Acupuncture After The Apocalypse

Us Humored And Tamed

Right after I wrote that yesterday, Levi took back the reins from Prianka. She’d been keeping us humored and tamed by good food and hammocks and comfortable beds.  (And I’ll admit, the interesting array of intelligent Brazilian men we met every night at dinnertime didn’t hurt her cause any, either.)

We left last night. We traveled only two and a half hours, to a village on the edge of a preserve in the Mata Atlântica, the name the Brazilians give to the vast forests of the Atlantic coasts. (Prianka was gracious enough to plunge into the research on where we were going, once it was clear she couldn’t deter us.)

After stuffing ourselves in the early morning hours with sweet rolls and papaya, we set out to find Eve and Mason. It didn’t take long, since it turns out the owner of the hotel we’re staying in rented Eve and Mason the house they’re living in.

That’s right: Eve, Mason, and their kids, Lark and Chloe, are all alive, and I’m with them right this very instant. Eve is making hot chocolate; Chloe is drawing on a piece of bark and singing a mindless little tune in what I assume to be Portuguese; Mason is out in his laboratory treehouse; Prianka is sitting with her computer in the only uncomfortable-looking chair in the room; and Lark and Levi are sitting across from one another at a coffee table playing backgammon. Currently, Levi is preaching the value of trash talking one’s opponent.

“It helps you get the upper hand,” Levi says. “It makes your opponent doubt himself before you even start playing.”

“I don’t see how my insulting you will change what dice you roll,” Lark counters. “Or what I roll.”

“Try it. Try to get me doubting myself. Your youth is your strength, so in your case you should insult me about being old and dim-witted.”

“I don’t know.”

“Make it personal. Something like, ‘You’re so old, I bet when you were my age, rainbows only came in black and white.’”

“Can’t I just make a joke about how bad your luck is with the dice?” Lark says. “Like ‘Your dice stink.’

“Try ‘Your dice stink, man, just like you. I bet when you were in school, your teacher paid you not to raise your hand.’ Remember something that smells bad, make a comparison between that and me and my dice.”

Lark holds a pair of dice in a cup. While she thinks, she shakes the cup gently back and forth, clicking the dice together. This goes on for a while, long enough that Levi rises from the couch and fetches himself a Skol from Eve’s fridge.

Prianka looks up briefly enough to register disapproval of the Mayor-Elect’s drinking, and returns to her screen.

Lark says, “I got one, I think.”

Levi takes a swig from the can, then eases back down on the couch across the table from her. “Great! Bring it.”

“Your last roll of a four and a three stinks worse than Aristolochia gigantea!”

“Okaaaaaay,” Levi says.

“That works, right?”

“I have no idea what Arista-whatever even is. Pick something where there’s a reasonable chance someone will know what you’re talking about.”

“Well, I didn’t understand why a rainbow would ever have been black and white.”

“Oh!” Levi seems surprised by this. “You know, because television used to be only black and white. A long time ago.”

“Huh?”

“When television first came out, it wasn’t in color. Not until the nineteen sixties. You didn’t know that?”

“What’s television?” Lark asks. “Is that like a computer?”

“Oh god, you’re so young you only watch shows on your computer,” Levi groans. “You don’t even know what television is? Now I do feel old.”

Chloe looks up from her drawing.

“Uncle Levi?”

Levi swivels around to look at Chloe. He looks a little depressed. “Yes, darling?”

“Lark knows what a television is. We have one in the other room.”

“Oh, man.” Levi turns back to face his opponent. He places both hands on either side of the backgammon board and leans forward. “Lark?”

She rattles the dice more vigorously, then rolls double sixes. “I guess it does work after all.”

Jill Riddell is a writer in Chicago. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute and has a weakness for nature, magic, and pennies abandoned in sidewalk cracks.