FOL CHEN BELIEVES IN FREE ICE

February 21st, 2009

"Cable TV,’ from Part 1: John Shade Your Fortune’s Made, by Fol Chen. Video directed by Chris Wilcha, the only living person to have directed both Ira Glass and Mr. T.

The story continues: Melissa Thorne hopped a Pan-Am flight back across the mountains. She tapped her feet and watched ball lightning dance outside the window, illuminating in flashes a vast and mysterious world of cloud—lumpy buttes and bluffs and canyons, diagonal seas of billowing mist. It stormed the whole way home. The plane tossed and jittered like the molded plastic plaything of some drunken child god. Speaking of drunk . . . (Click more to continue reading). . . Phat Jeph was snoring at Melissa Thorne’s feet in a recycled thrift-store dog-suit. They could only afford the one ticket, so G-Bone and Wass were stuck down below with the checked bags, wrapped tight in foil and packing tape, breathing through straws. Melissa Thorne had forged a doctor’s note saying she was neurasthenic and required the companionship of a therapeutic service animal. But Phat Jeph was resisting his role. Every half-hour, he’d sneak a sip of schnapps from his carry-on and the oily pepperminty stench would drift up into the aisle. The other passengers were too sick with turbulence to notice a thing, but Melissa Thorne kicked him hard in the ribs nonetheless. "Get your act together," she hissed. She glanced out the window to make sure Samuel Bing was on point. The lightning flashed and there he was, flapping furiously away just beyond the red light at the tip of the wing.

Things looked dodgy when they reached the gate at LaGuardia—too many eyes, too many uniforms—so they adapted Plan C and split up. They’d meet when they’d meet. Melissa Thorne washed up in the bathroom, tried to scrub the anxiety from under her eyes, and took a second to sigh before heading outside. She spotted Samuel Bing, drenched, dripping his way across the concourse, but she looked straight ahead and hustled to the curb to flag a cab. On her way out the door she passed Phat Jeph. He was crawling through the baggage claim, sniffing at corners, whimpering for added canine realism. He lingered just long enough to see G-Bone and Wass stumble off the conveyor belt. G-Bone was peeling the last bits of tape from his wrists when the air grew suddenly cold and Phat Jeph saw it happen: a weird swirling shadow fell over G-Bone’s sneakers. It crawled up his pants legs, growing deeper and denser and darker as it climbed. Phat Jeph sobered up quick. He tore off his dog face and yelled to warn Wass. "Run," he shouted. "It’s Shade!"