Thoki Lokisson was awoken by the frayed rope on his hammock giving out. His head hit the filthy ground before the rest of him did, landing in a puddle of putrid runoff. He blinked and debated whether it was worth moving, or if he’d be better off trying to sleep on the ground. The former won out and he painfully sat up, looking for his alarm clock. It was resting between an ancient metal water main and a pvc pipe of electrical wiring. The clock was stored in a Ziploc bag to protect it from the damp, and the roaches.
The fallen Aesir squinted at the red numbers through the smeared plastic: 5:02 am. It was an hour and a half before he had to get up. He cursed in steady Norse and kicked the walls of the fetid sewer. He hated it down here, squatting in humanity’s toilet (it seemed too cruel to be purely metaphorical) scrounging for money and food.
He climbed up to the manhole cover and frowned at the canary yellow sky. It was hot and stuffy today; he was still in his greying underpants, avoiding the moment he would have to put on his code monkey costume. He ran a hand through his thatch of ash-blond hair and noticed some of the hairs were stark white. This only fueled his foul mood. When he was in a foul mood, there was only one thing for it. He had to spread it.
“LOR! Get your ass up!” he snapped, kicking his cohort’s hammock. It made a sound like a flyswatter hitting a side of beef.
Lor Torsson’s piggy eyes fluttered open as his breathing changed. “Is it morning?” he mumbled thickly.
“It’s morning enough. Get up, you dumb ape.”
“What time is it?”
“Time to get up, stupid! I don’t want to hear any lip from you either.”
“Can we get pancakes for breakfast?”
“We can’t afford them!!” shrieked Thoki, in annoyance. He really wanted pancakes too, smothered with syrup and butter with real pork sausage…
“Shall we have cereal again?” asked Lor.
“We can get a bagel and schmear,” Thoki replied testily. “But we have to get it from the grocery store. It’s cheaper.”
“Alright,” said Lor calmly shifting out of his hammock. He didn’t seem to mind being woken early, but then most things never bothered Lor. Thoki remembered that Lor’s immunity to irritation made him all the more irritating.
“What happened to your hammock, Thoki?”
“It committed suicide.” There was a long pause as Thoki let his partner catch the sarcasm. It was a fruitless gesture, since Lor never did.
“Was it depressed because the rats chewed off the rope near your head?” the giant asked finally.
“Never mind,” sighed Thoki in disgust.
Lor stood up slowly, careful not to hit his head on the ceiling. It wasn’t a low ceiling by any means, but Lor’s Jotun blood meant that he was in danger of scraping his knuckles every time he scratched his head. Thoki disliked having Lor loom over him. The lummox’s hairy arms always seemed too close –his sausagey fingers too clumsy. Lor’s large beard, the color of traffic cones, hung above Thoki’s head like a demonic cloud and tended to rain orange hairs when it was hot.
Thoki’s slight build and baby-face gave him the appearance of a nine-year-old girl. His scant height of 5’3” meant he was taller than some postboxes and about as fearsome. He resented how readily people quivered in Lor’s presence – the dumb ox never had to DO anything. It took Thoki a good deal longer to get the same frightened blubbering and pleas for mercy. Usually he first had to demonstrate how cruel he could be.
“So what’s on the agenda today?” asked Lor amiably.
“Breakfast; then work; then meet me at Subway’s for lunch.”
“I’m tired of Subway’s. Can we do McDonalds’s?”
“Fine. McDonald’s; then more work; then we look through the H’s.”
“Didn’t we do the G’s?”
“Yes, Lor. H comes after G,” answered Thoki feigning patience. Really he just had a headache and didn’t feel like screaming again.
“What’re we doing for dinner?”
“That depends on whether they took out for FICA this week,” grumbled Thoki.
He took a freezing shower under a release valve, but in the oppressive summer heat that smelled of boiling tar, it felt very refreshing. For the first time since he and Lor escaped to Earth, Thoki felt the urge to whistle while he scrambled into his work clothes. The song was “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” by Alice Cooper and he hummed the guitar solos as he pulled on his faded polo shirt. The collar was stretched and the cuffs were frayed but it passed muster in the engineering floor of InfoNallyDataTechInc. He sighed as he thought of his tiny cubicle (which he suspected was made smaller because of his stature) with the noisy towers of CPUs whirring next to him. At least the Air Conditioning would be blasting on him. The vent was right above him keeping his desk at a perpetual 62º. Thoki liked the cold.
Lor was already wearing his blue vest. He would be going to the Wally World on Edgar Bellows Rd to work with stoned, college dropouts and surly pensioners. They were still running early so they took their time walking to the supermarket, enjoying the breeze that made the sultry morning more bearable. They bought breakfast and a re-fried coffee, which they consumed while sitting on the steps of the Library. Thoki decided that they could use any extra time starting on the H’s in the reference section..
“Thoki, I’m tired of going to the Library,” moaned Lor.
“It’s our only chance, fellah,” said Thoki thickly, through a mouthful of cream cheese and bagel.
“But the Librarian frowns at me when I sit and read ‘Frog and Toad Together,” said Lor sadly.
“You have to read quietly Lor.”
“I try, but it’s hard.”
“Maybe get a book you know a little better then. Maybe ‘Green Eggs and Ham?’”
“I like it better when you read it,” said Lor with a sigh.
“You can do it, big guy. I believe in you,” said Thoki, being only slightly sarcastic this time. He gave a comforting slap on the Giant’s shoulder. “That Source of Unlimited Chaos has to be mentioned somewhere in all those books. The sooner we find possible locations, the sooner we can split from this hell hole.”
“But I like passing out stickers,” said Lor sadly.
“If we find the way to hold the world for ransom, I’ll get you a truck-load of stickers and you can have them all to yourself,” said Thoki. He stood up from the curb and brushed the crumbs from his khakis.
“But I like passing the stickers out,” said Lor.
Thoki sagged. Some evil henchman he turned out to be. he thought with a grimace. “Fine you can pass them out to the slaves. Now come on. I need your help inside… the… er… the H’s are kind of high up,” he finished with a grumble.
“Will you read me “Green Eggs and Ham?”
Thoki groaned. “We’ll check it out and I’ll read it before bedtime.”