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    Parker Owens
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Predator Prey - 22. Familiar Territory

No warnings needed for this chapter.

It felt oddly comforting to be back on the Feigenbaum. Javier and Oscar had been wonderfully kind, attentive hosts. Theirs was a happy and loving household, and he'd been included. But he'd felt envious of both the fathers and the son, and that bothered him. And knowing that about himself bothered him more. He should have been able to retreat into the cold remoteness of his stony heart, but he just couldn't. Javier and Oscar's mutual affection and Michael's blossoming young romance shouldn't have mattered, but they did.

He managed one task before leaving their house, though.

"Javier, have you got a postcard I can have?" he'd asked.

That got an odd look from his friend. "Yeah, I think we've got one. Let me look." Javier rummaged around in a kitchen drawer by the phone. A few moments later, he triumphantly withdrew a slightly battered postcard bearing a photo of 'Emerald Springs Wildlife Park,' wherever that was. "Here. Is that okay?"

"Yeah, thanks." He knew what he had to write and where to send it.

He remembered the street and house number, and looked up the zip code in a directory. He addressed it to Marc and Lee and in the message portion wrote: "I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thanks for everything." It had gone out in the mail the next day.

Javier wasn't going to be making this cruise, and he felt the loss of the reserved man who had turned out to be a real friend. He'd gotten a full sendoff; a shy kind of squeeze from Michael at breakfast, and a warm abrazo from Oscar down at the Feigenbaum's mooring.

But somehow, he wasn't prepared for the fierce hug Javier gave him at the last. "Don't worry, Wally, Cookie will take care of you. And that fucking troll ain't never going to set foot on board another research ship, so you're safe," the engineer had said very seriously as they stood at the gangway. "Have a good cruise. Call us if you need us when you get back."

He had no doubt Javier had meant this, but he wondered if he could go back to that house again. The envy might kill him.

He had returned to a newly cleaned stateroom, reeking of fresh paint – still terribly narrow and dark, crowded again with a different, earnest Marine Science major bunkmate – Nate was the name this time - who worked opposite watches to his own. But he somehow felt more free, more at ease on board than on land.

Perhaps that might have had something to do with the constant impulse to glance over his shoulder to see if Kenny or his Camaro were lurking anywhere near Javier's house. He was definitely anxious that the dealer was interested in him, for any reason. He just wanted to be able to forget about Marquez, period.

Fortunately, the routine of shipboard life quickly swept him up. The Captain was glad to see him back. His grandly named "Marine Operations Practicum" scheduled him to work for Cookie for two watches and for several hours of daylight. Theoretically, he was supposed to learn "shipboard economy" and "best practices," whatever those were. As a practical matter, in less than forty eight hours Cookie had him learning new meal prep methods, trying out variations on recipes, and reorganizing nearly all the stores and supplies – not just those related to the mess and galley. In addition to his supposed coursework, he was Cookie's helper and gofer – "Assistant Purser's Mate" was his official title – and the Purser wanted to take full advantage.

Just as at the end of the January cruise, Cookie put him in charge of the early morning shift as soon as the ship had gotten out to sea.

"Aww, Wally, you can handle this," the man had said when the apprehension showed clearly on his face, "it's just snacks and coffee. And it's early in the cruise, so it won't be real busy. You can get some homework done."

Of course, the man was right. "Okay, Cookie, you're the boss," he'd muttered. And he did have some Purser's Manuals to review.

"Besides, I'll be up with you tonight, I've got accounts to figure out," the grey haired man had added.

He felt somehow more confident when he stumbled out of his bunk at midnight to find Cookie bent over a large, battered notebook in the mess area. A welter of papers, notices and receipts lay strewn about the table at his side. A calculator sat by his left hand.

The purser looked up and made a wry smile in his direction. "It never gets any better, trying to make all this balance out," he said, pulling off his glasses and rubbing his face with his hand.

"Looks like a mess," he commented.

"It is," Cookie replied, "and they make reporting and recording harder and harder every year."

He moved to get coffee and snacks ready for the nocturnal visitors from the labs and aft deck. There'd be a few sometime soon.

"I mean, what am I supposed to do with this?" Cookie called out, waving a yellow receipt, "How am I supposed to record the purchase of a pair of sneakers? Whose are they? Who bought them? Is it a program expense or a ship's expense? People, people, tell me what it's for and who got it. Jesus," he complained to no one in particular.

He let Cookie do his books, and he made up a snack tray to leave on the counter. In a couple of hours, there'd be breakfast to start.

Sometime around one o'clock, the grey haired man abruptly stood, gathered up the papers and books and headed off to his cabin to sleep, waving a tired farewell as he did so. It was easier to relax as the early hours wore on. As Cookie had predicted, there were only a few researchers who came down in the night for coffee. A tall, pink-cheeked blond girl who would have looked more at home in an Iowa cornfield than on board the Feigenbaum made an appearance around three thirty.

She seemed outgoing and friendly, despite the hour. "Hello, any coffee?"

"Sure, right there," he said, pointing out the pot and cups on the counter.

"Oh. That's great, thanks." She busied herself pouring out a generous mug full. "Hey, I'm Ellie, by the way. Ellie Franks." The girl stuck out her hand, and he took it. Her handshake felt impressively strong.

"Nice to meet you."

"Nice meeting you, too, um…I don't know your name?"

"People call me Wally."

"That's right," she nodded, "I've heard people calling you that."

She had? Where? When? Maybe at lunch.

"So what's your...research about?" he asked lamely. He wasn't sure he wanted to make conversation, but Ellie seemed friendly enough.

"I'm a geologist," she laughed pleasantly. "I study rocks we pick up from the sea floor, break them apart and count the tiny fossils inside. Then we compare them to what we find swimming around in the Gulf at night."

He didn't want to say so, but her work sounded dull as dishwater. "That must be tough."

She laughed again and smiled a wide, broad smile. "Yeah, you could say that. But the data seems valuable enough."

"You counting fossils tonight?"

"Yeah, I have this afternoon's samples to do. Needed coffee for sustenance." Ellie held up her mug. "Bet hanging out here all night is as exciting as my fossils."

Despite himself, he smiled a little. "Yeah, probably. I do a little homework. Get breakfast ready. I get by."

"What, you didn't bring books or something to read?"

"Reading? As in books? For fun?" He hadn't done any reading since, what eleventh grade, not if he could help it. He shook his head.

"Gotta fix that," the big blond girl grinned happily at him, "I can bring something down tomorrow night. You like comics?"

He shrugged. "Sure, I guess."

"Excellent. You read Japanese?"

His facial expression communicated his response effectively. No.

"Well, not a problem. You'll figure it out." Ellie glanced at her watch. "Damn, break's over. Gotta get back to the samples." She gulped down the rest of her coffee and grabbed a sandwich off the snack tray. "Thanks for the sandwich, Wally. Nice meeting you!" With that, the amazon headed back the way she came, to the lab.

He stretched and sighed. Time to get breakfast underway. Cookie would be up soon after his four-hour catnap. He still didn't understand how the older man functioned.

He began by getting out cereals in sealed containers to be opened at the last moment, mixing up juices, and prepping food to be done on the range. Bacon was on the menu for this morning, and he knew just about everyone on board appreciated its delicious aroma as it cooked. This early in the cruise, there was still fresh stuff in the cooler – fruit and such – so he and Cookie agreed to set some of that out. He'd do that closer to the beginning of breakfast.

Cookie arrived with about an hour to spare before breakfast began, and he expertly browned some potatoes and finished off the large pans of eggs.

"Hey, Wally, you finished putting out the fine china?" the older man called out. What a sense of humor.

"Just finishing."

Cookie pushed the eggs around in the pan thoughtfully. "What was your major before you wound up here in my galley?

Major? Besides his own thriving concerns? "I was a business major," he replied shortly.

"Business. Right." Cookie looked thoughtful. "So how are you with computers?"

"Okay, I guess. Why?"

"Oh, nothing," said the Purser airily, "Just wondering how to handle the accounting. It's a mess."

"There's a problem?"

He didn't see Cookie roll his eyes, but he didn't need to. "Jeezus, yes."

Idly, he wondered what the difficulty could be. In his own very unorthodox business, he'd tried to keep meticulous records, actually applying ideas from accounting where he could. Whoever said he hadn't learned anything in college?

But Cookie didn't volunteer more information, and he didn't ask for it, so there the matter laid for remainder of the day.

It wasn't until the next early morning watch that Cookie brought it up again. "Hey, business major, come over here and look at this."

He left his brewing coffee and nearly finished snack tray, and walked into the mess area where Cookie had spread out his notebooks and papers again. "What is it?"

"Can you make head or tail out of this?" the Purser asked, gesturing toward ledger page in his notebook, crowded with figures.

He frowned. "Let me look at it a minute."

"Sure, thing, business man," Cookie grinned, getting up, "you look at it, and I'll finish the dogwatch snacks."

He sat in the Purser's chair and tried to focus. What the hell were all those entries? Why weren't they sorted? How the hell was he supposed to know? He ran his finger slowly down the left hand column of entries in Cookie's idiosyncratic handwriting. He'd just written purchases down, no commentary or explanation. Why didn't the man figure it out for himself?

He sat back and glanced up at Cookie, who was working on putting out coffee, water and some fruit. The man noticed and met his eyes.

"What?"

"Cookie, don't you have any of this on a computer?"

"Ahh, never had time for those things." The older man waved the idea away like a pesky insect.

"But the software is cheap, you could download it in less than a minute."

"Not me. I just don't get all that downloading stuff. It can be tricky out here, and the satellite connection can be a mess. Besides, a lot of the programs don't use maritime standards. "

That much was true. Out in the Gulf, satellite web time was specifically reserved for research data, navigational communications and the safety needs of the ship. These got absolute priority for the ship's bandwidth. In any case, the connection would be slow. But still, this was clearly something the ship needed.

"Couldn't we just snag it off the web in the early morning? It has to be pretty much down time now."

"Hell, no. This is the time of night when every computer on board this ship does an automatic satellite data dump. Everything that can get backed up to shore gets saved, so nobody's research goes to waste. Didn't you know that?"

Obviously not. Well, were there other options? He considered as Cookie went back to the snacks. The actual concepts and math weren't really hard. It was the classification problem. He stared again at the page.

"Maybe a spreadsheet would work," he said, musing aloud.

"You know how to work one of those?"

"Yeah, sure. Doesn't everyone?" he asked the Purser, genuinely astonished.

"Like I said, I don't have time for those computer things," Cookie replied. "If you're so damn smart, you put it all on the computer," the man grinned back.

That sounded like a definite challenge. He could try, maybe. Besides, it would keep Cookie off his back, and perhaps he'd get a break from having to read every manual on the damn boat.

"Fine, Cookie. I'll do that."

"Good. Go get your laptop and get started." The older man smiled. "I'll cover for you."

Why did he have the feeling he'd missed something?

Craftingmom edited this chapter, and I am very, very grateful. I am also grateful for the efforts and encouragement of the beta readers, tim, Spike and Carlos.

Please leave a review; you know I value all comments made. Alternatively, feel free to make added commentary on the Predator Prey Forum.

Copyright © 2017 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

Ha ha, there's a sucker born every minute. Cookie knows one when he sees one and what to do with one... love it. And Ellie, well perhaps a friend? How nice.

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On 02/04/2017 04:58 AM, Mikiesboy said:

Ha ha, there's a sucker born every minute. Cookie knows one when he sees one and what to do with one... love it. And Ellie, well perhaps a friend? How nice.

You said it! Wally was drawn into that one, reeled in like a fish, by someone who must be a pro. Ellie is a character, certainly, and maybe a friend. Thanks for your thoughts, and for reading. You know it is so very encouraging.

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Cookie's a manipulative sneaky bastard. He cornered Wally so smoothly I wanna shake his hand. Somebody suggest Quickbooks to him, please?

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On 02/05/2017 06:18 AM, Carlos Hazday said:

Cookie's a manipulative sneaky bastard. He cornered Wally so smoothly I wanna shake his hand. Somebody suggest Quickbooks to him, please?

Cookie is an old pro. Wally, the predator, got stalked, taken down and trussed up before he could peep or figure out what was happening. Quickbooks? That would be too easy...thanks for your reading and thoughts...will pass them on to Cookie!

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Wally got conned into setting up the spreadsheet and probably entering all the data too.

 

Personally, I prefer databases over spreadsheets. They have more personality and it’s easier to hide the inner workings so users only see what they need to enter data. You can set it up so different users see different things, based on what they need to use. FileMaker Pro!

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Everyone is thinking that Wally got conned. Boo Hoo he will be working on something that he has talent for and is more challenging than his day to day duties. Mean old Cookie setting him up like that.
I love how the story is paced as we watch Wally grow and heal. There will be bumps along the road but it is a heartening tale in spite of its dark beginnings

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On 02/09/2017 08:25 PM, droughtquake said:

Wally got conned into setting up the spreadsheet and probably entering all the data too.

 

Personally, I prefer databases over spreadsheets. They have more personality and it’s easier to hide the inner workings so users only see what they need to enter data. You can set it up so different users see different things, based on what they need to use. FileMaker Pro!

Cookie was pretty smooth, no? Now there's lots of data and sorting to do...and yes, a database may be preferable for many tasks. Not taking sides over fave DB's, though! Thanks for reading, and for your comments.

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On 02/09/2017 10:44 PM, Rndmrunner said:

Everyone is thinking that Wally got conned. Boo Hoo he will be working on something that he has talent for and is more challenging than his day to day duties. Mean old Cookie setting him up like that.

I love how the story is paced as we watch Wally grow and heal. There will be bumps along the road but it is a heartening tale in spite of its dark beginnings

Thank you for your comments. Cookie neatly snared his prey, and now Wally has a great deal of learning to do. But you're right in that this task will undoubtedly engage his brain and talents. Thanks also for your kind comments on pacing. I think it is very important to see Wally grow and change; it is a hopeful thing.

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Where the stay with Marc and Lee awoke something in Wally, I think staying with Javier and Oscar was pivotal. He's wanting of what they have yes, but so much more aware and in touch with himself.
I think too, that now Cookie has managed to get him to utilize his major, he will feel useful. Instead of constantly asking what he can do to help, he will actually be contributing. That has got to add to his self worth.
Two things to to note. He finally, finally apologized to Marc. Even if by post card. That's huge. Also, he said to Ellie when she called him Wally, "that's what they call me." Maybe subconsciously he's ready to be who he really is.

 

(My nieces call me Ellie, so I'm inclined to believe she's another friend who will work more magic with Wally. No presh tho.. :) )

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On 02/10/2017 03:18 AM, Defiance19 said:

Where the stay with Marc and Lee awoke something in Wally, I think staying with Javier and Oscar was pivotal. He's wanting of what they have yes, but so much more aware and in touch with himself.

I think too, that now Cookie has managed to get him to utilize his major, he will feel useful. Instead of constantly asking what he can do to help, he will actually be contributing. That has got to add to his self worth.

Two things to to note. He finally, finally apologized to Marc. Even if by post card. That's huge. Also, he said to Ellie when she called him Wally, "that's what they call me." Maybe subconsciously he's ready to be who he really is.

 

(My nieces call me Ellie, so I'm inclined to believe she's another friend who will work more magic with Wally. No presh tho.. :) )

Wally saw some unalloyed good with Marc and Lee, and realized how much he'd been missing living with Oscar and Javi for a few days. Perhaps they inspired him to write that postcard. Wally is naturally observant, but now maybe he is observing himself more honestly and carefully. Perhaps that's why he didn't pay enough attention to Cookie's good natured entrapment! How Wally reacts to the challenge Cookie has left with him will be important. Pressure? What pressure? Thanks a ton for a wonderful review, and for reading the story!

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On 02/10/2017 03:43 AM, JayT said:

Cookie is one smart cookie....

Yes - the older man is wiser - and Wally never saw it coming...thanks for reading!

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Defiance was faster to post her thoughts... I, too, think the postcard is a huge step forward for TP / Wally but my first impression was "Nicely done, Parker. Anything more than a postcard worded minimally would not have been consistent with TP's character.
I have the feeling that some crossroads have been passed

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Dammit... Jay stole my line... :rolleyes: . Anyway, that was quite amusing. Methinks there's a bit of nerd showing up in Wally. I wonder where that's coming from :P . I was impressed with the postcard. Baby steps, but I'm seeing leaps ahead. He lived in two homes, and has now returned to his floating home. There's a theme here. I expect this cruise will clarify Wally TO Wally. Well done, buddy... cheers... Gary....

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On 02/10/2017 09:21 AM, mayday said:

Defiance was faster to post her thoughts... I, too, think the postcard is a huge step forward for TP / Wally but my first impression was "Nicely done, Parker. Anything more than a postcard worded minimally would not have been consistent with TP's character.

I have the feeling that some crossroads have been passed

Wally remembered Marc's scathing words in his first trip down. He's grown enough to acknowledge what he did. But he may not be able to shed real tears for a while. Your observations are very astute. Wally has made some decisions, though he may not wholly recognize them as such. Many, many thanks for your comments and for reading this story.

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On 02/10/2017 01:25 PM, Headstall said:

Dammit... Jay stole my line... :rolleyes: . Anyway, that was quite amusing. Methinks there's a bit of nerd showing up in Wally. I wonder where that's coming from :P . I was impressed with the postcard. Baby steps, but I'm seeing leaps ahead. He lived in two homes, and has now returned to his floating home. There's a theme here. I expect this cruise will clarify Wally TO Wally. Well done, buddy... cheers... Gary....

Perhaps Wally's nascent nerdiness is simply an aspect of his personality that got buried in an avalanche of anger. Only now it might be emerging. Or it could be the personality of the author showing....I am glad you are seeing some of the steps TP/Wally is taking; they are not enough in themselves, but maybe they will add up to a journey, given time. Love your observation about the 'floating home.' Many thanks for continuing to read this story!

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More education for Wally, on the art of manipulation...from the other end. There is a different flavor to it when it is done without malicious intent, though. Cookie pulled a fast one, but this is somehow going to work for Wally's benefit in the end.
Wally really is learning about being a part of things with people. His awareness level of other people as worthy of caring about has come up a very, very long way from chapter one. He can only learn, by caring for others, the importance of also caring for himself without doing so at the expense of others. He seems to be an apt pupil. too.
And...sorry about pressing you for a happy ending last review. You can yell, but don't hit. :)

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It's obvious Cookie knows TP/Wally is smart, and now at least he can be challenged at something rather than being bored to tears in the galley. As Jay said: Cookie's one smart cookie! :P

 

I wonder if Ellie is going to get Japanese anime for Wally. That'll be interesting! lol She seems like she can be a good friend if Wally lets her in.
I agree with your other readers who think Wally sending the postcard to Marc and Lee and apologizing, is a HUGE step forward. I think TP/Wally is growing in leaps and bounds. :)

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Unfinished business of all sorts left on land - good, bad, potentailly lethal ... but our hero has moved forward so much. That postcard? I wonder what the recipients will think of it? What will happen to him on this voyage, I wonder? Him being an instigator in using his skills to help others, is another symptom of the changes going on inside him. His self-analysis, regrets and fears seem so real, and of course, it's your great writing that makes them so. :)

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On 02/11/2017 10:18 AM, Geron Kees said:

More education for Wally, on the art of manipulation...from the other end. There is a different flavor to it when it is done without malicious intent, though. Cookie pulled a fast one, but this is somehow going to work for Wally's benefit in the end.

Wally really is learning about being a part of things with people. His awareness level of other people as worthy of caring about has come up a very, very long way from chapter one. He can only learn, by caring for others, the importance of also caring for himself without doing so at the expense of others. He seems to be an apt pupil. too.

And...sorry about pressing you for a happy ending last review. You can yell, but don't hit. :)

Cookie has been a purser for along time. Pursers have often been full of guile and wit...it is how they often have to make their way. In drawing Cookie's character, I wondered whether he had worked for a shipping firm that skimped on crew expenses, or some such thing. But you are perfectly right about Wally experiencing manipulation that is without malice. He is learning to be part of a community, not just conveniently attached to one. No problems on your comments for a happy ending...I welcome any comment or thought. Thank you for continuing to read Wally's story.

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On 02/11/2017 03:25 PM, Lisa said:

It's obvious Cookie knows TP/Wally is smart, and now at least he can be challenged at something rather than being bored to tears in the galley. As Jay said: Cookie's one smart cookie! :P

 

I wonder if Ellie is going to get Japanese anime for Wally. That'll be interesting! lol She seems like she can be a good friend if Wally lets her in.

I agree with your other readers who think Wally sending the postcard to Marc and Lee and apologizing, is a HUGE step forward. I think TP/Wally is growing in leaps and bounds. :)

Cookie may have part of Wally figured out, and he certainly stalked, deftly trapped and snared Wally quick enough. But Cookie must have seen Wally's intelligence. Don't worry about Ellie. We'll see her again. And I am so glad you mentioned the postcard. I wonder what Marc and Lee thought when it arrived? Thanks so much for reading the story, and for your review.

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On 02/12/2017 02:34 AM, northie said:

Unfinished business of all sorts left on land - good, bad, potentailly lethal ... but our hero has moved forward so much. That postcard? I wonder what the recipients will think of it? What will happen to him on this voyage, I wonder? Him being an instigator in using his skills to help others, is another symptom of the changes going on inside him. His self-analysis, regrets and fears seem so real, and of course, it's your great writing that makes them so. :)

Wally has a lot on his plate - Cookie is going to keep him busy both in and out of the Galley, that seems certain. It wasn't possible to show what happened at Marc and Lee's place when the postcard arrived, but it is fun to imagine it. Wally might be aware of the developments inside himself, but not completely so. Who is ever perfectly self aware? Thanks for your acute reading and review, and for continuing to read Wally's story,

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He should have been able to retreat into the cold remoteness of his stony heart, but he just couldn't. -- The stone cold heart just isn't there any more.

Ellie -- every gay guy needs a girl friend.

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3 hours ago, BlueWindBoy said:

He should have been able to retreat into the cold remoteness of his stony heart, but he just couldn't. -- The stone cold heart just isn't there any more.

Ellie -- every gay guy needs a girl friend.

I love this comment! No, Wally’s heart isn’t stony or cold anymore. It’s changing. And Ellie is a fun character to write. Thanks a million. 

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