Tony is staring at his phone while another freezer bag of Herpezoid goo sits on the console between us. Normally, a Herpezoid won't shut up after getting blasted, but this one is remaining quiet. I take a couple of turns too sharply just to see if Tony reacts. Nothing. The jiggling bag of Herp guts only responds with sloshing noises. I need to break this silence because frankly it is such a buzzkill ride after the adrenaline rush a few moments ago.
"Do you think Herpezoid goo goes bad? Like, does it spoil?"
The silence persists, but so do I.
"I mean, when I leave a carton of milk on the counter, it goes bad. Starts to stink. Awful Worst freaking smell. I wanna gag just thinking about it right now. I bet Herpezoids are like that. They just start stinking. I mean, worse than they already do."
The silence is impenetrable. I grab Tony's phone and set it next to the alien gut bag.
"What the hell?" He picks it back up.
"Pay attention to me!"
"This is your fault. Yours and Colbie Caillat's. You pressured me into texting Marlene and now all I can think about is hearing back from her. I'm obsessed with it."
"She will text you back. She's a nice person." I offer him another Mongalisonian cigarette, but he refuses. I reach behind my seat and grab a gift bag and hand it to him.
"What's this?" He looks inside like he is expecting a severed hand.
"It's your Christmas gift. Open it."
He pulls out the tissue paper and peeks again. I'm not sure why all this drama is necessary but he's milking it for all it's worth. Finally, he reaches in and pulls out a chunk of glazed white stone on a base. He holds it up and inspects it from all angles.
"What is this?"
"It's bonzalite," I say. "Pure form of it. Read the inscription."
He squints and reads. "My friend went to Bi Xiu Prime and got me this stupid rock."
"Isn't it great?"
He seems underwhelmed, but I'm going to chalk it up to his preoccupation with Marlene.
"Look," I say, "it's not that big a deal that you texted her."
"Are you going to text Leigh Ann?"
"Of course. Sure. Why wouldn't I?"
"Then, do it now."
I see what's going on. He's calling my bluff. He knows I'm still hurting over losing her and he is deflecting away from his own bullshit and focusing on mine because he doesn't wanna deal with his feelings. Classic Tony. I pick up my phone and start texting.
"Fine. There. Sent. I said 'Merry Christmas, baby' because it's like the Christmas song." My shit-eating grin is epic.
"Well, alright then. I hope she responds."
"And I hope Marlene responds."
"You guys are the most annoying humans I've ever encountered and that is really saying something." The Herpezoid speaks, but before I can respond my phone dings a notification of an incoming text from Leigh Ann's number. I look at Tony and he looks at me. My stomach flips and flops and flips again. I check the text.
LOL Merry Xmas to you too. Who dis? LOL
"What did she say?" the Herpezoid asks, so I toss his bag into the very back of the van and keep driving.