"Aw Christ, it's the creepy fuck," muttered the Worker who apparently doesn't deserve a name. He was sitting in the cafeteria of Braggart Big Damn Rail when Edguy Dithers happened to walk up, looking like he wanted to exposit again.
"...made me a VP. VP, can you believe it? I'm in charge of Operations now, whatever that means. I remember last time I came down here, just after getting promoted, everyone was looking at me. It felt weird..." Dithers had been learning from Daffy the skill of blathering pointlessly about himself to strangers.
"But it's all worth it to be near Daffy," Dithers said, getting all dreamy again. "Or it would be if I ever saw her anymore. She must be really busy. She moved me to her old office though, so I get her chair..." And his eyes took on a far-off look of perversity.
He had more to say of course. So much more with so little point but it's not like anyone cares about Edguy Dithers.
So let's get back to Daffy! She sat in her new office, admiring it's barrenness as reflective of her inner life. She'd set it up for no sensible reason to personally head the new Jon Gort Line - previously known as the Rio Norte.
Tim and Daffy had a minor tiff over that name. Was that in the last chapter? No, it was cut for pacing and sanity purposes. Bad sign this thing is turning meta and we're not even a third of the way through...
Anyway, Daffy was interrupted from feeling all pleased with herself by the post-it note reminding her to get her solipsistic ass to the airport. She had to fly back out to Colorado, where the Gort Line actually was. Still, she took her sweet goddamn time as it allowed her some navel-gazing concerning her own transparent fetishism of trains steaming through tunnels.
In her limited mind, she liked to dress up this fixation of hers in high-minded baloney. Liked to view her love of big, thrusting metal things and her love of that love and how she loved to love that love was all together the height of Man's consciousness - even though she was a woman. So clearly she needed a man to play engineer, if ya catch my drift. Not Franky - for entirely philosophical and platonic reasons, not his obvious disinterest - and surprisingly not Spank Rearend though Daffy wouldn't mind taking a ride on his Gort Line.
No, her ideal man was so ideal he didn't exist! She bravely displayed all the romantic discernment of a middle-aged virgin jacking off to Wonder Woman in his mom's basement.
And then some guy almost knocked on the front door - which she could somehow see from her office. The incident isn't quite as long here because I'm not gratuitously padding the narrative like Alisa Rosenbaum.
* * *
"Hey! I'm back!"
Snarkin, so help me...
"And I get a mine! Well, I still think of it as your mine, Spank. We're friends like that."
"No!" Spank said. "Either I own something or I don't!"
Poor Spank Rearend was too depressed to think in anything but the most didactic terms. Well, he really couldn't think any other way even at the best of times but now he was being a goddamn baby about it.
"Stupid government, telling me what I can and can't own..." he grumbled.
"Be fair, Spank," Snarkin said gently. "You couldn't expect to hold onto it with all those safety violations."
"But they weren't violations! Not until that mean law got passed!"
"I don't think you understand how laws work..."
It was no use of course. Spank was determined to sulk over his slap on the wrist, despite the poor condition of the mine and his years of skimping on the most basic safety standards. Really, it wasn't worth half of what Snarkin paid for it in the mandated deal.
And, though it's certainly common practice, Spank Rearend was far too densely literal-minded to contrive some "silent partner" arrangement with Saul Snarkin. He could only repeat in dull whine, "Either I own something or I don't..."
"You know, I'm having second thoughts about this whole thing. I mean, from what I read in the report and what the narrator is saying, this is looking like a real stinker of a deal."
Not that Spank was listening. He was remembering a preacher talking about how altruism is good and Spank dumbly associated that with what he was experiencing now. Therefore, altruism was actually bad and God is a jerk.
"How does that even work?"
Snarkin, one more fourth wall breach and I'll stick you with the d'Ano mine too.
"I just can't stand the thought of anyone over me," Spank blathered on with ridiculous self-absorption. "Being overpowered, dominated, tied up and whipped - I just can't stomach it! At least on the receiving end..."
"Spank, I don't particularly want to know why you'd use those specific terms," Snarkin said, "but you're blowing this way out of proportion. I own the mine now, sure, but I'm not going to cut you off or anything."
"I wish I could believe that," Spank said with ponderous seriousness. "But I cannot hold to the mere words of friends. Just facts."
"You sound like the villain in a Dickens novel."
And Spank sold a coal mine to some other guy with mostly the same dithering back and forth which has been cut here because it blows more than usual.
Rearend felt very emo about all of this, crying into his expensive scotch and cursing the evils of the world that would strip him of ownership of something he'd never paid much attention to anyway. At least he had the Jon Gort Line with its shiny green and blue girders - yes, that was the color - shining with their shininess in the Colorado sun. So this lead him naturally to call up Edguy Dithers and ask him to breakfast!
Borges couldn't make sense of this plot...
"Good mornin', Ed! I'm in a hurry so ya mind if I talk while eating?" Spank didn't wait for a response. Just started shoveling food into his mouth.
Dithers might have said something if he weren't feeling irrationally guilty for Spank's current woes. Though it was lessened somewhat upon experiencing the Greatness that was sitting across from Spank Rearend. It was saw awe inspiring and triumphant, Dithers didn't realize Rearend had stolen his omelet.
"So how's Braggart Big Damn Rail doing?" Spank asked, spitting egg and cheese about.
"Well, not too good. Issues with our payroll and such..." Dithers politely didn't mention people just wouldn't buy tickets to ride on some untested hoodoo metal.
"And you know your payment for my spankmeum is due next month?"
"Well, how about a moratorsis or whatever? I agree to extend the payment date until, say, six months after the Gort Line opens?"
"Golly Mr. Rearend, that would be swell!"
And it would be the same sort of friendly gentleman's agreement proposed to Spank just a few paragraphs ago but that was different because someone else suggested it. When you're Spank Rearend, morality is all about your personal preference. Because that's the objective way to do it.
"Excellent! I'll send the new papers on over once their drawn up," Spank said before snatching up Edguy's coffee. "You've got the makings of a good businessman, Ed, because you do what I say."
"We really owe you, Mr. Rearend."
"No you don't! I'm just being rationally selfish - if I collect now, you'll go under and I'll lose my only buyer!"
"But wouldn't that be the natural outcome in a free market?" Edguy asked, displaying uncharacteristic critical thought.
"Of course not!"
"Well, that's all I needed!"
Rearend had more to say - like how it wasn't charity because he was making money he didn't want - but it's so nonsensical and self-parodying on its own that I have nothing to work with.
Meanwhiles, people were talking smack about the new spankmeum railroad because, seriously, blue and green! It looked like the hull of a hundred year old shipwreck! Add in the fact that even Rearend's own R&D people were coming forward and admitting they had no idea if this alloy was appropriate for railroads and people were understandably put off.
Through all this, Tim Braggart tried to affect some control over the impending ruin of his family business but found Daffy had stonewalled him at every turn. When a rumor cropped up that a spankmeum bridge had collapsed, he got the runaround from his own employees out in Colorado - said they "Can't afford to get on Miss Braggart's bad side!" - before finally giving up and calling the local police. They confirmed three people had died but couldn't divulge their names yet, procedure and all.
It was another week until Tim did learn ho they were - Charles Geertz, Adam Curren, and Henry Taylor. He personally wrote letters to each family, expressing his sorrow for their loss and assurance that all life insurance policies through the company would be honored.
The way Daffy was taking things, he feared he'd be making that promise to more and more people...
Daffy herself was having trouble finding clients, let alone engineers, for her vanity project. A representative from the Local 317 even came by her office to express as politely as possible that no engineer worth his coveralls would go anywhere near the Gort Line.
"Get out! You're fired!" Daffy shouted back at him.
"Ma'am, I don't work for you."
"Well get out all the same! I won't have you telling me what I can and can't do!"
"I'm not doing that at all, ma'am. I'm just informing you our members have no interest in operating the Gort Line."
"Put it in writing!"
"You want to control other people and control me by controlling people! You want me to create jobs but you want to forbid me from making those jobs require any -"
"Look, we're not forbidding you anything. There's no legal way we could do such a thing, even if we wanted to. I'm just here to tell you that if you want to run any trains on this Gort Line, you're running them without the 317."
Daffy had more circular logic to screech at him but the gentleman took his leave, having no patience for her crap.
Of course, Daffy soon found that not being able to draw from the largest engineers union in the country meant she had exactly zero people to run her trains. "Well screw those commie bastards! I'll just ask for volunteers!"
Nobody wanted to volunteer. Daffy could have gotten some by offering substantially more compensation for what everyone and their dog viewed as a needlessly risky venture but she had a pathological aversion to "wasting good money on the lice."
Fortunately, America still had plenty of undocumented workers who would take dangerous jobs for insultingly substandard pay. Sure they had no proper training or experience in such a vocation but Daffy found if she shouted "La migra!" at the right times they could learn awful fast.
And on the eve of the opening of the Jon Gort Line, Daffy gave a press conference to assuage the justified fears of the public - and maybe finally get enough people buying tickets to justify the huge investment. Her opening speech consisted of opining on the awesomeness and shininess of spankmeum and how it was totally better than all that collectivist steel and iron. Daffy assumed this would be sufficient for people because she was very stupid.
"But what about the tensile strength of the alloy?"
"What about the documented deaths during construction?"
"What about rumors you couldn't find real engineers and hired illegal immigrants you found in a back lot?"
"Shut up! You're all fired!" Daffy cried. She ran away before anyone could point out they didn't work for her.
The day came and both Daffy Braggart and Spank Rearend were among the first - and only - to board the very first train on the Jon Gort Line. They spent far too much time making googley eyes at each other, Daffy thinking about how only a person thoroughly absorbed in their own Greatness could be worthy of such Greatness and Spank thinking about pie. As the train steamed out of the station and onto the alien-looking hoodoo alloy, they smiled at each other, seeing only themselves reflected back... and died in screaming, fiery agony because you can't just build everything out of a single type of metal that you think is neat.
Or they would have if there was anything logical about this story. No, the lucky idiots made it from one end of the line to the other without incident, even across the bridge that had already claim the lives of so many too-poor-to-be-important people.
Another batch of reporters was waiting to meet the ditzy duo when the disembarked. There were many questions but one in particular stood out - "So are you going to allow a thorough scientific study of spankmeum?"
"Why would I ever do that?" Spank Rearend asked incredulously. "You saw it yourself - the rail held!"
"But for how long? What about environmental stresses?"
"The man who taught people to make a printing press," said Rearend, "how did he know it?"
"What the hell does that even mean!?"
All through the commotion, Daffy stared longingly at Spank. And Edguy - he appeared somehow! - stared longingly at Daffy. And the narrator stared longingly at a revolver. And Spank would've stared longingly at himself if there were a mirror handy.
His metal worked! Her Gort Line worked! Happy days all around! And there were the investors in the Gort Line - other rich idiots in expensive suits who paid people to do the real work.
From among them came Enis Buyit, "Great job, the two of you! Because it's not like all the foundry workers and railroad engineers had anything to do with it."
"Of course not!" Daffy and Spank replied in sickening harmony.
"You two should crash at my place tonight since the nearest town is two hours away."
And the new line ended there, in the middle of fucking nowhere.
"Wait'll you see my new process for extracting oil from shale!" Buyit babbled to them on the trip to his house, like a kid wanting to show off his Lego robot.
Not that Spank and Daffy were really paying attention. Their minds were elsewhere though curiously both on Spank. Once they were stowed in one of Buyit's guest rooms, Spank turned to Daffy and said all sexily, "Drop your socks and touch your toes. I'm gonna show you where the wild goose goes!"
And they had the sort of rough, clothes-ripping sex that would excite someone with a rape fetish. I am not describing it.