“I’ve got it under control,” Bubblegum Shaman said, talking on the cell phone. My left hand was finger-locked with hers, as we strolled through the mall. “If I get attacked, I’m going to tell the press, ‘Bubblegum Shaman / fighting monsters in the mall / pop pop nirvana.’ Yeah, just make sure the book deal isn’t a total disaster. Just talk to him, okay? Yeah, alright. Talk to you later.”
She hung up. That was the third phone call she’d gotten during the date, but I was okay with that. Like, at least some conversation was going on, you know? It was better than the awful dates with Sotto Voce. So much better.
“Who was that?” I asked.
“My agent,” she said.
“I thought the last call was from your agent.”
“That was my book agent. The one I was just talking to was my PR agent.”
“But you were talking about a book.”
“My PR agent and my book agent sometimes coordinate,” Bubblegum Shaman said. “You know, to make sure that everyone’s on the same page.”
“Oh,” I said, swallowing hard. “Okay. That makes sense. You want to get some mall food?”
“Yeah,” she said. “That sounds good.”
So we walked through this kind of fancy mall, which had some indoor palm trees, an uncomfortably large number of fancy clothing stores, and two Teavanas.
Passing by an Auntie Anne’s kiosk, she asked, “You don’t have an agent?”
“I mean, I have an agency liaison,” I said. “My mom, which is kind of cool.”
“No, yeah. That is cool,” she said. “But I mean, you don’t have a PR agent?”
“No,” I said. “Should I?”
“No,” she said. “You don’t need to. It’s just nice, you know? To always have someone watching your back, making sure you don’t get bad PR.”
“That makes sense,” I said. “People just don’t really seem to care about what I do.”
“Not true,” she said. “I care.”
“Enough to be my PR agent?”
“Not even close,” she said, laughing.
“Figured it was worth a shot,” I said. The two of us entered the food court, a crazy kaleidoscope of all too many food choices. “I always feel like I’m making the wrong choice, when I’m here.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Like, no matter what I get to eat, there’s always going to be something tasty. When I’m in a room with pizza, I’m really going to want to have the pizza. But then again, when I’m in a room with Chinese food, I’m really going to want to have the Chinese food. And if I’m in a room that has good burgers? Forget it. I’m done. I gotta have it.”
“Mall Chinese food?” she asked. “It’s so bad. So fake.”
“Yeah,” I said, as we walked towards a guy offering falafel samples. “But it’s kind of like Mayo. I know it’s bad. As I’m eating it, I’m thinking to myself, ‘This is disgusting,’ but there’s still something irresistible about it.”
“That sounds like a problem,” Bubblegum Shaman said, grabbing two pieces of falafel by the toothpick attached to them. She handed one to me.
“The tongue wants what it wants,” I said, taking the falafel and plopping it into my mouth. Wait. Shit. That wasn’t supposed to be an erotic statement.
“Oh, really?” Bubblegum Shaman said.
“Yeah,” I said, rushing to get away from the topic of my tongue. “Honestly, I wouldn’t even eat falafel, except that they offer free samples of it all the time.”
“Good marketing,” she said.
“I guess,” I said. “I mean, I even eat falafel, occasionally. Because I feel bad about always taking their free samples.”
“See?” Bubblegum Shaman said. “That’s good marketing.”
“Yeah, I–” I didn’t finish the thought. Instead, my attention was drawn to the small green man, furiously making his way towards us, mumbling something or other.
I looked at Bubblegum Shaman, and she looked at me. Neither of us seemed to know what to do.
He got close enough so that I could hear him mumbling, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go.” Then he pushed past the two of us.
I let go of her hand, and she let go of mine. The little green man charged past us, mumbling bits of various Christmas songs.
“What is that?” Bubblegum Shaman.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Egregoric spirit?”
“Maybe,” she said.
We both watched the little green man turn a corner. Bubblegum Shaman began to follow him, and I followed her.
“Let’s make it interesting,” she said. “Ten bucks says you’re wrong.”
“Okay,” I said. “Yeah, sure. Girlfriend, bookie. What’s the difference?”
“I better be the only bookie you make out with,” Bubblegum Shaman said.
I laughed, which felt good. There was a little tingle up my spine. This felt good. Her and me? It was really good.
The two of us turned the corner, watching the little green man prance through the mall.
“Pretty sure you’re the only bookie I’d ever want to make out with,” I said. “Aren’t most of them fat old bald guys? Or is that just a stereotype? Am I being bookie-ist?”
“You’re ridiculous,” she said. “But, like, in a good way.”
I smiled. “Damn straight. Wait, that’s not what I–” I didn’t finish the sentence.
Instead, I watched the small green man take out his gun. He pointed it at a speaker, which was currently playing, “Call Me Maybe”.
“That’s not Christmas music!” he yelped, his creaky high-pitched voice hurting my ears. He shot the speaker, and people all around him fled, which was a pretty smart choice, all things considered.
“Jesus,” Bubblegum Shaman said, “What a nightmare.” She blew a big pink bubble of gum, then stuck her hand in it. It didn’t pop, like normal gum might have. Instead, it accepted her hand. Then, she pulled a small slingshot out. There was a little stone inside the sling.
She sucked the gum, and it went right back into her mouth.
“Sleigh bells ring,” he continued. “Are you listening?”
“Hey, Eggnog-for-brains!” Bubblegum Shaman yelled, pulling the slingshot back “Christmas is over.”
“But the Christmas spirit!” the elf yelled. “Oh, yes. The Christmas spirit is here forever!”
“Not on my watch,” she yelled. She closed one eye, then let the sling go.
The stone got the elf right in the head. He collapsed to the ground.
“I mean really,” I said. “Isn’t two months of holiday spirit enough?”