“Wait, what?” Lindsey asked quietly, although Colin figured she’d heard.
“They stacked up in the warehouse. Up and up and up. And it’s just gotten worse and worse, until it came to this. ”
And then Lindsey understood. “You don’t want to fire anyone. ”
“That’s right, baby. If we cut production down to what we were selling, we’d lose most our people. It’d kill Gutshot. ”
“Wait, then why the heck did you hire them to do some little made-up job?” Lindsey asked, nodding toward Colin and Hassan. “If we’re so broke, I mean. ”
“It’s not made up. A generation from now there might not be a factory and I want your kids and their kids to know what it was like, what we were like. And I liked them. I thought they’d be good for you. The world ain’t gonna stay like you imagine it, sweetheart. ”
Lindsey took a step toward her mother. “Now I know why you work at home,” she said. “So no one will know what’s going on. No one knows?”
“Just Roy,” said Hollis. “And you can’t tell anyone. We can go on like this for at least five more years, so that’s what we’re gonna do,” Hollis said. “And between now and then I’m gonna work like hell to find new ways of making money. ”
Lindsey put her arms around her mom’s waist and pressed her face against her chest. “Five years is a long time, Mom,” she said.
“It is and it isn’t,” Hollis answered, stroking Lindsey’s hair. “It is and it isn’t. But it’s not your fight; it’s mine. I’m sorry, sweetie. I know I’ve been busier than a mom ought to be. ”
And this, unlike TOC’s cheating, was a secret best kept, Colin thought. People don’t like to know that three quarters of their tampon strings are being buried, or that their paychecks have less to do with their company’s profitability than its owner’s compassion.
Hollis and Lindsey ended up riding home together, leaving Colin and Hassan alone in the Hearse. They weren’t five miles outside of Memphis when Hassan said, “I had a, um, blinding light spiritual awakening. ”
Colin glanced at him. “Huh?”
“Watch the road, kafir. It started a few nights ago, actually, so I guess it wasn’t that dramatic—at the old folks’ home, when you said I was Mr. Funnypants because I wanted to avoid getting hurt. ”
“No doubt about it,” Colin said.
“Yeah, well, that’s bullshit, and I knew it was bullshit, but then I started wondering exactly why I am Mr. Funnypants, and I didn’t have a very good answer. But then, back there, I started thinking about what Hollis is doing. I mean, she’s giving up all her time and her money so people can keep jobs. She’s doing something. ”
“Okay . . . ” said Colin, not getting it.
“And I’m a not-doer. Like, I’m lazy, but I’m also good at not-doing things I’m not supposed to do. I never drank or did drugs or hooked up with girls or beat people up or stole or anything. I was always good at that, although not so much this particular summer. But then doing all that stuff here felt weird and wrong, so now I’m back to happily not-doing. But I’ve never been a doer. I never did anything that helped anybody. Even the religious things that involve doing, I don’t do. I don’t do zakat. 80 I don’t do Ramadan. I’m a total non-doer. I’m just sucking food and water and money out of the world, and all I’m giving back is, ‘Hey, I’m really good at not-doing. Look at all the bad things I’m not doing! Now I’m going to tell you some jokes!’ ”
Colin glanced over and saw Hassan sipping Mountain Dew. Feeling that he should say something, Colin said, “That’s a good spiritual revelation. ”
“I’m not done yet, fugger. I was just drinking. So but anyway, being funny is a way of not-doing. Sit around and make jokes and be Mr. Funnypants and just make fun of everyone else’s attempts to do something. Make fun of you when you get back up and try to love yourself another Katherine. Or make fun of Hollis for falling asleep covered in her work every night. Or get on your case for shooting at
the hornets’ nest, when I didn’t shoot at all. So that’s it. I’m going to start doing. ” Hassan finished his can of Mountain Dew, crumpled it, and dropped it beneath his feet. “See, I just did something. Usually,” he said, “I would have thrown that shit in the backseat, where I wouldn’t have to look at it and you’d have to clean it up the next time you had a date with a Katherine. But I’m leaving it here, so I remember to pick it up when we get to the Pink Mansion. God, someone should give me a Congressional Medal of Honor for Doing. ”
Colin laughed. “You’re still funny,” Colin said. “And you have been doing stuff. You registered for college. ”
“Yeah, I’m getting there. Although—if I’m going to be an all-out, full-on doer,” Hassan noted, faux morose, “I should probably register for three classes. It’s a hard life, kafir. ”
Lindsey and Hollis beat them home, on account of how Colin and Hassan had to stop at the Hardee’s for a Monster Thickburger. As they stood in the Pink Mansion’s living room, Hollis said, “Lindsey went to spend the night at her friend Janet’s. She was pretty broken up on the car ride home. It’s about the boy, I guess. ”
Hassan nodded, and sat down on the sectional couch with her. Colin’s brain started working. He had to find an unsuspicious way out of the Pink Mansion as soon as possible, he realized.
“Can I do anything to help you?” asked Hassan, and Hollis brightened and said, “Sure. Sure. You can sit here with me and brainstorm—all night, if you’ve got the time. ” And Hassan said, “Cool. ”
Colin sort of half-coughed, and started speaking rapidly. “I may go out for a while. I think I’m going to go camping. I’ll probably sitzpinkler out and sleep in the car, but still—I’m gonna give it a try. ”
“What?” asked Hassan, incredulous.
“Camping,” Colin said.