J4. The Magritte

“Geez.” Jay wiped his eyes. “That season finale is more emotional than I remembered.”

“Eh.” Dan shrugged. “It’s basically a clip show repeating what we learned in the first season’s finale. It’s hard to get worked up over it twice.”

“But this time Lucille has to watch,” said Jay. “There’s been a dramatic irony for the whole second season. For twelve episodes the viewer has known Akayama built the Hurricane. They watched Bojack sacrifice himself. But Lucille hadn’t. Now the viewer has to imagine everything again from Lucille’s perspective, and the pain is redoubled.”

“I think the viewer is meant to take Charlie’s perspective,” said Dan. “We know what happened years ago, and we’re there to comfort Lucille when she’s ready to come out of ZAB. Then we’re supposed to be relieved because she comes out more determined than ever.”

Jay nodded doubtfully.

“What do you think, Bob? This is your first episode, was it emotionally resonant?”

Bob blinked. “What?” His eyes were both bloodshot.

“Is that cricket treating you alright, Bob?” Jay pat him on the shoulder. “You wanna finish your chicken nuggets?”

Bob noticed the rest of his food. He’d zoned out watching the episode but now he grinned from ear to ear with new hunger. He ate his apple pie in two bites. He chewed and swallowed all at once because he wanted to speak: “That show looked cool.”

“It has a campy charm,” agreed Jay. “It’s better if you understand the language it’s in.”

Bob watched the end credits as he munched chicken nuggets. His eyes lingered on each still image. “I’m so high—I can’t see that as anything other than a drawing,” he said. “That’s not a giant robot, it’s a drawing of a giant robot. That’s not a space-pilot, that’s a drawing of a space-pilot. That’s not the moon, it’s—”

“When I get high,” said Dan, “everyone looks like an awkward ape. I’ll see the human gait as that of an upright primate. I’ll see high cheek-bones as simian. I’ll hear language as an extension of the cries monkeys make to alert each other to eagles and snakes.”

“What do you see, Jay?” Bob took a handful of cheese-powdered puffs from Jay’s bag. “Are you having centipede-flashbacks like Dan said?”

“I don’t know.” Jay rubbed his eyes at Bob and Dan. It was like seeing human faces for the first time. “I think I need some fresh air.”

“Step out on the back porch,” said Bob. “The view is beautiful!”

“Bob, how’s your internet connection?” Dan sat up on the couch. “I’ll bet I can find you LuLu’s dubbed online.”

Jay stepped out on Bob’s back porch, a concrete step overlooking hills of grass. In the distance the grass gave way to a forest which crawled west up the Bighorn Mountains. Stars flocked in the sky around a full moon.

Jay counted his fingers. “One, two, three, four, five,” he counted on his left hand. “Six, seven, eight, nine, ten,” he counted on his right. “I’m awake. This isn’t a dream.”

Still he examined his hands. He noticed no centipede-flashbacks but he found his focus fixed on his fingerprints. His hands seemed flat and matte one moment then shimmered with his identifying lines the next. He accepted his altered mental state and tried to clear agitation from his mind.

When he lowered his hands he found a cloud on the horizon. He watched it morph and change faster, it seemed, than an ordinary cloud would have. He thought the cloud looked like a white fox. The white fox stepped over the forest and onto the grass with the fluid misunderstanding of a Magritte. “Hey, JayJay! Are you hallucinating too?”

Jay rubbed his eyes and his ears. When the white fox did not disappear, he sat on the concrete step and covered his mouth. “Faith?”

“Yeah! I haven’t seen you in—” She couldn’t complete the thought, so she shook her head. “Ages, I guess.”

“You were struck by lightning.”

Faith’s smile faltered. “I was, wasn’t I.”

“Did it hurt? Are you okay?”

“It didn’t. I’m fine, I think.” She approached Jay’s feet and sat on her haunches. “I just don’t know what’s real or not, anymore.”

“I hope I’m real,” said Jay.

“You and me both.” She sighed. “Wanna smoke?”

Before he could refuse Faith pawed at her ear and a bug fell from behind it. It wasn’t a cricket or a centipede: it was a cockroach. “I guess I could smoke. Where’d you get that?”

“Mars, I think. Roaches are the only smokables I can dig up. Got a lighter?”

“Yeah.” Jay lit the cockroach with an orange lighter as Faith held the roach’s head in her vulpine jaw. “Faith, I don’t think you’re on Mars. And I don’t think you’re hallucinating.”

Faith had obviously practiced smoking as a fox. She tongued the cockroach over each of her canines to make space in her jaws to blow smoke. She turned her muzzle so Jay could take the roach. With her mouth free she was able to speak. “What do you mean, JayJay?”

“I think you’re dead and in the afterlife.” Jay puffed. He’d seen cockroaches before—mostly in Eastern Asia—but he’d never smoked one. It was spicy and harsh. “No offense.”

“None taken. That makes sense.” Faith bonked her head against Jay’s knee. “I miss you guys.”

“We all miss you.” Jay gave her the cockroach. As a child Jay scratched his cat Django on the head just in front of the ears, and now he scratched Faith the same way out of habit. She smiled and closed her eyes. “Dan and Bob are inside, but it might be inappropriate to bring you in.”

“Hmpf,” puffed Faith. “I understand.”

“They just started watching the first episode of LuLu’s Space-Time Acceleration. We shouldn’t interrupt.”

“Ha. Yeah. That’s why.” Faith leaned her head into Jay’s hand to guide him where to scratch. “I’ll have to go back soon. Back to the Mountain.”

“Are you a Zephyr, whatever that means?”

She puffed again and let Jay take the roach before she spoke. “I wish. I’m a Will-o-Wisp.”

“Is Beatrice there?”

Faith lowered her muzzle in melancholy. Jay hugged her, and she slung one fore-paw over his shoulder. “Let me tell you what I remember,” she said.

J4 pictb

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