The combat knife was in Tyler’s hand. Carbon steel, black and jagged-toothed. Playing with it calmed the dealer down when he was agitated. It had the opposite effect on others, which made it quite the diplomatic tool. In his head, Tyler liked to call it the Poet. Right now, it seemed almost as though he could hear it speaking to him, a thin wire of narrative meaning undercutting the nonsense protestations of his unreliable tweeker friends. And there went Anna proving his point.
“Don’t talk about my brother like that.”
“You and your fuckup brother. ‘Don’t talk about my brother like that, meeeeeh.’ Shit. I’ll stop calling him a fuckup when he stops fucking up. He fucking trusts everyone. This shit is not a charity. If I didn’t know better,” the knife flicked in her direction, “I’d swear he was fucking stealing from me.”
Something had snapped. This was a tirade that wasn’t going to end. Maybe it was the full moon, or low barometric pressure, or the crystal dragon coiling through his bloodstream, or the culmination of a buildup months in the making, but Tyler rose from his chair as though he were being pulled by invisible strings, or by the knife’s voice, which smelled like oil on bloody gears.
The most important part of running a successful system is knowing that the components of that system are reliable. These trifling little shits are going to hold you back, and you know it. And if you fail, it’s because you let them stop you. They are weak.
“Girl, how am I supposed to make this work? How am I going to run this game if everyone close to me just keeps fucking up? Am I stupid? I have to be stupid, for letting this weakness just fester. Like a cancer. It can’t keep going down like this.”
“Tyler. Tyler, fucking relax. You’re wound up too tight.”
“IT’S CALLED HAVING MY SHIT TOGETHER. YOU SHOULD FUCKING TRY IT MAYBE.”
On the television was a commercial in which a woman was showing off a house, a pristine upscale place with a pool, lush blue carpeting, spacious rooms. The kind of house he deserved. The kind of house he would never achieve if he couldn’t up his game. The woman was blonde, preternaturally even-toothed, assembled from plastic parts, flawlessly executing her job. A perfect cog in a perfect dream machine. Through her red lips came the Poet's voice.