Usual crappy day for Miyamoto Musashi, except crappier. Forty minutes late for school, and the friends of his he'd usually be picking up had to ride the bus, meaning he also did, for nonsensical social-conformity reasons. A migraine headache crammed itself into his head during second hour, and then there were substitute teachers in most classes who made him do stupid, pointless obvious-answer worksheets that didactically handed down meaningless context-less factoids from on high based on stupid, pointless (and cheaply-made) videos that were even worse, and of all the media, very often they had facts in them so old they were void; or pseudoscientific, and blatantly never even true.

Musashi refused—objecting on moral grounds—and one of the subs marked him tardy for it, which they were technically if not ethically able to do because they were incompetent or perhaps more innocently incompetent by absentmindedness, that they hadn't already taken attendance at least twenty minutes into the hour, as they were obligated to do (Musashi had not been late). By sixth hour he wanted to kill something; anything.

The luxurious comfort of his black Lotus Elise on the ride home helped soothe him, but not completely, because at 4:30 pm, less than 10 seconds before the second episode of X-Play (a show he still watched that had stopped being good a year ago, on a network that had always been at best chaotic evil) came on his girlfriend Jessie left him, she said, for not opening up to her, which considering he'd learned variously from friends and family of hers that she liked telling people other people's secrets would have been difficult.

Around 7 pm he remembered that the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, written by James Gunn and directed by some commercial guy named Zack Snyder was coming out today (but only the "extra-sex-tacular violent (more loosely edited, oddly-paced) unrated" version, a rating used both because submitting the director's cut to the MPAA would cost money and because that money could be both saved and more, maybe doubled or better, by releasing an "unrated" version, market research said, abstractly) and decided he'd go buy it. A beautiful blonde woman gets bisected by chainsaw in it. He's 16, and if the Borders cashier won't let him buy it because of his age, though ethically they shouldn't, then he'll walk out of the store with it without paying.

Fuck it all.


Borders Books & Music remained unchanged, except for the transitory stock on display by the entrance; and a few ceiling lights were out. Normally Musashi wouldn't've liked such a thing, especially if he were going for a book, but all he's there for is an overpriced DVD new release—Probably $16 at Best Buy, he thought, figuring that here it would be about $24.69. Why come here? he wondered. I guess I like it more. Or because I used to work here, but it's not like I get the goddamn reduced discount anymore. The employee discount at Borders used to be 33% off all but magazines—periodicals—those were 10%, but then, Musashi didn't know why, an electronics discount was born: 20% off them. So . . . better than none. Borders, or at least this one, consistently raised the prices of DVDs and music CDs by more than any other major chain-retailer; The employee discount only gave them the privilege to pay, for store stock, almost the same full price as at any other national big-box store, such as Circuit City, or Best Buy, and increasingly often Walmart.

The DVD section was minuscule, miserably so. Its shelves against walls were especially tall, which helped, but the entire section was still relegated to the back and still blink-and-you'll-miss-it. On the times Musashi sees it and remembers there's a DVD section, which aren't frequent, he's reminded that his personal collection has more variety. No porn, though. Borders has more DVDs by the number than Musashi, but less variety—only in the way of 12 copies of the initial DVD release of Underworld, which grossed well—$50 million budget including advertising, gross: Not impressive, domestic or foreign.—but was absolutely horrible; awful, torturous, offensive to a conscious mind, tasteless. The director was a hardcore hack. The bullwhip stuff was a cool idea; though Musashi couldn't remember quite how the whippin' went or ended and if it resulted in anything but interestingly somewhat-different-from-the-normal visuals, and probably an incompetent sound edit and mix. Musashi had no sexual fetish for whips—any specific saying not-so made people think he did. Which he thought was rude and kind of presumptuous. If he did have one, or even an interest to try it, he'd come right out with that shit. "I like whips. And I cannot lie."—he was just that impressed by the first Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark (no "Indiana Jones and—" in the first title).

Dawn of the Dead wasn't displayed out front, unsurprisingly. Maybe he was upset: awesome zombie movie, innovative, action, violence, and some gratuitous nudity which was hard to enjoy. Anyway, the only thing he wanted was not on display. Borders standard policy, he thought. The only time they have a DVD anywhere but in the margin at the back is when it's Disney or Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. Or maybe Indiana Jones.

And: There it was.

A few other people were in the section; one solo, a guy in his 20s or 30s, the other a middle-aged woman, with apparently her own young son, who had no spatial awareness; He ignored them. If one or more had been a secret Soviet spy bent on nuking Musashi off the planet, he couldn't have been bothered to care. The movie and its relief called to him. So did the price tag . . .


That was irritating.

He felt his head throb painfully.

Someone else's hand grabbed the right side of the DVD as he went for it. Wild genuine coincidence. He'd had no idea she was even there, and less than no idea she'd reached at the same instant.

Their arms connected. Hers was very soft in long sleeves. They both pulled back, at least a little surprised. Musashi's head hurt too much for him to be alarmed or flinch, but he believed in manners and pulled back and apologized simultaneously.

They looked to one another at the same speed from nearly the same eye level—2-inch difference, or less. Her eyes said, "If you're an asshole I'll murder you" (expletive required), and his eyes said the same to her. Well, both were fed up with other people annoying them, lack of consideration, lack of manners. Somehow they looked to one another and knew.

"Take it," the darkly-clothed brunette said.

"No, you take it."

"Please—I'm not in the mood for a polite argument. Just take the movie. I'll go somewhere else," she said. Maybe she had a headache too.

"The only place you'll go is checkout, then your house. I'll find another copy."

She watched Musashi for a while. He didn't know or care how long, and she felt the same. Their hands linked by a cheap black plastic Universal DVD case, she said, "Here's the plan: You buy it, but we watch it at my house and I'll give you something worth $27. Like a turtle."

"Sounds like a deal," he said. "I'd like a turtle." In a better mood he would've smiled, and in a good mood he would've made a lewd joke. Just the same, he still kind of smiled.

Outside she got into her car—which of all the Pontiac Sunfires or Ford Mustangs it could've credibly been was instead and incredibly a HMMWV (High-Mobility Multi-Wheeled Vehicle). He got in the other side's front seat, with about three feet of console between them that felt like none; He felt close to her, like they understood each other, similar souls. She drove him to his Elise, in about 20 seconds.

In his own car, he played soft relaxing music and sound recordings of winds and water and anything else that would help the surging pain. Then he began following her, the only DVD copy of Dawn of the Dead that mattered in the seat beside him. There was another strange but pleasant surprise—of Musashi's own inattention: Both the stupid unrated version and the actually-good theatrical cut that he loved were out. And the one copy the store had ordered of the theatrical was now theirs.