Work Friends

Mark and Desmond slump down against the basement wall. Demon-killing is exhausting work.

Mark stares blankly for a moment then looks at Desmond. “I’m so sorry. It just came out.”

Desmond wipes demon slime off his axe. “It’s fine.”

“No.” Mark puts down his dagger, still dirty. “I mean, thank you. That’s kind. But it’s not fine. Obviously it’s not fine.”

“Don’t stress about it.” He pulls a plastic bottle out of his coat and pours oil over the axe.

Mark picks up the dagger and starts wiping it off. “I don’t even know why I said that.”

Desmond passes him the bottle. “Said what?”

Mark takes the bottle but doesn’t pour it. “You… you want me to say it again?”

“Yeah. Yes. Tell me what you said to that demon.”

“Um.” The bottle hovers over the blade. “‘I’m a kill yo ass’ is what… is what I said.” He looks away and pours the oil.

“And why do you think you said that?” Desmond stands up and grabs a dead demon by one of its horns and starts hacking at the horn with the anointed axe.

Mark moves to a different demon’s body. “I don’t know…?” He turns away and starts working a fang out of its mouth with his dagger.

“Yes you do.” Desmond doesn’t look up from hacking at the surprisingly solid skull.

“I was really scared?” Mark frees the tooth and puts it in a ziplock bag. “I thought it might get me? I really wanted to kill it?”

Desmond finally rips the horn free with a crack, and he drops it into a bigger ziplock. “And you thought the demon from Hell would be scared by your Black Guy Voice?”

“I didn’t…” Mark starts on another demon fang. “Like… I didn’t decide to do” finger-quotes-with-a-dagger-in-his-hand, “‘black guy voice.’ I’m really sorry, Desmond.”

“I mean,” Desmond starts hacking at the demon’s other horn, “if I have to pick between a demon clawing off my face and you doing Black Guy Voice, I’ll pick the not-face-clawing, but I don’t think I should have to choose.”

“No, no. You shouldn’t. Absolutely.” He stands there, with the dagger dangling from his hand. “I just feel terrible. We’re supposed to be broth—“

“Do not finish that sentence. We did that ceremony to enchant the weapons,” he holds up the axe, “to gather the demon parts,” he points down at the demons, “to make the spell,” he holds up the ziplock bag, “to keep the city” he points above them, “from being sucked into Hell. That does not mean we are ‘brothas’.”

Mark hands Desmond the fangs in a baggie. “Not ‘brothas,’” finger quotes again, “but I thought maybe, brothers, like ‘in arms,’ y’know.”

“Mark, I like you. You’re good at killing demons. I’d call you, like, a co-worker-going-on-friend.” He pockets the demon teeth. “That’s a lot! You know how hard it is to make actual friends at work?”

“Oh.” Mark puts away his dagger. “I thought we’d gotten closer than that…”

“I mean, yeah, a little.” They walk up the stairs, out of the basement where they’d killed the demons. “But it’s not like we socialize. Your grampa’s haunted Impala comes to you. It’s takes us to a demon nest.” They step past unconscious demon worshipers and go out the front door. “We kill the demons and collect their bones. The Impala drops me at home. That’s the last I see you.” They leave the house and cross the lawn. “And you know, it’s not helping if you do blackface at me.”

“What?!” The Impala rolls up to them and pops its doors open. “How is that what I did?!”

“White guy pretending to be Black. What else do you call that?” He stands next to the passenger door.

Mark, confused, walks around to the driver side and stares at him over the roof. “Is that… is that true…?”

Desmond folds his arms and rests them on the roof, waiting.

“Oh god. It is.” Desmond nods. They both get in the car. “I’m so… I just never thought about it like… I never really thought about it at all.”

Desmond looks up from organizing the ziplock bags. “You did it but you don’t think about it? Really?”

“I mean, no.” Mark buckles himself in and stares at the dashboard. “That’s really bad. Isn’t it?”

“It is.” Desmond buckles himself in, too.

Mark stares at the wheel.

Desmond checks the baggies. “Just drop me at home.”

“But, uh. It’s a two-person spell. You need me.”

“I need a second spell caster. It doesn’t have to be you.” He counts the teeth and horns.

“Who are you going to…?”

Desmond stuffs the baggies back into his coat pocket. “I have a buddy. He’s waiting by the phone.”

“You planned this?!”

“I planned for this.”

“You planned for me doing something racist?!”

“Sure. Of course.” They sit for a second. Mark is aghast. Desmond is not.

“So I guess… I guess I’ll drop you at home.”

“Sure, that’s cool. My buddy will be there by then.”

“Okay.” Mark stairs at the steering wheel. “Um, haunted car? Take us to Desmond’s house?” Nothing happens.

Desmond’s confused, too. The car always knows where they’re going and takes them there. Then, the driver’s side door pops open by itself. “Oh man! Your grampa is mad at you!”

Mark blinks, arms dangling at his sides. “It’s not my grampa.”

Desmond has popped his seat belt and gotten out of the car. “But it’s your grampa’s haunted Impala.”

“It’s his dog.” Mark gets up, out of the car, still confused. “The car’s haunted by his dog.”

“Wow!” Desmond slips past Mark and gets in the driver’s seat. He looks down at the steering wheel. “Good dog!”

“So that’s… That’s it? We’re done?”

Desmond shrugs, “I mean, yeah. We collected all the stuff for the spell. I’ll pick up my buddy in the haunted car, and we’re good! City saved.” Mark jumps out of the way as the door swings shut and the engine starts. “You can sleep well! We did a good thing tonight!”

“Yeah, but…” The car is halfway down the block before he can think of what to say next.

Desmond calls out, “I’ll set the car free when I’m done!”