Tavis laced his ping with every bit of tenacity he could summon. “I’m not hungry.”
Chris sighed as he flicked the message thread and menu pane out of his line of sight. “Eat something or I’ll send your address to every instafood place in town. You’ll get so much spam your connection’ll shut down.”
He pulled the menu back and considered his options. Tavis’s ping popped up in front of the soup list. “Do that and I’ll send your mom the pics of you and Marcia.”
“Like hell. You don’t have any.”
“Your mom doesn’t know how good I am with BactaPic.”
Chris narrowed his eyes. “You’re bluffing.”
Tavis shrugged. “Try me.”
The moment hung between them until Chris shrugged.
He reopened the menu pane and selected a country fried steak. He clicked on the turkey sandwich with extra gravy and added a whole key lime pie before pinging the order to the kitchen. He reopened the conversation thread. “I just ordered you a sandwich. Eat it or you’re wasting my money.”
Tavis replied, “I hate you.”
“Good.” Chris reached up to itch around his crown. “This thing lags. New crowns never fit right.”
“It must be a burden, having to deal with that faster data flow.”
“Now I hate you.” Chris put his hand down. “Seriously. What’s your thoughtspeed running right now?”
“Unaligned.” Tavis laced his ping with reticence and resignation.
“Still? Come on. May and you broke up, what? A month ago? Get over her.”
Tavis wrinkled his nose. “I’m trying.” He sent a link. “You see this?”
Chris opened the link in a new window. A banner proclaimed, “Forty Days of Love!” A series of pings filled the window. “There are many who don’t have a home. They don’t have a bed. Many don’t even have crowns. Celebrate Lent by living like one of the homeless while building them a home. Learn to count your blessings and live under the weight of the Plus. Join us tonight.” A series of links offered further information.
Chris shook his head. “You going religious on me? Listen, that’s no way to get over a girl!”
Tavis fingered his Plus necklace. “It’s not that big a deal. I’m just thinking it might get my mind off things. I don’t care about church. And it’s just for Lent. Better than joining up with the military.”
“Anything’s better than that these days.”
A waitress came by and set down their drinks. “Anything else I can get you?” she pinged in a new public thread.
Chris smiled, “Our food.”
“Yeah, yeah, it’s cooking.” She rolled her eyes. “How about you?”
Tavis shook his head. “His food.”
By the delay before her response, Chris could tell the waitress was pinging someone else about the idiots in the booth in front of her. “Thanks for the drinks, though,” he added before she could respond to Tavis.
In his and Tavis’ thread, he pinged, “She’s hot. You should ask for her address.”
“Like hell. I’m not that desperate.” Tavis smiled up at the waitress. “I guess there’s nothing else we need,” he added to the public thread.
“You’re desperate enough to get into a church group that’s what? Forty days long?”
The waitress waited another second before pinging, “Well, you got your way. Food’s done.” She left to retrieve the plates from the kitchen.
Tavis took a salt shaker and slid it on the table between his hands. “I need something to distract me. Sitting at home isn’t doing it. I’m not going to go and get a job. No one would hire me while I’m like this anyway. Might as well do someone some good.”
Chris smirked. “Tavis Corrigan, album cover for altruism.”
Tavis sent another link to Chris. “Open this. It’s the thread I’ve had with the guy running Forty Days of Love.”
Chris clicked the link, and read the data. Pretty straightforward; Tavis asking for information, the pastor responding.
“Wait a second. You’d be living in a tent?”
“Yeah. Church provides food and housing so we find out what it’s like to be homeless.”
“They going to take your crown, too?”
“Nah. They better not, anyway.”
The waitress returned bearing two platters. “Who’s got the steak?”
“Oh, me!” Chris held up a hand as he pinged.
“You got the turkey?”
The corner of Tavis’ mouth twitched. “I guess.” He accepted the plate and gazed on the greasy wonder. He looked up at the waitress. “Why did I order this?”
“Hell if I know. You probably hate your gut.” She turned and retreated to the kitchen.
Chris dug into his steak. The thing was overdone and as crispy as pudding, but at least the seasoning was good. “So you’re serious about this thing? Forty days living like a hobo without a crown?”
Tavis poked the sandwich with a fork. “Yeah. If I don’t like it, I can always leave.”
“You haven’t deleted her pictures yet, have you?”
Tavis sent a rather rude message in response.
Chris sent a smirk and a question. “When does it start?”
“Tomorrow, for Ash Wednesday.”
“It’s already Wednesday.”
“I haven’t gone to sleep yet. It’s not tomorrow until then. Anyway, it begins with a special service talking about how we’re going to add to the lives of others, so we’ll be added to. Pretty typical church stuff. I guess it used to be pretty normal for people to do junk like this during Lent. My church is pretty old-fashioned, I guess.”
“Well, you can keep me out of your Lent. I like the celebration before and after. No need to give anything up to have a good time.” Chris took another bite of his steak. “Now eat something.”
Read Part 2 here.