Tinkerbell cracked her knuckles, and the gruesome popping made me wince. Tinkerbell scoffed at me. She rolled her eyes.
“Ya gonna be a baby? Ya gonna be a baby? Ya gonna be a baby? Cripes. I’m goin’ without you.” She didn’t mean it, apparently: As she spoke, she bumped her hip into my knee. A tiny cloud of fairy dust flew from her wings and landed on my leg. I started to float.
“There’s six hunnid billion human beans on the planet Earth, I’m stuck with this one. Cripes. Six hunnid billion, sixty billion beans, I’m stuck with you. I wanna cry.” Tinkerbell dragged her hands down against her face, mimicking falling tears, pulling grotesquely at her eyelids.
She grabbed my hand and pulled me away from the bench, flapping her sugary wings into a haze, glittering gold under the park lamps. Then we were above the lamps—I could see the whole park—the whole city.
We were so high up my teeth were chattering. “That one. That there. See?” She was pointing into the maze of streets; I couldn’t tell where. “You go in there. Walk in. There’s a guy. You tell him. Say that, say, you wanna see the Death-Bug. You gotta be less of a pansy-pamby though. Act like a real man.”
Tinkerbell flew up into my face and slapped me in the eyeball.
“What, ya gonna cry? Ya gonna cry? Ya gonna cry? Cripes. Ya gonna cry? Whatta pansy,” she groaned, as I rubbed my face.
I probably did cry, a little, as Tinkerbell dragged me down from the sky and onto Westing Street. I was still massaging my eye when she stopped leading me by the hand and flew up to whisper in my ear.
“That’s the guy. Shut up! He don’t see us yet. Shut up! Just tell him, just say, you wanna see the Death-Bug. Be cool about it, kay? Try to be—just—don’t let him—”
Giving up on that sentence, she flew down to my back pocket, and I cringed as she squirmed her way in. Then I felt her elbow me in the buttock, which I assumed was my signal to get a move on.
I approached the figure Tink had indicated, a dark man in a dark suit, standing outside a windowless building. The three nearest streetlights were all dead—I doubted this was a coincidence. I moved in close before I spoke, and hoped that my theatrical glances up and down the street indicated that I valued secrecy as much as he did.
“Hey. I’m here to see the…”
How long should I pause? Am I pausing for too long?
The man’s eyes glittered, and I knew that even in this light he could see my whole face, my falseness, my anxiety, and the tiny red handprint on my right eye.
He snorted. “Tell ‘er Vick said nice try,” he muttered, and then he punched me in the stomach. There was enough fairy dust left on me that I flew all the way across the street, in slow motion, like a crash test dummy.
“Cripes, whatta idiot, cripes, cripes. Cripes, cripes, cripes…” Tinkerbell’s shrieking filled my ears and then faded away as she pulled herself out of my pocket, flew into the air, and disappeared among the stars. Then my head hit the curb; then I blacked out.