“Jesus Chri—,” she said. She was usually pretty contained. Not today, apparently.
“What in the hell,” the door slammed, “are paper balls doing all over the floor, Gabriel!” Her questions were usually rhetorical, too.
“I got bored.” Gabriel tore another page from the phone book, rolled it in his hands. “Relax, Mike, relax. Watch this though.” He tossed the ball lightly between his hands before going up for the shot. “For three!” he shouted. A beautiful roll from the fingertips, his form was perfect as always, the waste basket in the kitchen on the other side of the apartment shivered at the thought.
“Gabriel.” A stiff breeze kicked up. Gabriel’s shot turned suddenly and landed in the sink. The rest of the paper balls flew around the room, landing in cups, jars of peanut butter, the snake cage, bookshelves, open drawers, bowls, and the Devil’s litter box.
“Dammit, Michal. I was gonna win the game with that one, too.” He sat back down on the couch, pouted for a second, then flopped onto the pillows and faked sobs. Really faked them. Plenty of practice.
“Clean this up right now,” Michal demanded. “It looks like a damned playground ball pit here. That’s, what, two and a half feet thick? No, you moro—” Gabriel sat up, snatched a smoke stick, held up his thumb, and blew on it. A little purple flame sprouted from the tip. He lit the stick and took a long inhale. “You trying to burn the place down?” she said. “Again?”
“Relax, man,” he said on exhale, pulling the S’s of the X out one at a time. “Nothing’s going to happen, you know that. Quit it and go grab a beer. You need it, buddy.”
Michal clenched her teeth and shuff shuff shuffed her way to the fridge. As she pulled it open, the Devil sprang out with a yowl and ran to the door. “You locked him in the fridge again?” The Devil rubbed up against the door and it creaked open just enough for him to get out. “When will he learn to close it behind him,” she muttered. “You know something, Gabe?”
“Yes, dearest?” He flashed a charming, devious, and completely disarming smile at her.
“You and the Devil were made for each other.” She pulled out a beer and closed the door. A torrential downpour opened from the ceiling and soaked Gabriel to the marrow.
“You ffff—” he began, standing up quickly and almost knocking over the coffee table. “Michal!”
She smiled. “What? I heard the weather today was supposed to be kind of unpredictable.”
“But not on the couch!” Gabriel scrambled around, pulling things off the couch, shaking them dry, tossing them to the other couch, then blowing the couch dry as well. “And my pants!” He groaned, a pure noise, one he didn’t make very often. “I love these pants,” he said, brushing water from his legs. The droplets boiled and evaporated before hitting the floor. “I swear, Michal, when He hears about this, He’s going to rip you a new one. You’re no damn fun at all.”
“When He hears about it?” she laughed. “Gabey baby, don’t you remember we got kicked out?” She paused and a ponderous look came over her face. “In fact, we all did. I wonder who He has running the place now. Hopefully not Ram, she makes too much noise.”
“Yeah, well,” Gabriel grabbed another smoke and lit it. “I’m putting it in my book.”
“You have a book?” She perched on the arm of the couch and took a long drink.
“Yeah, a book,” he said. “Of all the mean crap you do to me. It’s called ‘Michal’s A Jerk: A Work Of Genius.’ It’ll sell millions, I tell you.”
“Don’t be such a wimp and clean this mess up.” She held out her hand and the cigarette leapt from Gabriel’s fingers to hers. “And no smoking until it’s done,” she continued, and took a deep inhale.
“I swear, Mike, if you weren’t such an angel, I’d—” Gabriel stopped. They looked at each other briefly before bursting into laughter. “Damn, you know what?” He bent down, picked up several paper balls, and shot each one successively into the waste basket. “I think I’m getting used to this. Especially the booze.” He grabbed his beer from the coffee table and held it up. “Cheers, Mike.”
“Cheers,” she said. They exchanged that particular kind of smile and drank. “So, what’s the Devil been up to today, eh?”