ÆÆ

Due tomorrow? That was everything by the time we talked about it. I still hadn't decided if that was irritating or freeing. Sure we were always in a rush but that's when we were working. I wouldn't be willing to trade the lazy afternoons, the three hour lunches, the White-Out painting contests, the cookouts and the skeet shooting just for not having a day or two twice a month pinned down by work.

It was a good job.

Em would always tell me to be thankful that she found the job for us. We both know that that's bullshit so I counter with tales and demands of gratitude for my - much more significant - role in getting this job. We both know that's bullshit too.

It didn't matter how we got the job. We had it. And, for now, Other Things didn't really seem to matter that much. So, the current situation being the always situation, we had another whiskey, winnowed it down and came up with something we thought would work. Same situation, same resolution.

This time though the situation turned out to be much less selfsimilar than either of us could have anticipated. Emma noticed it when we got the papers back. Or, rather, I noticed it but she'd say she did because she mentioned it first.

"Are you noticing what I'm noticing?", she asked, looking up from a paper from the stack on the basement bar.

I knew what she was talking about, having read through about four or five of the returned assignments myself already. Without exception, all of the ones I'd read so far were word-palindromes - they could be read start to finish or finish to start word by word and it'd read the same. That alone was unsettling enough but the fact that all of the these ouroboric essays rotated on the same center word.

"Qanat?"

"Yes! The fuck is going on with these goddam lolitas Chuck? I've started reading these starting at the end and stopping at qanat. I know how it'll go from there. I've already read it, right?"

"You think it was the prompt?"

She put her paper down, took a breath and lit a cigarette.

I insisted, "Ok, staged dramatic pauses aside, I wanna know what you think because damned if I know."