The Eyes of Heaven
= - = 52 = - =
Gunfire ripped through the air in sharp, ear-damaging pops, as Dipper held tightly in his grip a pistol and laid waste to a target board set up at the far end of an indoor shooting range. He held the gun, an old but well-taken care of Browning Hi-Power semi-automatic pistol, in a tight yet comfortable grip–overcompensating a little against the recoil every time he fired it. Like others at the gun club, per the rules, he wore ear and eye protection against the bright flash and loud reports going on to his left, right, and center.
Shooting a gun, Dipper decided, was a whole lot harder than he had ever seen anyone do it real or fiction.
Why do movies make it look so freaking easy? He thought as the flash and clap caused him to lose track of where he was shooting–an obvious flinch that anyone could see, and he was all too aware of.
As he fired his last round, he heard Shermie call out behind him. “All right, Dipper! Cease fire!”
Dipper immediately brought the gun against his chest, the gun pointed down at the range’s concrete floor and his empty right hand firmly overtop his left holding the weapon.
“Hoo boy, that takes me back like thirty years seeing that.” Shermie said as he joined his side. “Hang on a sec, boychik.”
Dipper sighed. “I keep wanting to flinch whenever I shoot…”
“Yeah, that's to be expected. Most new recruits have this problem for a little while.” Shermie reassured him.
Dipper turned his head, staying constantly prescient of the weapon in his hand. “How am I doing, so far?”
Shermie gave him a kindly smile. “So first off? You're doing great on treating a gun like you're supposed to. No fancy-schmancy moves, no pointing it at anything you ain't shooting, and making sure your gun is all in working order.” He gave him a thumbs up.
Dipper frowned slightly. “And what can I do about where I’m messing up?”
“As newbie problems go, that’s an easy one to fix.” Shermie looked at the gun. “Check if it’s clear and hand it over to yer Grandpa.”
Dipper did just that, ejecting the expended magazine, checking the clear chamber, and handing the weapon to his grandfather. Taking the weapon, Shermie loaded a full magazine and aimed at the target. “Okay, now watch carefully.”
Dipper eagerly complied as, with practiced precision, his grandfather aimed down the range. “One of the first things my instructor made sure to drill into my skull back in the old country?”
He fired a single shot at the target placard, hitting it in center mass just to the left of the chest bullseye. Dipper let out a “Whoa” in awe.
“The movies are always wrong. Don’t do anything you see in a movie, got it?” He asked before he fired again, hitting just above his first round.
Dipper nodded. “Got it.”
“Now… when you’re shooting? Force your eyes to stay open when you aim. Don’t freeze up and shut your eyes before you shoot.” Shermie fired again, this time hitting just below the first shot. “Hold steady, line up the sights, and then! Pretend to fire a few times in your head to get the jitters out. After that, actually fire.”
He fired a fourth time, hitting just to the left. “Ya gotta practice it, but the flinch goes away once you’re used to the muzzle flash.”
A fifth time Shermie fired, and like each time before he did it without even blinking–let alone any kind of adverse reflex.
“That is so cool,” Dipper muttered. Not even the goofy polka dot patterned bow tie he wore with his usual grandfatherly attire took away from it.
Engaging the safety, Shermie set the gun down on the countertop in front of Dipper and stepped back. “Okay, give it a shot.”
With a nod, Dipper took the Hi-Power in hands, aimed, and opened fire on the target. The first two shots he flinched, and he let out a grumbled curse.
Damn it, he thought.
“Easy does it. Take a deep breath, relax, realign the sights and then do it like I told you.” Shermie winked at him. “You’ll get the hang of it.”
Dipper took a deep breath and aimed down the sight again. He rested his finger on the trigger twice, applying no pressure while envisioning the gun going off. Then on the third he squeezed without flinching, and when the gun fired, he struck his placard in the neck. Surprised, he repeated the process and struck right next to that same spot. A third round punched just below the other two–giving the impression of Mickey Mouse.
Dipper brightened. “… Holy crap.”
“Wunderbar, as yer new German squeeze would say,” Shermie said with a playful elbow.
That colored Dipper’s cheeks. “Grandpa, sheesh.”
Shermie let out a deep belly laugh. “Can’t be a good grandpa without razzin’ the grandkids–and occasionally asking about when they plan on making me a great-grandpa!”
Dipper’s blush deepened. “You got a long wait for that, old-timer!”
He really hoped Misao wasn’t looking their way with the jibing. “Can’t you go tease Mabel?”
“I would, but one: she laughs it off better than you, and two: she’s the most frightening person at the range right now.” Shermie hooked a thumb over to their left.
Dipper looked and saw Mabel–wearing bright pink eye protectors and headphones that matched beautifully with her purple sweater dress and blue leggings, aiming a Beretta M1951 pistol down range, rattling off at a higher rate of fire than Dipper could muster. In only a few moments, Mabel emptied the gun’s magazine, ejected it, and set it down on the counter in front of her. Beside her Misao, who was protected with purple eye and ear protectors to match her blue sweater dress and pink leggings, hit the button to recall their target card.
Dipper and Shermie watched the target card come back and Mabel removed it. With a closer look at her handiwork, she turned to the smaller girl. “What do you think? At least he died…” She held it up, showing that she had shot a perfect happy face into the head of her target. “… With a smile?”
Misao broke into applause. “Très bien!”
Mabel set it down with two other targets she had been working with since Shermie cut her loose to practice shooting. One had a heart on its chest, and the other had a star in its forehead. Shermie turned back to Dipper.
“… It looks like we got a natural here,” Shermie finished.
Mabel heard that and boasted. “My grappling hook is way harder to aim and kicks back even harder than that! Compared to getting that right, handguns are easy!”
Dipper pulled a very mild grimace. “How do you not flinch?”
Mabel placed a hand on her chest. “Dipper, I’ve been bedazzling my sweaters, catching the morning sun off my braces in mirrors and setting fires with explosives since I was ten. Bright flashes are nothing!”
Shermie belly laughed again. “Ahh, that takes me back to when I used to take your Grunkles out shooting. Stanley could plug the wings off a dragonfly, and Ford was a crack shot, too.”
I can’t imagine how boring our summer would’ve been if Stan had a gun. Dipper thought, taking that revelation into mind. “Huh, with all the drama with Grunkle Stan and Grunkle Ford, I almost can’t imagine you spending time with them like that.”
“Stan and Ford weren’t always the ne’er do wells you kids know them as.” Shermie let out a reminiscent sigh. “We were all different back then, before I shipped off to the old country, before they grew up into messes. They were and still are my brothers, dontcha know?”
Dipper nodded in understanding, as he gave a meaningful glance towards Mabel and himself reminisced about everything they had gone through. The fond trip down memory lane was cut short by the realization that Mabel was now shooting one handed down range and nailing every shot.
“Okay, yeah,” he said. “She’s terrifying.”
Shermie agreed. “She’s gonna love the Schwanzstucker. I couldn’t ask for better hands to put it in.”
Dipper looked at the gun on the countertop, then picked it up and another magazine as he ejected the empty one. “Grandpa? I don’t think I… any of us can thank you enough for being so supportive. Not just with this, but with letting Misao stay even with how dangerous that is.”
Shermie patted Dipper firmly on the shoulder. “Even if you weren’t my grandson, I think I’d still help. Because letting you kids to handle all this by yourselves… well… it’s wrong. And Misao is a good kid, I couldn’t leave her hanging, either.”
Dipper loaded a fresh magazine and Shermie let that hang for a moment and waited for his grandson to take aim down range. “So if you do shack up with her, try to make sure at least a few of your kids aren't goyim.”
His finger coming off the trigger, Dipper turned his head to level an unamused stare at Shermie. “… Come on, Grandpa.”
Shaking his head in exasperation, Dipper focused on the targets and began shooting. He was in such a hurry to get away from that subject that he had no problem putting the shots on the mark. He stopped shooting, flicked on the safety, and set the gun down so he could set the record straight... after a fashion. “It’s not that I’m not interested in her–I am. She’s easily one of the nicest and prettiest girls I’ve ever met… I’ve just had my eyes on someone else since I got here.”
Shermie lit up at the news. “Oh? Anyone I know? You can tell Ol’ Sherpa, my lips are sealed.” He made a zipper motion across his lips to emphasize.
“It’s…” He leaned closer towards his grandfather and spoke in what he hoped wasn’t simultaneously too soft and too loud at the range. “… It’s um… Marco.”
And with an owlish blink, Shermie looked out of his depth as he scratched his head in surprise. “Huh… so, does he know that?”
“No,” Dipper replied, “It’s kind of a stupid crush thing and I don’t really want to bring it up, and I’m pretty sure he and Star have something going on… and besides it’d be bad to act on that interest given the circumstances, do you understand?”
Shermie thought about it. “Well, that’s a toughie. I don’t know much about handling love triangles, but I can tell you this: the heart wants what the heart wants. Don’t dismiss what you’re feeling as not important, that’s how you end up a putz like those Vanderhoff boys.”
Dipper was happy that his grandpa didn’t clumsily struggle with that response as he was pretty sure both his grunkles would’ve. “If I ever become that kind of douchebag? Kill me.”
“Nah. I'll just give ya a potch on the tushie to put your head back ‘round straight,” Shermie said with a chuckle.
“And thanks for not being weird about the whole Marco thing…”
Shermie seemed almost offended by that. “What? You thought I was gonna call you a feygele or something?” He gave Dipper another firm, reassuring shoulder pat. “Pssh. Maybe some of the Hasidic set back in the old country woulda. Me, I never cared about that. Besides, I’m from Jersey, there were lots of those guys there–though, I am a little sad that I might not get grandkids from you now.”
Dipper turned to face his grandfather fully. “Ah, it’s not like that. It’s the same thing Mabel has going on…”
“No fooling?” Shermie grinned. “Well, at least you won’t be hard up for a date on a Saturday Night!” He clicked his teeth and winked for emphasis.
Dipper closed his eyes and huffed. “The only thing I wanna do on a Saturday Night is investigate the weird and unknown.”
“Back in my day we called that dating!” Shermie guffawed, Dipper barking out a laugh with him.
Mabel walked over with Misao. “Sherpa, I’m out of ammo.”
Shermie and Dipper looked at the two as the former responded. “Already? Let me see your last board then.”
Mabel held up her last board, revealing a cat face shot into the chest of the target. “I made a kitty with this one.”
“Jesus Christ, Mabel,” Dipper muttered.
Shermie let out a whistle. “Fancy shooting, there.”
“If we had more bullets, I bet we could do an entire portrait,” Misao suggested.
Mabel gasped. “… Bullet art…” She stopped. “I’d need a machine gun for that, though…”
Breaking into a grin, shooting stars in her eyes, Mabel bounced up to her grandfather with hands clasped together. “Do you have a machine gun, Sherpa?!”
Her dreams were dashed by a shake of his head. “Sorry, Mabel. The closest thing I have is an Uzi and it’s packed up in storage over in Arizona because it’s an IDF model with a built-in suppressor.”
Dipper saw the problem with that. “The last thing we need is to be seen out in public carrying weapons like those.”
Mabel pouted. “We’re already breaking so many laws, what’s a few more?”
Shermie gave his granddaughter a knowing smirk. “You haven’t even begun to break laws, girlchik.”
“And the fewer laws we do break, the less likely some self-righteous policemen will decide if they can’t arrest the Magnavores, they’ll arrest us,” Dipper replied. “So let’s at least keep the crimes we commit to the ones they’re cool with, like blowing up robot jet fighters from another dimension, and getting into street fights for the fate of the Earth.”
“And having pet pigs that are too handsome,” Mabel added.
They had already been pulled over twice since they’d moved here because Waddles had his head stuck out the window of Shermie’s SUV like a dog as they drove around.
“Can ya blame ‘em? As fine connoisseurs of all things swine, of course they think he’s a beaut!” Shermie said with a hard laugh.
Dipper and Mabel both had a laugh with them, while Misao’s snickering was more reserved. Pretending to wipe a tear away when they finished, Mabel beamed. “Anyway~! Our stomachs are as empty as our magazines!”
“Ja,” Misao agreed. “Are you done? I would very much like to go out and enjoy some food in the city.”
Shermie rubbed his chin, then grinned. “Follow me kids, if I got my timing right, the Taste of Echo Creek should be just opening up.”
Dipper and Mabel both lit up. “Yes!”
“What is the Taste of Echo Creek?” Misao asked as Shermie collected his firearms, made them safe, and stowed them in their cases.
“An Echo Creek staple! The only thing that can compete with Britta’s Tacos over the weekend,” Mabel replied.
“All of these food trucks and vendors gather in one place and folks come from all over to eat there,” Dipper replied, “We have something similar in the Bay Area called Off The Grid.”
Mabel nodded. “I love eating from Food Trucks, it’s not just the food… it’s a whole experience!”
Misao’s eyes lit up in recognition. “Ah! So it’s like a Night Market… but during the day?”
“LA has a couple Night Markets, too!” Mabel said as she pulled out her phone and checked it. “We can check one out after the dance.”
Misao loved the sound of that. “Oooh…!”
Shermie looked between the girls with a bit of confusion as they left the Echo Creek Gun Club’s air conditioning for the late morning autumn heat outside. “You aren’t going to do your own thing? Didn't she ban you two munchkins?”
Dipper let out quiet snort and looked away. “Nah, Grandpa, she only banned me.”
“We’re still going,” Mabel assured him. “I’m not going to let the dresses I spent the last few days on go to waste.”
Misao nodded in agreement. “Ja, plus… there is something I want to see happen.”
“Or rather, not happen,” Mabel said with a sinister undertone, and both she and Misao giggled.
“Should I ask, or just volunteer as a chaperone and see for myself?” Shermie asked with a wry look.
Mabel made a beckoning gesture. “You should absolutely come, Sherpa!”
Misao was still giggling maliciously.
“Good luck getting in,” Dipper said, “I think even the President would need one of Brittney’s stupid bracelets to get through the doors.”
Shermie chuckled and adjusted his bowtie as they walked down the street from the Shooting Range and into the heart of Echo Creek, a modest town center with a few tall brick buildings that didn’t obscure the distant skyline of Los Angeles proper. Down the road from the Town Hall, Just two intersections away, was a line of food trucks parked around a roundabout in front of the administrative building. On the island in the center of the roundabout, where a large stone fountain stood, were smaller food stands and many people, both customers and cooks, enjoying the cuisine and culture.
“Aw come on. You don't think your Sherpa's got the moves to cut a rug on the dance floor, or finagle his way into a party?” He asked as he snapped his bowtie.
Mabel grinned once more. “You’re so cool that they’d crown you Homecoming Emperor.”
“Hail to Sherman, First Ruler of the Holy Echo Creek Empire,” Misao said in an authoritative voice.
“As my first decree, I proclaim the first song of this shindig to be… ‘Jump, Jive an' Wail’ by Louis Prima!” Shermie declared.
Dipper rolled his eyes, then got in on it, folding his arms and lifting his chin imperiously. “So let it be written, so let it be done.”
As Mabel and Misao both laughed with Shermie and Dipper, a voice called from the corner entering the circle where the Taste of Echo Creek food trucks were gathered.
“Oh. My Gosh. Mabel Pines?”
The Pines family plus guest looked ahead, to find a sharp-eyed blonde young woman with a beauty mark beneath her left eye standing nearby a busker with an electric guitar kicking off a sick riff. She stared gobsmacked at the quartet with a hand upon her cheek, like she was well and truly seeing a ghost.
Mabel lit up in recognition. “I never forget a face, especially that of a cheerleader ace! Sasha Waybright!”
Dipper quirked an eyebrow as Mabel shot ahead and met the school-uniformed teenager.
“Oh em gee!” Sasha said as Mabel came up to her. “It really is you and…” She looked up. “Dang, girl, you’re even taller than the last time I saw you.”
Mabel snickered. “What’s that?” She put a hand to her ear. “I can’t hear you from up here.”
Misao made her way over to them. “Yeah, you gotta speak up when you’re trying to call to the top of the mountain.”
Sasha turned her attention to Misao. “Whoa, I love the hair. Very Opossums.”
Misao grinned. “Thank you!”
Mabel, not being rude, quickly introduced her. “This is Sasha, she’s the Captain of St. James High School’s Cheer Squad. We met at cheer camp in Sophmore year!”
Sasha nodded. “Right, Camp Gottagrin!”
“More like Camp ‘Gonnasleep!’” Mabel gestured dismissively. “That was such a snooze fest.”
The blonde laughed. “Maybe to you.”
Shermie side-eyed his grandson. “I recall having the distinct impression your folks were less than enthused about what went on there.”
“They were,” Dipper confirmed. “An insane mutated fish man tried to turn everyone into mutants.”
Shermie nodded slowly. “Oh yeah…”
“We kicked its butt, though,” Dipper said proudly.
Shermie thrust out his upper lip and offered Dipper a fist-bump. “So do you think the fish was still kosher?”
“No he was definitely not,” his grandson replied as he returned it, and they shared a chuckle.
Mabel continued the chain of introduction. “This is Misao, she’s staying with us at my Sherpa’s. And you remember Dipper, right?”
Sasha looked at Dipper, her right eyebrow rising. “… I do…?”
Dipper regarded her staring with some confusion, as she quickly turned back to Mabel. “That’s your brother?” She asked in mild disbelief.
“Yeah, you don’t remember?” Mabel asked.
Sasha cleared her throat, and her face turned a slight pink as she whispered out the corner of her mouth. “… Shoot, that’s a glow up…”
Misao couldn’t help her smug, amused smirk. “Heh.”
Mabel glanced back at her brother, sharing Misao’s expression. “Another one.”
As Dipper rolled his eyes, Sasha smirked herself and clapped her hands together. “Say, are you guys coming out to Taste of Echo Creek for lunch? Because I’m actually here to drum up business for a friend’s cart, and I would love for you to come try it out!”
“Oh?” Misao looked around. “Which one is it?”
“It’s none of the trucks,” Sasha said as she pointed to the island in the center of the circle. “It’s a bike-drawn Thai spot.”
On the island, situated snugly between a hot dog and sausage vendor, and a Cajun/Mexican fusion grill, was a bicycle-pulled food cart with the words “THAi GO” written on its sign. Behind it, a face vaguely familiar to Mabel made eye contact with her and awkwardly waved.
“Huh, Anne’s looking great,” Mabel observed as she waved back.
“Yeah, she still hates frogs, but you know… Camp Gottagrin.”
Mabel turned to Shermie and Dipper. “How about it, guys? You wanna… spice up your life?”
Dipper rubbed his hands together. “I’m game,” he said. “Thai food is supposed to be super spicy, right?”
“Crazy spicy,” Sasha promised. “I’ve seen chili heads get knocked on their butts by this stuff.”
“That’s kind of the point,” Dipper said. “The burn is part of why it’s good.”
Sasha lifted an eyebrow. “So, what I’m taking from that is you’re a masochist.”
Dipper gave her a more direct look. “If you’re into that kinda thing.”
Mabel and Misao both watched, with no small amusement, as Sasha chewed her lower lip for a brief instant while she stared at Dipper, before she flashed him a dangerous smile. “… I might be…”
With that she walked ahead, giving Dipper a lingering glance back as she did.
Shermie once more gave Dipper the side-eye and a cheeky smile to boot. “Looks like the ol’ Pines charm hit another line drive.”
“Whatever, grandpa,” Dipper muttered back as they followed.
Sasha led them into the heart of Taste of Echo Creek and up to the Thai Go stand. Behind the countertop, Anne Boonchuy forced her best customer service smile as her best friend led the Pines family up to her, the near-afternoon sun and the hot cart she was presiding over helped conceal the nervous sweat she was working up.
“สวัสดีค่ะ, welcome to Thai Go!” She said, bringing her hands together and bowing in greeting.
“Hey, Anne!” Mabel greeted. “It’s me, Mabel, from Camp Gottagrin, remember?”
“I’d rather not,” Anne quickly replied as she gestured to the menu taped down to the top of her cart’s counter. “What can I get for you?”
Mabel looked at Sasha, who shrugged her shoulders, and decided to respect Anne’s insistence on never wanting to talk about Camp Gottagrin. “Anyway… I’ll have the Chicken Satay!”
Misao leaned against the counter to look at the menu. “Oh, the Pad Thai looks nice, I’ll try that.”
Shermie didn’t hesitate to order either. “I'll take a bowl of your finest, cheapest Basil Fried Rice.”
Anne quickly nodded. “One Chicken Satay, one Pad Thai, and one Basil Fried Rice!” She looked at Dipper. “What about you?”
Dipper rubbed his chin as he looked at the menu, then asked. “What’s the hottest thing you got?”
Anne raised an eyebrow. “You really wanna go there, big guy? Because the hottest stuff we got isn’t rated for California stomachs.”
“Like I told Sasha, I’m game,” Dipper assured her.
“Are you sure?” Anne warned. “Because you’re not the first to pull up with a swagger.”
Sasha spoke up. “You heard him, chef, make it hurt.”
Anne shrugged her shoulders. “All right, the hottest I’ve got, coming up.”
“Thank you, Dipper said, smugly.
As soon as she was paid, Anne went to work preparing the orders. While she worked quickly, almost frantically, to prep the meals, Mabel and Misao both turned to Sasha.
“So, how’ve ya been?” Mabel asked.
Sasha played it cool and casual. “Tch, you know. Practically running the school over here with Anne.” She turned to her. “Ain’t that right, girl?”
“Oh yeah, Sasha’s got SJHS in the palm of her hand,” she said without looking up from the wok she rapidly stirred up to fry the rice in. “… She’s not the head cheerleader anymore, though.”
Sasha went rigid and glared at Anne. “Hey.”
“What happened?” Mabel asked, both out of genuine concern, and gossip interest.
“It’s so stupid,” Sasha recovered. “You wouldn’t even believe it.”
“You’d be surprised the level of stupid we’ve come to find believable,” Misao said with the slightest edge in her voice.
Anne glanced up from her frying rice at Sasha, who narrowed her eyes at her, and went for it. “Sashagotarrested.”
Sasha now fully whirled on her, furious. “ANNE!”
Mabel gasped out loud, looking upon Sasha with awe and excitement. “FOR WHAT?!”
“Freaking… ugh,” Sasha said while not trying to grind her teeth. “I walked out on a check because the food was bad, and I got caught. The manager made a big stink about it to some cops, and they arrested me.”
She folded her arms and rolled her eyes. “I spent the weekend in jail and the school kicked me off the Cheer squad. It’s only because my parents actually got together to talk it out with the principal that I didn’t get expelled.”
“And it was the first offense,” Anne added.
“… First offense I got caught…” Sasha muttered before speaking to the group. “But yeah, I got arrested, told you it was pretty dumb.”
Shermie glanced aside at Dipper, smirking. “Look at that, another thing she's got in common with you, Boychik.”
“Grandpa…” Dipper grumbled back at him.
Sasha looked between the Pines. “Hold up, really?”
Mabel nodded. “Yeah, Dipper and I went to jail too, so we know how lame that is.”
Sasha raised an eyebrow and looked Mabel over. “… What did you do? Didn’t the Coast Guard just give you a citation for that stunt with the rowing team?”
“Wish they’d given me a cetacean,” Mabel said with a melodramatic sulk, and both Anne and Misao giggled at her pun.
“It was counterfeiting, actually,” Dipper said nonchalantly.
Sasha lit up. “Oh shoot, a cool crime?”
He nodded. “Our Great Uncle thought making bogus cash was a great way to ‘bond.’”
Mabel stopped sulking. “It was a great way to make bond, am I right?”
“Yeah…” Dipper was glad that they saved the town and possibly the universe to get all their crimes committed with Grunkle Stan wiped from the record before anyone figured out their bail money was all counterfeit, too.
Sasha stared at both twins, then looked over at Shermie for some kind of confirmation that she wasn’t being messed with.
“No, they ain’t foolin’,” Shermie said as he pushed his glasses up to rub at his nose. “I owe Stanley a knuckle sandwich for that next time I see him.”
“And that’s just the first course,” Mabel promised Sasha.
Sasha stared at them both, blinking slowly, before she turned to Anne. “Hey, Boonchuy, how’s that food comin’?”
“Getting it packed up now,” Anne said a bit too wryly for Sasha’s taste.
She glared at her friend, who met it with a mirthful glint that quickly disappeared when Sasha sharpened her look and rushed back to finishing the dishes. “Okay! Chicken Satay, Pad Thai, Green Chili Curry, and Basil Fried Rice!” Anne said as she stacked the goods on the countertop. “Thank you for ordering and… Thai Go… have a nice day…?”
Mabel clapped her hands together when she heard the awkward and clunky word play. “I love that so much, I want to marry whoever thought of it.”
Anne, no longer dying of cringe, answered with a more genuine smile. “So you like that corny stuff, huh?”
Mabel grinned back. “Baby, the cornier the sweeter.”
The two girls in that moment realized what the other was about to say. In unison they snapped their fingers and pointed at each other.
“Like High Fructose Corn Syrup!”
Sasha laughed. “Man, you guys are absolute gold.”
Misao agreed. “They’re great, aren’t they?”
Looking down at the small exchange student, Sasha nodded. “So, how’d you get wrapped up with them?”
“The story is so long,” Misao assured her.
“You got a story too? I should tell you the deets about how I met ‘em,” Sasha replied.
Anne whipped her head to look at Sasha. “… No you should not.”
Shermie, already opening up his container of rice, turned to Dipper after seeing Anne’s vehement reaction. “Feel like filling your ol’ Grandpa in on the details of that camping trip, kiddo?”
Dipper opened his own container, and was immediately hit with the strong, spicy aroma. “After I’m done eating.”
Anne was enthusiastic to avoid the subject of Camp Gottagrin. “So… just as a heads up, this is gonna change your life. If you wanna trade it for something not rated for undersea welding, there’s no shame.”
Shooting her a look, he smirked and deeply inhaled the strong, intense aroma of the curry. Already his eyes were watering, something everyone else could clearly see. “Smells good.”
“… Can you handle this?” Misao asked, with growing concern.
Mabel chimed in as well. “Yeah, bro-bro, this doesn’t seem like the usual heat.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. I’ve handled Soos’ Grandma’s birria stew and Nano’s Nashville Hot Chicken, I got this,” Dipper assured her as he scooped up a spoonful of curry and took a bite.
Mason “Dipper” Pines had a lot of things. An encyclopedic knowledge of cryptids, a 3-0 record against an extradimensional dream demon bent on universal destruction, a really cool lumberjack hat…
Was not one of them.
Calmly, even as his face was turning a dark shade of red and tears poured down his cheeks, Dipper handed his bowl of curry to Mabel. Taking off his lumberjack hat, he placed it upon Misao’s head.
“Are you okay?” Mabel asked.
Dipper’s answer, an emphatic no, came in the form of him breaking into a mad dash–screaming–towards the island’s fountain and lunging headfirst into its shallow waters. He landed with a dramatic splash, and lay face down in the water, bubbles roiling around his head.
Other customers at other stands, and the cooks working them, had all stopped to gawk at Dipper when he ran by screaming. Hearing his cry and seeing where he’d come running from, it didn’t take much to connect what happened. As Dipper rose to his knees and splashed water into his mouth and tried to wipe his tongue, the onlookers broke into laughter, pointing and jeering at his misfortune.
“WHY IS WATER NOT WORKING?!” He hollered.
Anne sighed. “Because you don’t use water to put out a chili fire.”
Sasha was stunned. “… Okay, wow… that’s the worst one yet.”
“Yet?” Misao asked.
Anne nodded in confirmation. “Can you believe this stuff is my top selling product? Dipper’s the fifth guy to melt down like this.”
Mabel had taken a bite out of Dipper’s curry, overcome by curiosity. “I dunno why, it’s not that hot.”
Shermie, blinking in surprise, took the spoon from Mabel and tried it himself. “A lil’ too salty for an altacocker like me, but otherwise it’s pretty good. I’ve had worse heat stationed in the Sinai.”
“May I try?” Misao asked, and Shermie handed her the bowl for her to sample. “Ja, it’s spicy but it’s not that bad.”
Gasping for breath, his mouth hanging open, Dipper looked at the others with the most pathetic indignation. “You guys… suck… oh god it’s still burning…”
As Mabel went to go help her brother out of the fountain, Shermie turned to the Thai Go stand. “Oi gevalt, Annie, you got any milk in that booth?”
“No, but the ice cream vendor a couple of stalls down is offering half off to anyone who tries the curry,” Anne helpfully suggested as she gestured to her left and over at an ice cream cart set up with a considerable crowd around it.”
“Thank you,” he replied as Mabel brought a now whimpering Dipper over.
As the Pines party headed for the ice cream stand, Sasha moseyed over to Anne’s side. “Well, that was easier than I thought.” She then turned and glared at her. “And what the hell, Boonchuy, blowing up my spot like that?”
Anne pouted. “Hey, fair’s fair! I have to come out here every other week now because of this stupid plan. My parents were ‘so excited that I wanted to run a food cart.’”
Sasha’s glare intensified. “Stop acting like you’re not getting anything out of this. Besides, having a little extra pocket change will be nice when we’re done here.”
She turned her head and looked across the island, at a barbecue stand and a Chinese street food cart. Crouched down between the two stands, going completely unnoticed by everyone around her, was Marcy Wu reviewing the playback of a camcorder she held. Smiling in satisfaction, she gave a thumbs up as she looked from her camera to her two best friends.
Sasha’s smile returned, as she turned to Anne. “And it looks like we have exactly what we need to get paid.”
= - = 52 = - =