Winter had melted into spring and brought upon many of nature’s most glorious inventions. Weeds swarmed on the outskirts of the front lawn. The hedges threatened to conceal the windows. A bird had shat upon Bender’s suit as he’d been on his way to work some day last week. Teenage hormones somehow slid on top of the desk of Pleasantville High’s principal, and subsequently brought on a slew of lazy, frivolous lawsuits. The Easter Bunny had skipped town. All of the chickens had died; the festive egg making was left to the factories.
It was a beautiful spring according to the newscasters, who had not left their film studio since February.
This was not the general consensus of the public, who, for the most part, tended to go outside on a daily basis.
In particular, one man despised this year’s spring. However, he despised most everything, and so everyone, including his eldest daughter, thought he was a bother and didn’t listen to him much.
“Do think dad’s hit the lonely OD again?” asked Pandora.
Vodka sighed. “Of course. What’s the record?”
“This is the third rock bottom. You’ve got it under the hood, right?”
“As usual. Panda, you know I only do this for you, don’t you? I honestly couldn’t give two meteorites whether or not he jumps. He’s such a human. His emotions are unfathomable, I swear.”
“He can’t be all human!” laughed Pandora. “I mean, he shot you out, and have you seen how much he guzzles? Vods, you’ve got to admit that there’s something supernatural about that.”
Vodka had, in fact, seen how much Bender could drink, and frankly, was not impressed. It was a pitiable habit, thought Vodka. If she could have it her way, the whole bloody apathetic planet and all of its bloody apathetic addictions would be better off blown to smithereens to make space for a galactic highway or invaded by little green men or turned into an interstellar food court-just something useful. Her and Pandora, well, of course they’d have to survive. Not because they were much better than anyone else, per say, but because Vodka happened to agree with most of her kind, and Pandora was intelligent enough to agree with them when the situation required.
The roof door slammed. “Are you sure you’ve got it handled?” Pandora asked. Her voice trembled.
Vodka smirked. “I haven’t screwed up once. Why would today be any different?”
The roof seemed pretty high up, Bender thought. Just another fairly lethal drop in his fairly lethal world. It was beautiful, in a daunting sort of way. Freedom in death, he supposed. Nina would join him by the end of the week if her case didn’t get stalled for another lonely eight years. That was a long time to wait; he’d have done it for no other woman. Some days he wondered if it was even worth waiting for a convicted murderess. Then he would fall asleep with his body curled around her memory, and would awaken with her flaming hair twirled between his fingers. And so the waiting game continued.
His meandering thoughts returned to the ground below. Easily twenty feet, decided Bender, who was a very poor judge of distance, particularly after a bottle of brandy. By his estimates, there was no way he’d survive the drop.
If Bender had gone to the foyer and eavesdropped on his daughters’ conversation, he would have realized that it was not quite as lethal as he wanted it to be.
He thought of how terribly sad the world was. Bender raised his hands over his head-the obituary writers would take it quite symbolically, he thought.
Then he jumped.
And landed upon an expertly placed mattress. “Fuck,” muttered Bender. Rolling onto the ground, he cursed his terrible luck. He would have to wait to die another day. Bender sighed. He would’ve liked to make it to the netherworld before Nina. She’d certainly appreciate having a house and bowl of cereal, not Captain Crunch but Reeses (while Nina kept her sweet tooth a secret, Bender had found a stash of candy bars under his bed during the fifth year), ready for her when she arrived.
Bender wished Pleasantview hadn’t outlawed guns after Don and Dina’s deaths. It’d sure make things easier.
“Whizzer!” cried Pandora. “Did you hear that thump?”
“That just means he hit the mattress,” Vodka assured her. She hoped, for her sister’s sake, that it was true.
“Vods, how do you know when he’s about to try diving under the bridge again?”
“Dad talks in his sleep a lot,” said Vodka, “and he always makes dinner the night before, like he’s trying to make up for ditching us on this insignificant planet. Do you remember the first one?”
“That was only a few months after we’d grown out the awks tot phase, right?” asked Pandora.
“Right. He used to talk on the phone a lot back then. Now he just reads the papers. What’s there to read about anyway? It’s all so dull. People are really so uncreative, if only they just opened their minds to a fraction of the world around them they’d see that there’s much more to write about than Daniel Pleasant’s latest affair or Cassandra Goth’s new shoes-!”
“Vods, stop going off the rails! We’re talking about dad, not your garbage bin.”
“Our suburb’s entire newspaper is a trash mag! Doesn’t that bother you one bit, Panda!?”
“Dad is what really throws my system into a pinch, and we’re talking about him, not the newspaper. So continue with the story, please.”
“Fine. He was on the phone that morning, if I remember correctly.”
“What about? I was bouncing on the bed, I think.”
“Your mom, as usual.”
“That better not be a joke.”
“No, really. He was talking about your mom to somebody important. He was angry and shouted something about being a darn good lawyer and being worthy of freaking defending her, but they said no.”
“Vods, you could’ve just said bleep, you know. You didn’t have to substitute not dirty words in there.” Pandora paused thoughtfully. Vodka rolled her eyes. These contradictions were commonplace.
After a moment, Pandora continued. “D’ya suppose if my mom came back Dad would be happy again?”
“Well, maybe,” answered Vodka in a melancholy voice, for despite her sister’s cheerfulness, Vodka was a very melancholy girl. This stemmed not only from her unfortunate name, but also her great distaste for humans in general. If it hadn’t been for Pandora, Vodka gladly would’ve let her father off himself years ago.
“What if they started doing the gibbon again? The older girls at school say it makes anyone bubbly.”
“I have no clue what you’re trying to say,” Vodka sighed, “so I’m just going to keep talking. I found a green bottle in the den later that evening; Dad was in the bathroom.”
“What did the bottle say? Vodka?” Pandora giggled.
“Shut up!” snapped Vodka. “You sound just like those swine at school.”
“I’m sorry,” said Pandora gently. “I was just joshing you.”
“You better have been.”
“Will you still finish the story?” Pandora hated to be left hanging. It was always best to know things, she felt, and the massive gaps of logic in her life drove her mad. She was a mature girl-well, maybe that was pushing it, but she was an understanding one. If her dad could just tell her a single thing about her missing mom (which be better to hear from him than from Vodka, who was a good but slightly unreliable source of information), she’d do the dishes for the rest of her life, and as an added bonus, she would not pass judgment upon her mother or her father as long as they kept the gibboning behind closed doors. It would be the perfect deal, if Bender would accept it.
Instead, he tried to take his secrets to the grave.
“I looked closely. It was nothing I’d seen in the liquor cabinet before. Narrowing my eyes, I read the fatal word: arsenic.”
“Arsenic?” Pandora wrinkled her nose. “What’s that?”
“Whizzer!” breathed Pandora. “Where’s my mom in your hour of need?”
“Prison, I told you that.”
“Right-o. What’d you do?”
“Dumped it in the bushes outside, and rinsed it out four times, and then filled it with water. I put it back on the table, and Dad was alive the next morning.”
After taking what he thought was arsenic, Bender laid on the couch and waited to die.
Waiting made him tired, however, and he fell asleep.
When Bender awoke, he was very disappointed. However, he did not have to be hospitalized, which cheered him up a great bit.
“The second one was much easier to prevent,” said Vodka.
“Even I saw it coming that time,” said Pandora sadly. “He looked very lost at dinner, and hadn’t gone into work that day. I mean, seriously. He cooked us dinner in his pajamas.”
“Call the suicide hotline,” snorted Vodka. “It got even more obvious when he tried to sneak outside in his swim trunks.”
“I heard a splash,” continued Vodka, “so I turned on the pool heater full blast. That got him out within two minutes. It’s hard to get hypothermia in a seventy degree pool.”
“Dad must consider himself a big whop,” Pandora murmured.
“At least he’s got something right.”
“Do you want to play Invaders Versus Tossers?”
“Let’s do it!”
“Pew pew pew!” shouted Pandora.
“God, would you just stop? Panda, you are seriously the worst invader I’ve ever seen.”
“Fine then, how am I supposed to invade?” huffed Pandora.
“If you’re a good invader, you only need one shot.”
“Are you so-?”
Outside, Bender laid on the grass and thought about the end of the world. It seemed a pleasant concept. All pretty colors and flashing lights and then a soft, endless void to carry him home. He didn’t oppose the end of the world-in a way, he’d helped to set in motion. A reporter had said Vodka’s birth was a sure sign that the apocalypse was in sight. Wistfully, Bender wished it was true. Hopeless was a rotten way to live.
He remembered hope in the lens of the all seeing telescope. It would search the galaxies for his love, and somehow, thought Bender, it would bring her back to him. Or he’d get pregnant again. Thankfully, though, it seemed his brushes with aliens were over-aside from his daughter, of course. Their booze had been awful. Bender returned to the telescope, brushing away his concerns. He still held onto the dream.
Each morning, all he saw was his usual carpool.
He remembered hope in each trying phone call. Bender would be the one to get her out. He’d defend her with all of the lies and bravado his massive mind could muster. The best lawyer in Pleasantview-that’s what they all called him. Bender could save Nina.
Each call, he was told no, and then asked to attend a Leprosy themed Christmas party. Wisely, Bender declined.
Hope was in each honest kiss.
Hope left in a policewoman’s shoddy cab.
But yet he waited. Drunk, doomed, and devoted, he kept his eyes peeled to the papers, his ear glued to the phone. Bender couldn’t say that he was a good father, but he was the most determined of lovers.
The sky had grown dark. He shakily stood up and went inside for a drink.
“Dad’s gone inside,” said Pandora. She had a keen eye for the obvious, and liked to state it as often as she could. “Oh, are you cooking dinner?” she’d ask Bender whenever he was stirring a huge bowl of pasta. “Oh, your hair’s in braids. You do that a lot,” she’d tell Vodka each morning. “Oh, you’ve pissed on my sister’s lunchbox,” she’d tell the school bullies who had done just that.
However, the bullies would have to wait another chapter to get their comeuppance. They were very grateful for this, and have been spending these past eighteen hundred words wishing they were intelligent enough to know how to repent. Alas, they could not spell “hamburger,” let alone enunciate the words “I’m sorry.” Perhaps if their Stepford mothers hadn’t been bribing the school board, they would’ve been rightfully held in the first grade for the next twenty years.
“Oh, good!” Vodka clapped her hands together. “This means we can go to the roof!”
Each night, Vodka and Pandora eloped to the roof to educate themselves on Vodka’s cloudy heritage. Vodka would stare into the ink blot sky, and Pandora would lounge about, gazing into the infinity of outer space. It was a peaceful-an escape from their father’s downward spiral, the tragedies of the suburban schoolgirl, and the zombie nanny who occasionally prowled the halls of their home. Pandora sometimes believed the nightly ritual was the only thing keeping her and her sister sane.
Tonight, however, their tradition was cut short by a hideously bright pair of scrubs.
“Panda!” whispered Vodka sharply. “Look across the street!”
“Why?” huffed Pandora, who was trying to count the craters on the moon and was thus very concentrated on her inane task. “I’m a bit busy at the moment.”
Pandora glanced across the street. “No way. Vods, is that-?”
“DAD!” screamed Pandora. “THERE’S A BAD MAN OUTSIDE!”
Vodka rolled her eyes. “That’s not what I was really expecting, but I guess if it gets him out of bed.”
“Goddamn fucking kids,” grumbled Bender, tugging on his coat. It was just the mailman or a stray dog or bigfoot or something stupid like that. He’d chase it off with a stick, chastise the girls for their overactive imaginations, and then crawl back into bed without another thought to the ridiculous matter. His eyes turned to street, searching for the alleged threat.
What he saw stopped him in his tracks.
She was laying across the street, green eyes eight years lost in the evening sky, familiar red hair pulled away from her face. Bender couldn’t move. It was not the sight of her that caused his momentary paralysis, but rather the feeling of her, the still lovely radiance she shot in his still direction. He’d gotten past the lie years ago. He’d done the same. Two double murderers, two passionate lovers, two unruly liars-they were quite the pair, Bender had decided in the third year alone. He could never have another woman-she wouldn’t understand him in the way that Nina could.
This in mind, he cleared his throat. Shivering, she stood up. She shivered partly because she’d heard the chimes of a long lost voice dancing over the wind, but mostly because it was a rubbish and very cold spring.
Nina began to weep. “Bender?”
She turned to face him, and he ran to her, throwing open his arms and pulling her into a deep, boundless hug. She curved into him, absorbing his warmth, the magnitude of his waiting. There was a feeling there she never wanted to live without-a feeling she needed to put into tangible words.
“I waited for you every day,” whispered Bender, smiling. Her tears wet his cold neck. “You still look the same. Fucking beautiful-that’s what you are.”
“I ran,” said Nina, sniffling, “I mean, you saw the papers, didn’t you? I was going to be rotting in the cemetery by Friday morning, and I needed to tell you something, and then I thought, why not? and got the hell out of there. Oh god, Bender, they’re going to come looking for me-they’re going to come looking for you.”
“All of that doesn’t matter now. We’re safe-just us, safe. There’s nothing else. But still, I’m damn curious… What did you want to tell me?”
“I love you.”
“Vods, that lady’s kissing Dad. Does that make you feel buggy or what? Bleh!”
“Not at all.”
“Panda, I think that lady’s your mom.”
Vodka gasped; the world spun around her. She sprinted from the roof, pounding down the stairs and swirling on the railing and out the front door. Vodka observed from her post, disgusted at the sight below.
“Pathetic earth people,” muttered Vodka haughtily. “They haven’t seen each other in eight years and the first thing they think to do is have a pillow fight?”
Nina’s tears had dried; dark trails of mascara wound their way down her face to her pointed chin. Orange was not a becoming color on her, thought Pandora. She’d always imagined her mother to dress better than scrubs and basketball shoes, even if she was on the way to death row. Pandora’s mother should be a woman to go out with class. Not just with class-with style.
Her mother laughed, a big true laugh, throwing her head back and her hair down. She had gorgeous hair. Pandora was a bit jealous, really. Her mother could’ve been a supermodel-minus the prison scrubs.
“We’ll run away,” Bender was saying. “Take the girls and the house and the damn cats and head to Downtown.”
“We’ll blend into the crowds!” cried Nina with a grin. “Throw our hair in front of our faces and sunglasses over our eyes!”
“No one will know what we’ve done.” Bender kissed her face. Quick, wild, joyous kisses.
Wrinkling her nose, Pandora cleared her throat.
“I’m going to pack our bags,” said Bender quickly. He went inside, but was only worried slightly. He was sure they’d get along fine, or at least be able to tolerate each other for their first conversation as literate human beings.
“You’re my mom,” said Pandora bluntly.
“Yes,” Nina said. She couldn’t help but look away. Her daughter must be so ashamed of her, she thought. The scrubs couldn’t be helping.
“It’s nice to meet you, Mom.”
Nina began to cry once more. From the window, Bender smiled.
“It’s nice to meet you, too.”
Super Furry Animals – “Hello Sunshine“
A/N: And here’s the end to what has been one of my favorite Sim generations ever. I’m really sad to see these guys grow out of focus and old and eventually start pushing daisies, but I’m very excited to usher in the next generation, too. Only one question remains: who will be bringing in the next generation of Belues? I’ll post the heir poll in just a moment!
Beeteedubs, brownie points to everyone who knows what the title’s a reference to.
I like to think Pandora and Zombie Nanny are playing Left 4 Dead. Oh, the irony..