J4. The Magritte

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

“Eh.” Dan shrugged. “It’s a clip show repeating what we learned in the first season’s finale. I can’t get worked up over it twice.”

“But this time Lucille has to watch,” said Jay. “For twelve episodes the viewer has known Akayama built the Hurricane. They watched Bojack sacrifice himself. But Lucille hadn’t. Now the viewer imagines 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 leaves ZAB. Then we’re relieved because she’s more determined than ever.”

Jay nodded doubtfully.

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

Bob blinked. “What?” Both eyes were bloodshot.

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

Bob had forgotten the food. He grinned from ear to ear with new hunger. He ate his apple pie in two bites. He spoke as he chewed: “That show looked cool.”

“It has a campy charm,” agreed Jay. 

Bob munched chicken nuggets as he watched the end credits. 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 laser, that’s a drawing of a laser. That’s not the moon, it’s—”

“When I get high,” Dan interrupted, “people look like awkward apes. Our cheek-bones look simian. We walk like upright primates. Our language is barely more than monkey warnings alerting each other to eagles and snakes.”

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

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.”

“Try the back porch,” said Bob. “The view’s beautiful!”

“Bob, how’s your internet connection?” Dan sat up. “I’ll bet we can watch LuLu’s dubbed online.”

Jay stepped out on Bob’s back porch, a concrete step overlooking grass. In the distance a forest crawled west up the Bighorn Mountains. Stars flocked 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, his hands seemed flat and matte one moment then shimmered with fingerprints the next. He accepted his altered mental state and tried to relax.

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. He thought the cloud looked like a white fox. The white fox stepped over the forest and onto the grass with the misunderstanding of a Magritte. “JayJay! Are you hallucinating too?”

Jay rubbed his eyes and his ears. When the white fox remained, he sat on the 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 sat on her haunches at Jay’s feet. “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 behind her ear for a bug. 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 roach over each canine to make space in her muzzle to blow smoke. She turned so Jay could take the roach. With her mouth free she spoke. “What do you mean, JayJay?”

“I think you’re dead.” 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 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.” 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.

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