A SONG OF ICE-NINE & FIRE

Deep in their cups, the midget and the imp could not agree on how long they had waited inside the bunker.

“Did you know it would destroy the whole world?” asked Tyrion. He spoke with a sense of déjà vu, knowing this question had been broached sometime in the last few days, weeks, years.

Newt offered the most comfortable answer to this most familiar question: “First of all, ice-nine is real.”

Tyrion’s eyes rolled into the well of his cup, which he cradled like a dragon’s egg. He approached the issue anew: “Given that ice-nine is real, did you know it would end life as you knew it?”

“As we knew it to be,” Newt corrected Tyrion. “And yes, I thought it was possible, but I also thought I could safeguard it.” Then he too fell into staring inside his cup. “Did you think your sister would burn the whole kingdom? What about that other queen?”

Tyrion gulped his guilt.

“What if you hadn’t split your forces? We should all look to make good on our mistakes.”

“What—” Tyrion laughed, “when old George finally finishes his books?”

Newt knew better than to pursue that unfinished business. For Tyrion, it was like waiting on a magical vaccine—a cure all for his legacy and reputation.

“Tyrion, how long have we been in this bunker now?”

Tyrion thought about all the dragons and prostitutes he once knew. “Long enough,” he said, pondering whether unwritten words might alter the consequences of his character.

“I didn’t really want to get into this tonight, Tyrion—I apologize.” Newt waved his goblet like a paintbrush. “I really did just want to paint.”

“That’s exactly what I’m talking about—” Tyrion jolted forward, his hands curled around an invisible egg, or skull, “the hinge between vision and results—a blank, suffocating present and a quintessential effort to breathe!”

Newt yawned, “I just wanted to paint.”

Tyrion leaned back in disappointment. “Then paint. Destroy the canvas.”

Having grown up in the shadow of genius, Newt nodded with indifference. He had a hard time believing Tyrion was a philosopher and an even harder time believing in a land where everyone still lived in castles. He doubted half the shit Tyrion said was true.

“I never committed a crime until convicted for all the crimes I didn’t commit.”

Newt mouthed the words along with Tyrion.

“My father didn’t want me to—”

“—possess the family seat.” Newt wandered the room in a ghostly search. He was after a paintbrush. A paintbrush and more wine.

Tyrion spoke to himself now: “If there was a path toward respectability, it must have been like the eye of a needle.”

“Is that how you make yourself feel bigger?”

“Poor, poor Newt, why don’t we leave such small humors to history and half-funny men?”

“Oh, I want no part of history.”

“You just want to paint.”

Newt now stood before his canvas. “Well, I’m painting you if you’re curious.”

“Should I wave my cock about?”

Newt never understood why Tyrion insisted on debasing his so-called brilliance.

“Aren’t you worried people will mistake the work as a self-portrait?” asked Tyrion.

“Why would they do that?”

“Oh, our mutual height advantages. Our torrid love affairs.”

“Please don’t mention Zinka.”

“From what you’ve told me, everyone’s heard about Zinka.”

Tyrion watched Newt shrivel at his words and he winced too. “I just meant that besides painting and your father, she’s all you ever talk about—I meant no harm.”

“What was your father like?”

“He was a difficult man.”

“But what was he like?”

Tyrion sighed. Déjà vu again.

“Did he have hobbies? Was he passionate?”

“Maps—he enjoyed maps.”

Newt laughed.

“I imagine he would have enjoyed that game you introduced me to.”

“Monopoly?”

“He would have changed one rule, though.”

“And what rule would that be?”

“When you pass go, you can kill your opponents.”

“Was he an important man?”

“You could say that.”

“He sounds like my father,” said Newt.

“Ah yes, the scientist.”

“He was like a fish in a laboratory bowl.”

“You already told me about his atom bomb.”

“Oh,” said Newt from behind the canvas.

“When you mentioned what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I told you about the Sept in King’s Landing.”

“Then you broke out in that song of yours—”

Tyrion raised his glass and immediately regretted the action, but Newt was already singing “The Rains of Castamere.”

Newt stopped singing. “How did your father destroy the world again? Was it through invention?”

“He didn’t invent gold, but he had a mountain full of it.”

“I don’t see how gold could destroy the earth.”

“Give it time.”

“I would, but even time is in short supply.”

“Ah yes, I’m supposed to believe in ice-nine.”

“I could show you what it does to a glass of wine.”

“No thank you, I prefer mine red. Also, it appears we’re out.”

While the two prepared to brave the outside world, Tyrion paused before Newt’s canvas.

“What do you think?” asked Newt.

“Is it a self-portrait?”

They walked out the door into a metal shaft. They climbed the rungs and opened the hatch. They stepped into the setting sun and headed for Wegman’s. As they walked, their shadows stretched well behind them—as if cast by larger men.

“I just pictured you as me the night my dad died. That’s why there’s an ocean.”

“Maybe add a crossbow, so people will know the difference.”

“I tried, but it looked like the world’s saddest viola.”

They both laughed.

They stepped onto the automatic door sensors. They entered Wegman’s and were surprised they couldn’t head straight for the wine and beer section. They had to follow yellow arrows on the floor, as if walking on a gameboard. Everyone else inside the store wore surgical masks. The midget and the imp stared into the other’s blank expressions—the debris from their dying fathers—and wondered why. They reached for a case of cheap beer. They presented their fake IDs.

“Tyrion Lannister?” asked the cashier. “In the middle of a pandemic, this is the shit you want me to believe?”

They headed home, trailing those long, breath-like shadows, having not worn masks, having never worn masks.



Bryan Harvey lives and teaches in Virginia. His writing has appeared most recently at Hobart Pulp and Rejection Letters. It has also appeared in other places. He writes about basketball for Fansided’s The Step Back. He doesn’t drink as much as he once did, but he tweets @Bryan_S_Harvey

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