Henry stood backstage. He tapped his foot, waiting for Amal to join him. He had developed fifty different non-sequiturs to help Amal ease out of awkward conversations, and had used none of them in the past two years. Whenever he got Amal out of polite company, something better always came to mind. And even now, as he loitered by the makeup mirror, Henry ran through a couple of new dinner-party-enders in his mind, and made a mental note to ask Amal about “having to go iron the dog.”
Amal finally entered, and shut the door behind himself. He took half-steps towards Henry, as if his muscled body were delicate, and as if he walked on a balance beam. Henry gave a quick look to the curtain on his right. Henry hoped that Amal never actually brought a balance beam onstage. He should’ve learned his lesson about wacky set pieces after all those failed attempts to remove the curtain stain.
“The last time I checked, you were the one that owed me,” said Amal. He could barely contain the song in his voice.
“I thought you were selling to me,” countered Henry, continuing the joke. He stopped it there: him and Amal could’ve created a five-part opera from that silly exchange, if they had the time. “We’ll talk over a joint. Right, here’s what’s up. I watched the news last night, and I threw out half my routine. I’ll shoot, you see what kills.”
“Okay,” said Amal. Amal put a chin to his palm. Henry saw his eyes light up. Somehow, they looked brightest whenever he was serious. Henry could make his eyes go dead on command, but Amal could ...