Thursday, 17 May 2018


Moths were fluttering under a streetlight outside, dancing around to some music only they could hear.  Stood below them were two women on the wrong side of thirty wearing crop-tops and mini-skirts and made up to look like they were in their early twenties.  Their slouch suggested they didn't want to be there; the way they straightened up and posed whenever a car cruised too slowly past or a single man went by suggested they were on the clock.
Pestilence sighed and turned away from the window.  Across the diner table sat Famine, the laminated tri-fold menu held in pale, wasted hands.  "Emphysema," he said.
"Nice," said Famine.  "You don't get that a lot.  And you've avoided anything obvious, like a job-related illness.  Both of them?"
"Nah, I got the one on the left," said Pestilence.  "You can have the one on the right, bro."
"Cool, fam."  He waved to the waitress who wrinkled her nose and reluctantly hauled herself off a counter stool and lumbered over.  She was heavyset and her beige uniform had grease stains on the skirt  and down the left-hand side of her blouse.  She was wearing support stockings that might once have been white but were now a uniform grey and her name badge had been broken in half at some point.  All that was left was a red-bordered white plastic shard reading "AIL".
"A couple of hotdogs for the ladies outside, please," said Famine.  "With extra mustard.  It must be cold out there.  And I'll have the entire breakfast menu.  Twice."  He looked at Pestilence.  "Fam?"
"You're Fam, bro," said Pestilence.  "I'll have a banana split.  Extra whipped cream."
"What from the breakfast menu, son?" asked the waitress.  She shifted her weight from one thick leg to the other and farted.
"All of it," said Famine.  "Twice."
"There's seventeen items on there, hon.  Which of them do you want?"
"All seventeen.  Twice.  That's thirty-four items."
The waitress eyed him coldly while she counted up seventeen twice in her head and decided that the answer was in fact thirty four.  "Fine," she said.  Behind her a cockroach scuttled across the floor.  "Two breakfasts for kings, a banana split with extra whipped cream, and hotdogs for your girlfriends."  She turned away and waddled to the kitchen.  Half-way there she turned back.  "How do you like your eggs?"
"All the ways you do them," said Famine.  He smiled as nicely as he could, but his hollow cheeks and dark-ringed eyes still made it look like a skull grinning.  "You're fam too, fam," he said to Pestilence.
"Nah bro, I'm your bro.  You're fam."
"Not Fam, fam.  Fam."
"Fam?  Shut up."
"Bro, just hang, right?"
"Jesus, Famine, were you always like this?  What were you like when you were a kid?"
Famine stared at Pestilence, his eyes burning in his head like coals.  "The teachers called me trouble," he said.  "They blamed me for the other kids's problems.  Like when everybody's lunchbox turned out to be empty because all their mothers had forgotten to pack them lunch."
"That sounds like something you'd do," said Pestilence.
"Yeah, right, but I didn't know I was doing it back then," said Famine.  "My dad was still Famine back in those days.  When I was eight he got me into the family business, let me team up with Crop Failure and his gang.  I'd go out riding a Harley on the weekends and we'd tear up some cornfields or a potato crop.  Didn't know that the whole Famine thing was going to land on my shoulders.  Bro."
"A Harley?" Pestilence nodded his head slowly.  By the kitchen another three cockroaches had appeared and were creeping under the door.  "Rich fam, Fam?"
"Nah, but War's parents were sharing out the spoils.  They liked horses, so the cars and bikes and aeroplanes were being handed out like candy.  They were good times."
"My sixth grade class all came down with galloping pleurisy three days into the start of the school year," said Pestilence.  "I got exclusive tuition for the rest of the year, and the teachers all treated me like I was the only survivor of a car crash or something."
"I heard about that," said Famine.  Outside a young kid in chef's whites was delivering hotdogs to the women in the lamplight.  Everyone looked confused.  "Didn't the same thing happen the next year."
"Sort of," said Pestilence.  "Half of them got yellow fever and the other half got scarlet fever.  After that  there weren't any kids near my age to be in class with me.  What did you put in the hotdogs then, Fam?"
"Tapeworm," said Famine.  "Classical and classy, that's me.  How're the cockroaches going?"
"Hundred and fifty so far," said Pestilence.  "I don't think we're going to get served you know." Screams came from the kitchen.
"Should have ordered ahead," said Famine.  "You've think we'd remember by now."

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