The Badger

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"What're you doing back?" Bernie asks, looking up from his work bench.

James removes his mask. He holds gloved hands in the air and struggles to phrase a question. "Bernie," he starts, the stops short. "Bernie..."

"Out with it."

"Fine. Bernie, I need a badger."

"You what?"

"A badger," James says, swallowing his pride.

"You need a badger?"

"I need it Bernie, I'll pay you back when I get back from Clayton, ok."

"You can't afford that."

"It's important and I'm in a hurry. I'll get you the money, just trust me."

"Trust you, huh?" Bernie stares down James for a long, hard moment. "Fine," he says, then points to an animal against the wall. "I'm putting you on a payment plan, understand. Seventy five bucks a month 'til you pay it off. Deal?"

"You're the best, Bernie." James hurries over to the stiff, furry thing and heaves it up — must weigh forty pounds — then carries it to the front counter where, pulls a big black bag and wraps the animal up in it.

"Where are you taking it anyway?"

"South side, near the wall. I'm using it to barter for a ride." James throws the bag over a shoulder. One of the creatures legs jab into his back uncomfortably.

"Careful with that," Bernie protests. "I spent good time on it. Calamity, you're hopeless. And you're carrying it all the way there? With a storm suit on?"

"Yup." James awkwardly clips his mask back in place, heaves the synthesized beast, and enters the chamber.

"Don't kill yourself," Bernie calls after him, shaking his head. More than anything, Bernie hates being a decent guy.

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