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Generated: Aug 06, 2022 3:08 PM
Post last updated: Aug 06, 2022 3:08 PM
the first and strongest want of human nature
Marena and Cascadi!Tan
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It is the worst and best night of her life.

She's sitting on a swing angrily, like she's ten years younger than she actually is, but you know what? Lil' Marena had her reasons to be incandescently pissed. Big Marena right now has every single fucking reason to go on a fucking homicidal rampage. (She can feel the judgement even just from swearing in her own. Good. Let them judge the feral ball of primal rage. If they're close enough to judge, they're close enough to get bitten.)

She pushes herself off and swings. Her life is ruined, and she's not even sixteen. Her life is ruined, and it's not even her fault. She obeyed and her mother and father (mostly her mother, she was the one with the plans) and worked hard in school and at home and went to Church as often as she could and pretended that 'little voice of God' that was her conscience actually matched what it was supposed to be. She did everything she was meant to to be desirable to a good husband.

When her mother pulled strings so she was handmaidening for the youth pastor and her mother's best friend, she pretended it was all one big coincidence that she was actually thrilled about! She went through the awkwardest nine months of her life. She did all the things you were meant to do to protect the baby and make it strong and healthy. She did everything right, except honestly and wholly have her heart in it.

When the little bas-- bundle of joy took 30 goddamn hours to make his exit, she didn't complain. When epidurals apparently worked for other people, and not her, she thanked god for the opportunity to endure and for giving her a little taste of Hell to warn her away.

The only thing that could have made things better was the baby having all the right baby bits in the right places and in the right order. But well, beggars can't be choosers!

She's been medically cleared to leave. The kid-- well. He's not ever leaving.

She's been cleared to leave the maternity ward, and highly encouraged to do so. She went to the NICU-- it's not her kid, there's no reason to get attached, but... it seemed like it would only be right to say hi? (And then bye.) Except his 'actual mother' was there, and look. She knows that when she started screaming at her for killing her baby, can't you just do this one simply thing right, she should have been understanding. Should have been forgiving. Should have turned the other cheek. 

She should not have asked what she expected to happen if she carried the baby herself? She should not have asked which one of them, exactly, had to get hooked up to a drip because they were puking their guts out so much they fainted. She should not have explained the Christian Concept of Gratefulness and Charity, which surely she should have heard about, but she's happy to give her testimony to help. She should not have done this loudly, at a hospital, while taking the Lord's name in vain repeatedly.

Theoretically she should be in a house, and not on a playground in the middle of the night. She doesn't care! Her life is ruined-- she's never going to have another kid, her marriage prospects are nil-- because of some people burning shit decades ago! An atheist rapist jumping out of the bushes to murder her would not be making anything worse!

If someone comes to find her and bring her back she's biting them... actually she's just going to follow, because what else can she do? She'll go back and she'll apologise and her mother's best friend will magnanimously pretend to forgive her.

Someone lays a hand on her shoulder, and she jumps. (When she replays this memory, she'll remember this hand didn't feel human, but she'll never be able to explain how.)

The person behind her is a woman man pregnant, eight month's at least, and their glowing. Not like, the metaphorically kind that everyone describes pregnant people as being even if they look like they got dragged through an influenza hedge backwards. Literally giving off light.

She shouldn't say what she's about to say. It's just mean. But she's bleeding everywhere and she's accidentally killed a child and her life is over. "Good luck, sister."

"Good luck, sister," The glowing person says the same thing in unison with her. They squeeze her shoulder, and then-- disappear.

Marena knows, with the same dream logic that tells you that this building is your church even if the layout is all wrong, that they're holy and celestial and not of God. That little voice inside her was never God's, it was theirs.

It's the best night of her life.

 

***

 

She gets on Closet, and learns her way around it. Meets the witches and the demontouched and the atheists who just really like tarot.

She also accidentally meets other people. A shared interest in herbal medicine leads her to finding a importer of Fine Cascadian Goods. Not what she's looking for, but she's chill. (There are worse closet mistakes. She could have wasted the time of an honest working girl, or worse: met a Catholic.) It's an accident, but a happy accident. He knows a guy who knows a guy who would hypothetically, in minecraft, help people get out of Gilead.

She has no reason to stay in the country of God. (Her mother has stopped trying to mold her, and is now giving her the cold shoulder, and it sucks that this is an improvement.)

If you're willing to work for years stuck in your parents house, if you know your way around Closet just well enough, and pretend your saving for a proper nice wedding, you can eventually get enough to get out.

 

***

When she spends the money, she spends days worrying the Eyes are going to break in her door.

Then she realises they could just wait till she could to the rendezvous point.

...she still goes. Plan A: everything works out and it's fine. Plan B: whatever goes wrong, she's going to... seduce whoever shows up. It's an awful plan, but if plan B comes up everything will have gone to shit enough a good plan won't help.

Plan C: ... well, here's hoping she can come up with something on the fly.

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Tan got his nickname when he was the third Francis in his Cascadian army company, and it stuck. 

Tan has been blonde and brunette and redheaded, head shaved and short and daringly past his ears; he has had eyes that are green and blue and brown; he's been cleanshaven and had a beard and a mustache; he's gone with and without glasses; he can use makeup to contour his face until he looks like an entirely different person; occasionally, when the heat's been on particularly hard, he's been a woman. He is currently driving a Jeep tricked out with a few of his favorite modifications: blame the Gileadite masculinity issues for this passing as a reasonable car to drive in the suburbs. He has illegal birth control and abortifacents and weed and psychedelics in the secret compartment that no one ever finds, and a few thousand Gileadite dollars under the floorboards for bribes. He has a concealed carry handgun on his hip, legal in both Cascadia and Gilead, which he's never had to fire in anger, although he's waved it at a few Eyes in his time. He knows the patterns of the drones, has an instinct for which Gileadite cops are bribable and which aren't, and can bluff his way out of anything. 

You don't actually make a ton of money as a coyote, not if you're Tan and a soft touch for a kid with a sob story. It's okay. He has his rich doctor husband to subsidize him. 

He does a quick check of the area, doesn't see anything suspicious. She's a teenage girl; pretty likely to want to escape, not very likely to be a cop, not with Gileadite attitudes toward women the way they are. She doesn't dress like a cop, either, and her body language looks nervous the right way. No obvious wires or bodycams. 

He pulls up. "You need a ride?" he asks.  

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Okay, showtime. (If she ends up in the wrong car, she swears to not-god...) "Maybe. Where're you headed?"

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"Wherever you want. --I'm actually here to pick up a friend of a friend."

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"That's convenient!" And this is the most natural conversation she's ever had in her life! "Thanks." And into the car.

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"Are you Emma Brown?"

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"The one and only." With statistically the 11th most common name for girls her age.

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"I'm Alex. You're a friend of Mark's?"

(All the time, he's scanning her for anything suspicious. There's nothing obvious, and he has a cunning bit of tech that creates a cell-phone dead zone, anyway.)

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"We've met up a couple times, yeah." What a coincidence, she's scanning him too, she just... has basically no clue what she's looking for.

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"Well, welcome to Cascadia, Emma. --Don't tell me your legal name, if Emma isn't, I can tell whether you're a cop but you can't tell whether I'm one, because I've been a coyote for years and I certainly hope this is your first time escaping Gilead."

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Oh thank fuck she's in the right car. Or, well, she isn't in the car of someone trying to pick up their kid from soccer practice while a confused coyote circles the neighbourhood.

She can't let her guard down until their over the border and she can wrestle him for control of the child lock. But there's a chance, and not a bad one, that she's headed to Cascadia.

"I don't plan to make it a habit," she jokes.

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"What kind of music do you like?"

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"I have spent most of my life listening to the twee-est Gileadite pop that can be had for love or money. I'm assuming you have a playlist of godless music for people who are sick of it."

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"Unfortunately, the cops might notice if we play godless music and find it suspicious. If there's Gileadite pop you can stand better than the other Gileadite pop I'd be happy to turn it on."

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"--honestly I'd just take something classical at this point."

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"Classical works!"

Have his playlist of classical music songs so they can rock out to Bach. (That is not connected to the Internet, because nothing in any of Tan's cars is ever connected to the Internet.)

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Look, it may on some level be About Jesus, but it communicates it through clarinet and not mouth words, and that's so much better.

"--I was about to ask if you come here often, but there's no way you'd tell me, is there?"

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"Actually I have spent my entire life in a five-mile radius of here. We're going to be exploring the wider world of South Dakota together."

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"It's always nice to meet a neighbour!"

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"Is there anything unexpected you're going to need? I do have snacks."

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"At the risk of jinxing it, I don't think so?"

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"I ought to reassure you that I'm definitely Cascadian. Nukes are evil. Gay porn is hot. I can describe in detail how to slaughter a pig and turn it into delicious, delicious bacon."

("Gay porn is hot" is also reassuring about some other things that girls he smuggles are particularly likely to be concerned about.)

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"You know, I had my doubts, but truly only a red blooded Cascadian would know the dark secrets of bacon." ... Well, that throws plan B mostly out of the water.

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"I am happily and monogamously married to my extremely handsome doctor husband and yes I do feel like I have to specify the 'monogamous.' I can sing all the verses of Every Sperm Is Sacred and The Ball of Kerrymuir. I have been to Folsom and, no, that doesn't make us not monogamous, it's okay to look at the menu as long as you don't order. I learned to make improved explosive devices when I was sixteen. I have never, actually, drunk milk from a cow I haven't personally met. I lock my car during zucchini season."

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"...zucchini season?" What the hell is happening in Cascadia.

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"If you don't lock your car during zucchini season someone will break in and give you zucchinis."

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"What a devious yet generous crime???"

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"It's why I only grow more reasonable vegetables. I have one bed of root crops, one bed of coles, one bed of salad greens, and one bed of flowers because Bun likes them. --Bun's my husband."

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Aww, cute. More husbands should tend to flower beds instead of... Existing and being 'holy.' "He better appreciate them."

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"He absolutely does. And I appreciate his cooking. Before him I survived on microwave meals and instant ramen."

Look at how non-scary and non-threatening and extremely gay Tan is!

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The non-threatening-est! ... Though maybe that should make him loop around and be more threatening?

She's already in the car. If it's too late, it's too late. "What, and you don't know how to do everything? I'm soooo disappointed in you," she jokes.

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"I had to successfully make him scrambled eggs before he would marry me."

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That gets an actual startled laugh out of her. "Really?"

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"I am a noble knight who had to overcome many tests and obstacles to win the heart of my love."

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"You have defeated that most terrifying dragon of cooking eggs."

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"In his defense I proposed marriage before we actually started dating, which is much less common in Cascadia than Gilead."

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"It's tradition for a reason." At least other people think so.  "--his one standard was egg based."

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"Well, he already knew I can hit a target at six hundred yards with a rifle and forty yards with a bow so I don't know what else he would need to know to marry me."

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"--did you secretly marry the reincarnation of Guinevere?"

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"I'm sure if he wants to cheat on me with my best friend he'll talk to me about it instead of destroying Camelot."

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"See? He's learned."

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"--My dearest hope is that this is an incredibly boring trip."

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"Just a long drive and that's it."

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"The only interesting thing that happens is me introducing you to a random selection of my favorite diners from here to Cascadia."

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"As long as at least one of them has pancakes, I'm cool with that. "

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"Do I seem like the kind of person who would deny an innocent girl pancakes?"

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"You're a fine upstanding pillar of Gileadite masculinity who would never do such a thing."

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"Have I done anything to offend you enough to say that?"

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"I'm getting in character!"

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"Very nice."

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"I'm probably going to have to claim you're my wife when we stop at a motel, and they'll actually think that you're my mistress whom I'm cheating on my wife with. Sorry about that, I'll sleep on the floor."

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"Honestly that's what I expected the plan to be? Either that,  I was going to become your sister, but people would question that."

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"We don't look that much alike."

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"Yeah,  there's no way that won't make it suspicious.  We'll just have to pretend to be a different kind of suspicious than we actually are."

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"It's also good because sketchy motels don't track people the way that actual hotels do. --Sometimes I sleep in the Jeep but that's also suspicious in its own way."

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"It does make us look like we couldn't even get a motel-- which, like,  there are some non suspicious reasons,  but still."

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"You want to look homeless if you do that, which isn't that hard."

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"If it comes to that."

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"...do you need abortion pills. Or do you want the shot. In case we get caught."

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There's a brief impulse to politely demure. 'Oh no,  I simply couldn't take this birth control cup of tea.' But... why would she do that? "The shot would be good."

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"It's good for six months. Might cause headaches, depression, weight gain, or acne. Might cause you to stop having a period but a lot of people think that's an advantage. It won't make you permanently infertile or any of the other shit that Gilead says about birth control."

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"I will trade headaches for 6 months of not having to think about it." That's an incredibly good deal.

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"I also have the HIV shot but that's not really helpful unless you're planning to have sex with someone HIV-positive, it's mostly for queer men and sex workers and people who inject drugs. And fun drugs. Lots of weed and Ecstasy and LSD, if those are up your alley."

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The cup of tea thing is probably a better idea here.  "I wouldn't want to deprive you of your fun drugs."

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"They're not mine, I don't do drugs, except for a joint or a beer now and again."

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Ah, yes,  that very undruglike substance: weed. "I'll pass,  anyway."

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"Do you want to talk aboutit?"

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"I'm not against them, I just... don't want to own them in anyway till we're across the border? Even if it's just a plan to buy it once we're across?"

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"No, I mean-- the thing that you weren't allowed to talk about while you were in Gilead, because of the way that Gilead is, and you might want to disclose to a sympathetic stranger you're never going to see again once you're over the border, and that is possibly the reason you're escaping. Do you want to talk about it."

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Oh, right! "I am looking forward to being somewhere that will occasionally suffer a witch to live."

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"What kind of witch?"

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"The kind that once had a conversation with the Moon! If I could pretend that didn't happen, I could be a depressing little church girl with no life prospects, and I wouldn't be in this car."

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"What manner of thing does the moon have to say?"

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"'Good luck,  sister. '"

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"You know, I feel like I should have expected that."

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"Yeah,  she's not the chattiest." She smiles.

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"Probably not a lot of people to talk to up in space."

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"I don't know,  maybe I'll run into someone who had a conversation with Mars, or something,  and it'll turn out Mars and the Moon have long chats with each other."

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"I don't know anyone who has talked to Mars but I can't say I spend a lot of time around pagans, I'm Buddhist."

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"Fist bump of really needing to not be in Gilead, then."

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"Presumably if I were in Gilead I wouldn't have married a Thai person and therefore would not be Buddhist."

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"But then you wouldn't have married your husband with strong opinions about eggs, so I think I'm still right in saying you really shouldn't have lived in Gilead."

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"Don't you think some nice girl would appreciate me not bothering her for sex."

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"But you see,  to find her,  you'd have to admit you didn't want sex at least once every three days,  and that sounds like open communication. It's against our National Pride to do that."

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"Bet I could meet a nice girl at the same-sex attraction support group and we could work it out."

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"But secretly. Without you every admitting you had emotions." The family she handmaiden-ed for had a lot of marriage self help books, and Loraine thought it was vaguely educational nfor her I read them.

They were, just probably not in the way she intended.

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"I'm pretty sure you're allowed to have anger! And horniness."

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"You've just got to somehow woo her with your scowl."

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"I have a very charming scowl," he says, demonstrating.

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"You'll get all the lesbians you want with that." Why is she charmed. She does not need to be charmed by the coyote.

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"Good thing for the poor lesbians I don't want any of them."

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"The lesbians are safe!"

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"What do you know about Cascadia? They have helpful pamphlets but I always figure I can give someone a head start."

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"I hear you have religious freedom and--" not mentioning the nuclear wasteland, she's definitely not Cascadian enough for that yet "--lots of pet pigs?"

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"Well, what is the point of a pet without a job?"

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"Sitting on your lap can be a job!"