(Our first agreement…seems a bit tattered…)
Me (ignoring his glee): “I pulled my bookshelves apart looking for something yesterday, but if we work together, it shouldn’t take too long to locate Chamber of Secrets.”
On the upside, at least I found a sliver of a silver lining to the mystifying vanishing act pulled by my copy of Nevermore’s Conventions. It will take well over an hour to excavate the aforementioned book from the jumbled up piles currently cluttering up most of my bedroom floor (especially if I’m only helpful adjacent).
Hip, Hip, Hooray for my hapless housekeeping!
Wood (leaning against the desk): “Do you really want to break your set?”
Me (shrugging): “Not particularly. But a deal’s a deal.”
Wood (looking frighteningly thoughtful): “Well, you did do pretty well following doctor’s orders….”
Me (tilting my head): “Except when I didn’t.”
Wood (ignoring me): “…and I don’t want an incomplete set either…”
Me (squinting): “Does one book really count as a set?”
Wood (still ignoring me): “…perhaps our first deal wasn’t entirely equitable since you were under the influence of painkillers and hurt at the time…”
Me (eyes goggling): “First deal? That implies there’s a second…..wait, are you saying you want to make another deal?”
Wood (snapping his fingers at me): “That sounds like a great idea!”
Letting me stew, Wood pulled a documents folder from beneath his Gladstone, unzipped it, and handed me a crisp sheet of paper.
Wood (giving me a tight grin): “Here it is, either we stick our original bargain, and you can grab me Dobby’s first adventure with Harry Potter while I head to the kitchen to see what smells so good. Or we sign this new deal, and I’ll stay in here until the cabal decides they’re ready for me to join the party.”
Me (mind working at warp speed): “You came prepared with a new deal? You couldn’t know I was going to confess. I didn’t know. I might have tied you to a chair.”
Wood: “Do you own any rope?”
Me (narrowing my eyes): “Not the point…Wait…You knew I broke our deal before you got here today, didn’t you.”
Wood (giving me a smile that nearly reached his eyes): “Sure did.”
Wood (chuckling): “Later. Now read my proposal.”
Me (wrinkling my nose): “Fine, Mephistopheles.”
Wood settled into the window seat to wait with his feet up while I paced the length of the room, evaluating the particulars and subtext layered into the few short sentences.
At first glance, his deal sounds chillingly reasonable. Should I ever find myself entering a situation where I know – ahead of time – I might come to harm. I am required to bring Wood along as backup. No questions asked. If I break said deal, I forfeit my entire run of signed first print Harry Potters to him.
Putting a pin in the fact, Wood’s incapable of restraining himself from asking questions and my lack of discretionary income (blowing twenty to thirty grand rebuilding the set if I lose it isn’t in the cards).
Accepting the proposal means potentially; placing him in harm’s way if I misjudge a situation and/or causing irreparable damage to his professional reputation should we get caught performing marginally illegal, supremely weird, or inexplicable acts. (Which, if you haven’t already figured it out yet, occur more often than not when Nevermore requires my aid.)
Neither of my points adjusted his attitude a whit. He simply stated he understood the risks, has complete faith in me and then reminded me his reputation isn’t mine to manage. (To a man who went Trick-or-Treating for the hell of it last July, I wasn’t surprised he brushed aside my appeal to his professionalism.)
Then there’s the delightful chance my extracurricular activities will convince him I’m a lunatic. (Because I don’t think telling him I’m ‘rehearsing for my improv group’ is going cut it now – especially if we’re standing in the middle of Nevermore at midnight and I look like I’m talking to myself.)
On the other hand, if I decide keeping my secrets is more important -there’s a distinct possibility my refusal will plop a permanent blot on our friendship.
His earlier waggishness belied tension I could see radiating from his frame. Coupled with the fact a salmon would find it tough to swim against the undercurrents in the room, tells me he’d take an opt-out as a sign that I don’t trust him. (I don’t think he’ll find a shred of comfort in the fact he’s the only one I’ve ever come close to telling about my Knack, Nevermore and the Residents.)
Never mind the fact if I don’t sign, he’ll walk straight into the kitchen and ruin our surprise…
Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath…and dug my nails into my palms – finally figuring out exactly where this document places me.