Jessie: Holy shit.
Alex: What? Is everything okay?
Jessie: Did you know that Ryan’s an expert marksman?
Alex: Like, with a gun?
Alex: I had no idea! I didn’t even know he owned any guns!
Jessie: Well, he does have a safe in his house. I think they’re his fathers’. But I had no idea he was such a good shot!
Alex: What does this have to do with your trip?
Jessie: My dad and brothers arranged a boy’s thing out behind the house to go target shooting. I’m pretty sure the intent was to properly intimidate Ryan.
Jessie: But I got to sit on the porch and watch him absolutely HUMBLE my brothers the second he started shooting.
Alex: Wow. His dad must have taught him pretty well.
Jessie: Apparently the park rangers did too, when he was getting trained.
Alex: I never thought about it, but I guess that makes sense.
Alex: Wait, just your brothers? Not your father?
Jessie: Oh, nobody humbles my dad when it comes to shooting. But Ryan came pretty close.
Jessie: You should’ve seen my uncle. He was laughing his ass off while my oldest brother Tommy made excuses about why Ryan could hit the soup can at fifty yards and he couldn’t.
Alex: So the trip is off to a good start.
Jessie: The first twenty-four hours are positive. We’ll see how the next six days go.
Alex: You’re quiet on the radio today. Is everything all right?
Steph: Playing Pokémon.
Alex: … that’s all you’re gonna say?
Alex: Please tell me one- or two-word answers aren’t going to be the norm when you’re on that thing.
Steph: You brought it for me.
Alex: Your dad and I BOTH got it for you.
Alex: Ok, this is getting annoying.
Alex: You got a couple of boxes from Amazon. Are they Xmas presents?
Alex: Are you going to wrap them tonight?
Alex: If your next text is less than six words, you’re not getting any holiday touchy-feelys.
Steph: You are awesome, and I love you.
Steph: Seven. Boom.
Alex: That thing was a mistake. We’re taking it back.
Steph: Fight me.
Duckie: Alex, are you and Steph coming to the Holiday Festival?
Alex: Of course! And Steph’s dad, too. Why?
Duckie: Because traditionally, the Black Lantern has helped provide alcohol for the party.
Alex: Will Ryan back you up on that when I ask him, or are you trying to get more free booze out of us?
Duckie: If I was, my dear, I would be volunteering to pick up and transport all of it.
Duckie: Also, SubTerra has given the city council a rather generous donation for the festivities. Your alcohol will be purchased, not donated.
Alex: Oh. Yea, I think we can do that. How much are you guys looking for?
Duckie: Last year, we went through about ten cases of beer.
Alex: Good thing we just got a delivery. What about food?
Duckie: Smores fixings will be provided for all the guests.
Alex: There’s not going to be a band stage, is there?
Duckie: You and Steph don’t want to repeat your Spring Festival performance?
Alex: Steph might. But playing the guitar in freezing temps isn’t my definition of a fun time.
Duckie: That’s true. In any case, no, the only music will be from your girlfriend’s sound system.
Alex: Sounds like fun!
Duckie: Agreed! I can swing by and pick up that beer from you any time.
Alex: How about I just set it aside and help you move it right before the festival.
Duckie: Curses. Foiled again.
George: I know you like music. How much do you know about K-Pop?
Alex: … is this because I’m Asian?
George: YOU ARE?!
George: I didn’t even notice!!
Alex: Very little. It’s never been my thing, honestly.
George: Sigh. My daughter said the same thing.
Alex: Why are you interested in K-Pop?
George: I’m not. But Paige is obsessed with it. I’m trying to come up with a corresponding present.
Alex: Are you STILL Christmas shopping?
George: You may not have heard, but I’m something of a procrastinator.
Alex: It’s the 20th!
George: Which means I still have two more days to take advantage of Amazon Prime shipping before things get awkward.
Alex: Man, I miss that. Wish we got it out here.
George: It is convenient. Any suggestions?
Alex: What’s your budget?
George: An appropriate amount that doesn’t get me in trouble with her mother. And makes her like me.
Alex: Fine line to walk. What about some headphones or earbuds?
George: Hmm. She does have a set of headphones, but I think they’re a no-name store brand.
Alex: Well, that’s just tragic. You can get a killer pair of Sennheiser’s for a hundred bucks.
George: What about some of those Beats by Dre headphones? I keep seeing them everywhere.
George: That’s a strong reaction.
Alex: They suck in every aspect of the word. You’re paying three hundred bucks for fifty bucks worth of headphones and two-fifty in marketing. They’re only popular because the guy keeps paying celebrities to wear them in public, and the general human population is just a bunch of sheep.
George: So, don’t buy them.
Alex: If you do, I’ll hate you on Paige’s behalf.
Alex: Valkyrie is on the couch with me.
Steph: … she is?
Alex: I have your attention now?
Steph: Fuck yea you do. Like, right next to you?
Alex: Within arm’s reach.
Steph: You should try petting her.
Alex: I can’t.
Steph: Why not?
Alex: I’m scared.
Steph: You’ve been feeding her every day for almost a month.
Steph: Maybe she knows you as a friend by now.
Alex: You said it took almost a year for you to tame her.
Steph: She was in a much worse place last year. You’re starting off further ahead than I did.
Alex: So I just… pet her head?
Steph: No. Start with her back. Work your way to the head slowly.
Alex: Okay. I’m going for it.
Steph: Fingers crossed!
Steph: You did it?
Alex: My hand is on her back!
Steph: Is she yowling?
Alex: I think she’s purring?
Alex: I’ve never heard her do it before though. I’m not sure.
Steph: Ok, let’s try a SLOW pet.
Alex: Good so far.
Steph: You can do it!
Alex: YOUR CAT’S A LITTLE FUCKER
Steph: Ah, the sound of progress.
Jessie: Oh my God
Alex: What?! What is it?!
Jessie: Ryan is helping my mother and aunt cook dinner!!
Alex: … seriously? You’re freaking out over that?
Jessie: Ryan is helping my mother and aunt cook dinner WHILE WEARING AN APRON
Alex: I’ve seen him wear aprons when he helps out our kitchen staff. Is there more to this?
Jessie: IT IS NOT A MANLY APRON
Jessie: IT IS ONE OF MY MOTHER’S SPARE APRONS
Jessie: It is EGGSHELL WHITE
Jessie: With embroidered FLOWERS
Jessie: And has LACE TRIM
Alex: No it does NOT
Jessie: PINK LACE TRIM
Alex: OH MY GOD YOU’RE LYING
Jessie: I HAVEN’T EVEN GOTTEN TO THE GOOD PART YET
Alex: WHAT IS THE GOOD PART
Alex: TELL ME THE GOOD PART
Jessie: It says on the front of the apron
Jessie: Across his chest
Jessie: In FLOWING red script
Jessie: With hearts on both ends
Jessie: “MOTHER KNOWS BEST”
Alex: ROLLING ON FLOOR LAUGHING MY ASS OFF
Alex: WE NEED A PICTURE
Alex: TELL ME YOU TOOK A PICTURE OR YOU’RE IN SO MUCH TROUBLE
Alex: DONE. WE ARE SO DONE.
Alex: STEPH IS CRYING ON THE FLOOR
Alex: HER FATHER DOESN’T EVEN KNOW HIM, BUT HE LOOKS SO DISAPPOINTED
Jessie: Oh my God, this one moment was worth the WHOLE trip.
Alex: Tell him that we’re having that photo framed. And hanging it in the Black Lantern.
Jessie: No, I don’t think I will. The look on his face would be worth keeping the secret.