his project had been stolen and bad things were being done in his name and it was going to stop, right now.
Tjan and Kettlewell got to their feet and looked at him, faces blank with shock. Kettlewell recovered first. “Perry, let’s sit down and do an exit interview, all right? That’s traditional.”
Perry was shaking with anger now. These two friends of his, they’d fucking screwed him—committed their dirty work in his name. But Kettlewell was holding a chair out to him and the others in the tea-house were staring and he thought about Eva and the kids and the baseball gloves, and he sat down.
He squeezed his thighs hard with his clenching hands, drew in a deep breath, and recited what Death Waits had told him in an even, wooden voice.
“So that’s it. I don’t know if you instructed the lawyers to do this or only just distanced yourself enough from them to let them do this on their own. The point is that the way you’re running this campaign is victimizing people who believe in us, making life worse for people who already got a shitty, shitty deal on our account. I won’t have it.”
Kettlewell and Tjan looked at each other. They’d both stayed poker-faced through Perry’s accusation, and now Kettlewell made a little go-ahead gesture at Tjan.
“There’s no excuse for what that lawyer did. We didn’t authorize it, we didn’t know it had happened, and we wouldn’t have permitted it if we had. In a suit like this, there are a lot of moving parts and there’s no way to keep track of all of them all of the time. You don’t know what every ride operator in the world is up to, you don’t even know where all the rides in the world are. That’s in the nature of a decentralized business.
“But here’s the thing: the lawyer was at least partly right. Everything that kid blogs, emails, and says will potentially end up in the public record. Like it or not, that kid can no longer consider himself to have a private life, not until the court case is up. Neither can you or I, for that matter. That’s in the nature of a lawsuit—and it’s not something any of us can change at this point.”
Perry heard him as from a great distance, through the whooshing of the blood in his ears. He couldn’t think of anything to say to that.
Tjan and Kettlewell looked at each other.
“So even if we’re ‘fired’—” Tjan said at last, making sarcastic finger-quotes, “this problem won’t go away. We’ve floated the syndicate and given control of the legal case to them. If you try to ditch it, you’re going to have to contend with their lawsuits, too.”
“I didn’t—” Perry started. But he had, he’d signed all kinds of papers: first, papers that incorporated the ride-runners’ co-op; and, second, papers that gave legal representation over to the syndicate.
“Perry, I’m the chairman of the Boston ride collective. I’m their rep on the co-op’s board. You can’t fire me. You didn’t hire me. They did. So stop breathing through your nose like a locomotive and calm down. None of us wanted that lawyer to go after that kid.”
He knew they were making sense but he didn’t want to care. He’d ended up in this place because these supposed pals of his had screwed up.
He knew that he was going to end up making up with them, going to end up getting deeper into this. He knew that this was how good people did shitty things: one tiny rotten compromise at a time. Well, he wasn’t going to go there.
“Tomorrow morning,” he said. “Gone. We can figure out by email how to have a smooth transition, but no more of this. Not on my head. Not on my account.”
He stalked away, which is what he should have done in the first place. Fuck being reasonable. Reasonable sucked.
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