Once upon a time, I promised I’d post a short story up here on the blog. Well, that day has come, my friends. After much sweaty fumbling, I’ve finally slapped this thing into some sort of acceptable shape. Whether it’s actually as good as it could be or not, I’m happy with it and I’m done fucking around with it for now. Keep in mind that I usually write science fiction, so real people (whatever that means) are very difficult for me. But the process of writing it was extra double-plus fun. Many, many thanks to the amazing Meg Zinky for giving it a proper editorial scrubbing. And thanks to all of you for indulging me. Also, sorry the paragraphs are weird. This thing won’t let me use the tab key like a tab key. I’ll work on it. Anyway, here you go. I’m going to go drink heavily now. Cheers. And hugs. Oh, so very many hugs.
And there, finally, was the dragon. His nemesis. The foul creature that he’d been chasing for months across this vast and now devastated land. It sat mocking him with its nonchalance, as though it had been waiting all along for him to simply catch up and prove his worth.
He unsheathed his sword, seeing that its silver glint of magical sharpness fade as he lost his strength…
Sean slammed his head down on the desk. “Magical sharpness?” Slam. “Fuck. Ow.” He looked at the cat and said, “Shut up, you.”
“Sean, I’m offended that you assume my first response would be a snarky comment,” said the cat, and proceeded to lick his own asshole in cat-like retaliation. He watched Sean dejectedly get ready for work and dejectedly leave the apartment and, through the window, dejectedly walk down the street.
Sean walked the same route, every day, to work. He stopped for a coffee at the corner diner at 9:15. He waved to the old lady at the newsstand at 9:20. Sean had habits, a predictable routine. Sean was prime real estate for stalkers. But Sean wrote fantasy stories about dragons and had a shitty job at his brother’s record store. He was probably too boring to stalk. He walked into Dave’s Records, setting off the horrible brass bell above the door, at 9:27.
“Sean! Did you kill your dragon?”
“Fuck no, Dave, I did not.”
“Drag. Tomorrow, maybe.”
“Maybe.” Sean threw his jacket and utilitarian manbag in the cubby behind the counter and clocked in. Dejectedly.
“What do you think? Magic sword? Awesome spell? What?”
“I guess we’ll both just have to see, Dave. That seems to be the problem, right?”
“Yeah, man,” Dave paused to contemplate the plight of the modern American novelist. Or the nature of the universe. Or something. “Yeah. I guess so.”
“Thanks for your support, Dave.”
“Dude, seriously? Anytime. You know how I feel about the prospect of dragons run rampant.”
“I do, Dave. I really do. You’ve made it abundantly and supportively clear.”
“I try, man. Want to see you get that bastard. Hey, could you do me a favor and change the music? Seems like folks are a little agro today. Maybe a little easy listening for their lunchtime activities?”
“It’s nine thirty in the morning. And you’re playing The Stooges.”
“It’s only nine thirty? That explains everything. Switch it up, something happy. And then open all that new stuff that came in yesterday.”
“Sure thing.” Sean walked to the back of the store and put on The Mamas and the Papas. He drank his coffee. He opened boxes with a razor blade and hated his life a little more.
Not that Sean’s life of routine was entirely joyless. It was Wednesday, payday, which meant he went to the bar after work. It was a personal rule. Get money, pay rent, drink heavily. Ideally, in that order. May’s was a hulking monstrosity, a stereotype of a bar. The sort of bar that would, in a movie, be built by aliens to fool some captive Earthlings. But the aliens had only ever watched television and never really been in a bar. Sean loved it. He ordered a beer, drained it, then asked May for another.
“So how’s it going, Sean? Did you slay the timorous beastie?”
“Fuck no, May, I did not.”
“Well why the hell not, man? Didn’t that demon fire spell casting thing work?”
“Demon orb. Nope. Didn’t work.”
“No. Because the main element in the potion was gold, and, as I have explained to you…”
“Dragons eat gold. Right. Makes sense. So what? You changed the potion? You started over back at the village?”
“No, going up the road to the hill. All the village stuff can stay. I really liked spearing that one barkeep through the eye.”
“Yeah, I love that bit.”
“You know she’s you, right?”
“Of course I know she’s me, you great ass. That’s why I love it. I like thinking that I can be immortalized in literature.”
“No one will know it’s you but me and you.”
“Fuck do I care? Probably no one will read it but me and you, either.” She laughed like a cannon, loud and booming. It was a great laugh. “You want a shot today or no?”
“Give me a minute. Maybe.”
Sean sat sipping his beer. Expertly. With aplomb. The bell above the door tinkled. Why all these goddamn bells? Where did this tradition come from and how can we put a stop to it?
“Can I get you something, darling?” May said to the girl who stood blinking in the dim. Darling is what she called people who weren’t regulars, and they were few and far between. Sean looked up to examine this infiltrator. Who dared to interrupt his afternoon of sadness and alcohol abuse?
“Beer, please, something dark. And a shot of Maker’s Mark back.”
Odd. Even more odd, the girl took a seat next to him rather than the conventionally polite seat one or two away.
“Hey,” she said.
“Hey,” he said back. How terribly, terribly odd.
“May, I’ll take that shot now, if you’ve got a second?” Sean said.
“I live to serve, my liege.”
“Thank you, smartass.”
“You spear me through the eye and smartass is what you’re going to get, mister.” May put the young lady’s beverages down on the bar and walked away, smirking. The newcomer looked confused.
“She doesn’t look like she’s been speared through the eye,” she said, once May was out of earshot.
“Most days, no, she doesn’t.” He cleared his throat. This part was always difficult. “Actually, I’m writing a novel and I based one of the characters on her.”
“A character whose face you chose to disfigure with a very sharp weapon.”
“Not out of hatred for this nice lady, surely.”
“Of course not.”
“So you’re a regular here.”
“Um, yeah. Why?”
“Why would you tell a perfect stranger that you’d put them in your novel?”
“I wouldn’t, I guess.” He sipped his beer during the awkward pause, then stuck out his hand. “I’m Sean.”
They shook. May brought his shot and he gulped it down. She gave Sean a look which was positively dripping with meaning, nodding toward the girl. Again with the smirk.
“So, Lydia. What’s your story?”
“Yeah. What’s your deal? What brings you here to this dingy drinking establishment, to which you have clearly never been, on a lovely Wednesday afternoon? Circumstances must have stacked up somehow.”
“Indeed, Sean, they did.” Heavy sigh. She took her shot and placed the glass back on the bar, upside-down. Bartender in a past life, Sean thought. “Yes, indeed. Well.” Another sigh. “I’m an artist. And I took it upon myself to peddle my wares on this glorious day. And failed. Miserably. Therefore I am drinking at five o’clock on a lovely Wednesday afternoon in a dingy drinking establishment with a gentleman I just met and his delightful cohort. Thank you, May,” she said as May dropped off a second shot and walked away. What is it, some secret bartender language? She didn’t even ask for a second shot. May did not acknowledge that the newcomer knew her name.
“Interesting,” Sean said.
“I think so.”
“What do you mean, ‘why’?”
“I mean, what about that particular string of sentences interests you, Sean? Because from my end it’s looking pretty dismal and I’d like to see some silver glint of hope here. Right?”
“Well. I’m a writer. I tend to find artsy people interesting. It’s a quirk. I’m working on it. What sort of art do you do?”
“Pfft. Who cares? No one in this neighborhood, I can tell you that.”
“Dude. All you know about me is that we both drink whiskey and I write books about stabbing bartenders through the eyes. Give.”
“Speared. You speared her through the eye, not stabbed. It’s a fine line, but an important one.”
Lydia smiled, sipped her beer, and narrowed her eyes at Sean. She seemed to be sizing him up somehow. Maybe she wasn’t, but he certainly felt sized up.
“Do what now?”
“I write and draw comic books.”
“Well, I’ll be damned.”
“The chances are pretty good. You, sir, spear innocent barkeeps through their eyes.” She drained her beer, threw money on the bar, winked at Sean and walked out the door. Odd, that.
And there, finally, was the dragon. His nemesis. The foul creature that he’d been chasing for months across this vast and now devastated land. It sat mocking him with its shimmery nonchalance, as though it had been waiting all along for him to simply catch up and prove his worth.
He uncapped his potion, hoping that the gypsy hadn’t lied to him about its powerful and unholy origins…
“You can’t say ‘gypsy,’ dude,” said the cat.
“Seriously? Again with this?”
“It’s really insensitive to the Roma people and it’s unnecessary. Couldn’t you make it a rogue wizard or something?”
“Oh, how I loathe you.” Sean slammed his head into the desk once more for good measure.
“Hey, don’t loathe me so much you forget to food up my bowl again. When you can’t write, I should still get to eat.”
Sean fed the cat, grabbed his jacket, and left for work. Normally, he worried about the dragon during his long walk. He thought about all the books he’d read, all the movies he’d watched, every dragon he’d ever seen decapitated, disemboweled, defenestrated, flayed, charred, crushed, drowned. It wasn’t the healthiest way to spend his time, but it was an unavoidable occupational hazard. He walked through the door of the record shop, three minutes early, like always.
“Sean! You kill your dragon today?”
“Fuck no, Dave, I did not.”
“Yeah. Do people actually say that? ‘Bummer’? Really? Still?”
“Well ‘good morning’ to you, too, little brother. Did we enjoy our Cranky Puffs we had for breakfast?”
“No worries. Yes, I do in fact say ‘bummer,’ but I’m doing it ironically.”
Sean sighed and made a snap decision. “Listen, Dave, do you care if I take the day off? I’m really not feeling so hot. I thought I’d be fine, but the walk over made me a little puny. I’d love to go home and lay down.”
“Don’t even sweat it. It’s Thursday. We don’t make any money on Thursdays. Go take a snooze. Work on your dragon magic shit.”
“Awesome. Keep me posted. You think you’ll be in tomorrow?”
“I dunno. I’ll call you in the morning.”
“Do people actually say that?”
“Go home, Sean.”
Sean wanted to spend his free morning doing something really radical and different, something that would get the creative juices flowing, something utterly outrageous and out of character. He went to the diner and ate pancakes instead. He read the paper. He did the crossword. No creative juices flowed. And when he left, he really meant to go home and get some work done. But somewhere around the sixth block, he inexplicably started heading toward the bar. May was just wiping down the bar top when he walked in.
“May, can I have a beer?”
“Is there no beer on Thursdays?”
“There is for other people. You come here on Wednesdays. It’s payday. And the universally accepted day of self-loathing.”
“So, you won’t give me a beer?”
“At eleven in the morning? I will. But I won’t feel good about it.”
“I’m fine with that. And why are you open at eleven in the morning if you don’t want people to drink in the morning?”
“It is not my job to moralize.”
“And yet, we quibble.”
“Sit down.” She poured him a beer and stood, hand on hip, watching him drink it. “So, you’re drinking for a reason today?” she finally said.
“Not really. I faked sick and left work. I can’t sleep. I don’t eat right. I can’t kill my stupid dragon.”
“Stupid. Fucking. Dragon.”
“So it’s that writer’s curse drinking, then? You’re doing it to finish the thing?”
“What do you mean?”
“Jesus, kid. You know how your people can’t get by without the occasional bout of heavy, stupid drinking, yeah? Hemingway. Poe. King. Burroughs.”
“That one was heroin, but okay. Sure.”
“Writer’s drinking. Once you’re out the other end you can finish the story. Neatly. Cleanly. Perhaps right before killing yourself. Natural born drinkers, you writers. Lubricates the brain or something.”
“True enough.” He was quiet for a minute, spinning his glass around and around, watching the bubbles march neatly from bottom to top. Fuck it. “Hey, May?”
“Line ’em up.”
Sean was not a hard drinker. A frequent drinker, true, but he rarely set out with the intention of getting hammered. He didn’t even use the word “hammered” that often. But armed with a bellyful of pancakes, he decided to systematically become very, very drunk. His writer’s brain seemed to see this as an adventure, an experiment, an exercise in existence appreciation. It accepted this new challenge with enthusiasm. He had never spent this much time in the bar before. People came and went. People who drank on a different schedule than he did, who were obviously regulars and yet were unfamiliar. May tried to teach him card tricks. He pumped quarter after quarter into the jukebox. It was a very interesting day.
“You know what I hate, May?”
“That goddamn bell on the door. Why’s there all these bells all the time? You can see the door. From right there where you’re standing. I know you can see it. You do not need a bell, May. And it sounds weird. Why’s it sound so weird?”
“Because apparently you drink on Thursdays now.”
“Urm. Yeah. Okay. ‘The Thursday Bell.’ That’d make a good title. If I didn’t hate the bells so much.” A fuzzy girl-shaped thing took the seat next to him. Why does that keep happening?
“Oh, hey…Lydia! Your name is Lydia, and you are an artist.”
“That’s true. Why you so wobbly there, Sean?” she asked, steadying him on his barstool.
“Because of all these former beers that were here earlier. I’ve been here all day long. May! Would you get Lydia please a beer please? Whereya been, artist?”
“Doing artisty things.”
“That is not a word.”
“Nope. Don’t think so. Hey, do you have a quarter?”
“Sean, I swear to god if you play that David Bowie song one more time I will call your brother and tell on you,” May said, putting Lydia’s glass down out of the range of Sean’s wandering elbows.
“Tattle tale. Tattler of tales,” he said. He stuck his tongue out at her. Lydia laughed, so he stuck his tongue out at her, too.
“So you played hooky today, did you?” Lydia asked.
“Oh, hooky has been played, my friend. Much hooky was had by all. What are you doing here? Again, I mean? Two days in a row.”
“Trying to get the bookstore down the street to sell my comics.”
“Tell me about your comics.”
“Some other time, when you’re not quite so close to falling down.”
“You know, I do feel a bit like I want to pass out. Now that you mention it.”
“I think you should.”
“But I want to hang out with you. You’re an awfully pretty artist. And I like how your hair’s all held up with a pen there. A pen. So you’re always ready.”
“Thank you. Maybe we can hang out another day.”
“It’s a date.”
“It’s definitely not a date.”
“Go home, Sean. I’ll get May to call you a cab.”
“I can walk.”
“Pfft. Am I sure? You watch me.” He stood up, quickly reconsidered standing up, and sat back down. “Okay, not so sure anymore.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought. Let’s go. Cab ahoy.”
And there, finally, was the dragon. His nemesis. The foul creature that he’d been chasing for months across this vast and now devastated land. It sat mocking him with its scaly nonchalance, as though it had been waiting all along for him to simply catch up and prove his worth.
He squinted and wobbled in the dragon’s general direction. “Damn this sunlight! I can’t see anything! I shouldn’t have taken that mental acuity potion! It was poison!”
“I hate my life.”
“I hate your life, too,” said the cat. “Hey, you want to feed me before you go off to enjoy your hangover?”
“You’re stuck with me today, buddy.”
“You and me and the dragon? One big happy family?”
“Yep. Calling out sick.”
“Good for you.” The cat watched him walk towards the phone, then had to duck out of the way when Sean switched directions and sprinted to the bathroom instead. “Nice fakeout there. You almost stepped on me,” he said when Sean came out, sweaty and a little shaky.
“You earned it.” He picked up the phone and dialed the store.
“Dave’s Vinyl, Dave speaking, how can Dave help you?”
“Hey, Dave,” Sean croaked.
“Sean! Still sick?”
“Drag. You staying home?”
“Did you kill your dragon this morning?”
“Fuck no, Dave, I did not.”
“Maybe when you’re feeling better. See you tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow’s my day off. I’ll be in on Sunday.”
“Cool. Take care.”
“I will. Thanks.” He hung up and threw the phone blindly at the couch. The cat was edgy now, ready to duck again.
“Good thing you set that one up in advance,” said the cat.
“I know, right? You want some breakfast?”
“Would we be sitting here having a conversation if I did not want breakfast? What good are you to me if there’s no breakfast involved?”
“Excellent point, cat.”
“You’re welcome.” He fed the damnable cat and settled in at his computer. The cursor blinked. Sean blinked. The cat blinked. He couldn’t tell if it was the lack of writing or the impending hangover, but time seemed to stand still. It was miserable.
And there, finally, was the dragon. His nemesis. The foul creature that he’d been chasing for months across this vast and now devastated land. It sat, mocking him with its toothy nonchalance, as though it had been waiting all along for him to simply catch up and prove his worth.
And he drew the dead barkeeper’s magic arrow from his quiver…
And he summoned the dissolution spell that he’d learned from the dead wizard, that he’d spoken with his dying words…
“God damn it…”
And he recalled the mental image of the mysterious fair maiden, and armed with that strength, ran headlong into the dragon, sword and sense of love and righteousness making him reckless with the will to live…
“Seriously, you need to stop,” the cat said, interrupting.
“What do you mean? I’ve got a whole day off to work on this.”
“Exactly. You’re trying too hard. You’re useless in the middle of the day.”
“Thank you for your feedback.”
“Sure thing.” He watched Sean stare at the screen, at the blinking cursor. “Hey, you know you’ve got a mouse living in your closet?”
“Because apartments are safer than the street?”
“No, why haven’t you killed it?”
“I’m a lover, man, not a fighter.”
“Useless fucking animal.”
“Useless? You can’t even kill an imaginary dragon.”
So he makes it up the hill and there’s the fucking dragon, looking at him all smug and shit like, “What you got, bro? Come at me.” And he charges at the big bastard with this mondo sword that he just stole off a dead guy…
“It’s epic fantasy, Sean, not epic surfing,” said the cat.
“I know. It’s awful.”
“‘Awful’ is the least painful word I would use to describe what you’re doing right now.”
And there, finally, was the dragon. It was wounded and eyed him warily, like any other creature that close to death, baring its teeth and panting. He stopped at the top of the hill and looked at it now, for the first time, as an animal and not as an enemy. It was golden and shining in the sunset’s glow, blood on its wings and claws. How could he possibly kill this beast that had just been following its instincts?
“Come on! What?”
“You can’t mercy kill the dragon. It’s a cop out.”
“You’re an editor now? Fuck you, cat.”
“No, fuck you for trying to take the easy way out. If you mercy kill the dragon, this whole book is just some stupid morality tale about not hurting little animals.”
“It’s not so little…”
“You should get out of here for a while. You’ve been staring at the screen too long. Your eyes are crossed. Well, more crossed than normal.”
“I’ll show you hurting little animals, you fuzzy bastard.”
He wandered aimlessly around the apartment for a while. He put on music. He turned the music off. He took a shower and put on a clean shirt. He straightened up his books. He fretted. He had no friends to invite over. Except Dave, and the last time Dave came by the neighbors bitched at him about the hallway smelling like hippies for a week. I need to get a life. Where does one get a life? He cooked himself dinner and tried to read a book for a while. He checked his email. He paced.
“Fine! I’m leaving! Happy?” He glared at the cat with the purest hatred one can feel for a cat who’s always right, grabbed his jacket and slammed the door. Having nowhere else to go, and feeling even more pitiful for it, he headed for the bar.
“Three days in a row, Sean?” said May.
“You should talk. Don’t you ever take a day off?”
“My private life is none of your business, son. Beer?”
“Ugh. Yeah. Please. Thanks.”
“Hair of the dog, eh?”
“Sure, if you want to call it that.”
“Drinking away a hangover? That’s the definition of ‘hair of the dog,’ actually.” She brought him his beer and he winced when the bell over the door rang. Lydia sat down next to him. She smells like old books. Damn it, why’d it have to be old books? She smiled at him, and if he didn’t know any better he would’ve let himself think that she looked him up and down. But he talked himself out of it.
“She returns. We’ve got to stop meeting like this.”
“It is a stunning string of coincidences, isn’t it? Almost enough to make me think you’ve been sitting here waiting for me.”
“Oh, see, there’s the problem. You assume that my expensive and unhealthy drinking habit is somehow all about you. When, really, it preceded you.”
“Yes, May, thank you.” May seemed to be smirking more than usual. Maybe it’s just her face, maybe that thing moms say about your face getting stuck is true. There’s no humane way to disprove that theory. May winked at Lydia and Lydia winked back.
“You two are awfully chummy.”
“We had a heart-to-heart yesterday while we were waiting for your cab to show up.”
“Glad I could help.”
“Beers for the youth of America,” said May, plonking them down on the bar.
“So, Sean, tell me about this dragon of yours,” Lydia said.
“Well, he’s big and scaly. Eats gold. Terrorizes villagers. Breathes fire. Pretty standard dragon.”
“So why can’t you kill him?”
“Seems to be the question, doesn’t it?”
“Nope. I’ve written about forty different endings. I’m not blocked. I’m just producing a lot of crap that I can’t use. I think every possible means of destroying a house-sized lizard has already been explored.”
“Ah, yes. I know the feeling.”
“The bad writing feeling? Or the lizardy feeling?”
“Yes, ‘hmm.’ It’s a general, nonjudgemental acknowledgement of something that a person has just said. It keeps me from having to air an opinion on the thing we were discussing. Clever, right?”
“What’s your comic about?”
“It’s kind of a postmodernist story about a broke comic book artist who can’t sell her work.”
“Wasn’t at the time.” They sipped their beers and fiddled with bar napkins and stared into space, trapped in a bubble of commiseration.
“Can I ask you a question?” he asked, when the pause had become a lull.
“Jeez, another one? You’re killing me with your rapid-fire conversational style, Sean.”
“So for the last two days you’ve been schlepping around the hood trying to sell your stuff, failing miserably…”
“Could’ve gone without saying that part…”
“…and now you’re here, at midnight, what? Drowning your sorrows?”
“There aren’t that many bookstores around.”
“There are not.”
“Certainly none that are open this late.”
“So why are you still here?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I like the neighborhood. I like this bar.” A chuckle and shrug. “I met this horribly tortured writer that I’m kind of into.”
“Really?” Sean almost dropped his glass. “Tell me about this gentleman. He sounds fantastic.”
“He’s a drunk. Can’t finish his novel. Pretty worthless. But adorable.”
“Does he happen to have a dead-end job at the record store down the street? The one that reeks of weed?”
“It’s entirely possible.”
“Does he have elaborately verbose conversations with his cat?”
“God, I hope not.”
“It’s a really cute cat, if that helps.”
“Okay, forget about the cat. But otherwise, charming, right?” She laughed and waved at May for another beer.
“Do you remember telling me that I’m pretty yesterday?”
“Did you mean to say that? Out loud, I mean?”
“Well. Urm…” He squirmed in his seat. Damn it. I was doing okay. He shredded a coaster on the bar. “Yes, well. I meant to say it. It’s true. I just wish I would’ve said it in a different scenario, when you might have taken me seriously. But I wasn’t expecting to see you, and I’d had a really weird day…”
“You were not at your smoothest.”
“My smoothest is pitiful. I’m glad I got to say it at all.”
“And that you didn’t, you know, hit me or anything.”
“Okay.” He squirmed. “Is that alright? That I said that?”
“Said what?” she asked, eyebrows arched in the loveliest, smelling-like-old-books way possible.
“Yeah, Sean. What’d you say?” asked May, who had materialized out of nowhere.
“Nothing, creepy booze fairy. Nothing at all.”
“Oh, I don’t believe that for a second.” She put another beer in front of Lydia.
“What? I don’t get another one?”
“You didn’t ask for one.”
“Can I please have another beer?”
“Can you please tell this girl that you like her so you’ll stop being a lonely, pathetic wanker and I won’t have to feel bad for you all the time anymore?”
“Yes. I can do that.”
“Alright. Good. I’ll be right back.”
“Thank you.” Those damned eyebrows were still raised. Expectant eyebrows. What a weird quirk of evolution. He cleared his throat and obliterated the rest of the coaster.
“Well. Hmm. Awkward.”
“Yes, ‘hmm.’ We’ve been over this.”
“Right. Well. I think you’re pretty. And I like that you write comics. And that you’re an artist. And I think you’re interesting.”
“Thank you, Sean. I appreciate your honesty.”
“I think you’re interesting, too.”
“Um, could we maybe do something sometime?”
“Do you really talk to your cat?”
“Yes. I do. He’s kind of an asshole.”
“We can do something sometime.”
“Something that doesn’t involve sitting here being chaperoned by May?”
“You want to go for a walk?”
“Yes. Yes I do.” Sean threw money on the bar and they walked out, the bell clanging over their heads.
And there, finally, was the dragon. His nemesis. The foul creature that he’d been chasing for months across this vast and now devastated land. It sat mocking him with its fire-breathing nonchalance, as though it had been waiting all along for him to simply catch up and prove his worth.
“You know there’s a girl in your bed, right?” asked the cat.
“Yes, I’m aware of that.”
“A very pretty girl. Who smells like books, which is weird.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“So what the hell are you doing out here? If you’re not going to feed me?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Well, either put some kibble in the bowl or kill the dragon or get back in there. Because right now you’re just making me sad.”
“I’m hungry, is what I am.”
“There are more important things than dragons.”
“Things like food.”
“This can wait. I’ll figure it out. Thanks, cat.” And Sean went back to bed.