The last night that she was twenty-nine, Max stopped at Mr. Ramirez’ corner store for some triple fudge-chocoty-choco ice cream with real choco bits and a bottle of Guzariffic red wine.
Of course, whoever Mr. Ramirez had stocking the freezer had subzero sense of organization and she was halfway inside the freezer rooting around and getting ice gunk all over her hands when some Jokerz strolled in and smashed the security cameras.
The lead Joker had that typical stupid green Pope Elvis hair and waved around some sort of flower gun, which got negative points for complete lack of originality and yelled, “The jokes on You.” A vapidoid girl in a pink tutu kicked over the chips stand and the goon-clown waved a club around.
Max muttered, “The Jokerz get twippier every year.” Fortunately, there was a fault in the thermo cycle on the refrigerator’s low-temperature sink. She’d been meaning to talk to Mr. Ramirez about it. She picked up two completely expendable pints of Banana-cherry with chocolate covered pretzels and raisins, which made her glad that she hadn’t gotten around to it. Next week. When she was a responsible thirty.
While she was still an irresponsible twenty-nine, she dropped the pints into her fully ripped bamboo fiber tote. Seriously that flavor of ice-cream was a crime against nature.
Centrifugal force was her friend. Otherwise known as rock hard ice cream in a tote. Max spun the tote over and under and whapped the goon clown in the back of the head. She considered, and rejected saying, “You’ve been creamed.” or “I creamed him.” or “Feel free to scream for ice cream.” Because she was classier than that. Anyway, she was busy kicking out the lead Jokerz’ knee caps and bringing in the tote for a final head shot. She grinned at the gaping tutu girl. “Who’s bad. Who’s bad. Who’s bad. Who’s never been had.” There was a small dance that accompanied this, which resulted in a dented pint rolling out of her tote as the Jokerz ran away.
The pimple, who had been cowering behind the counter, stood up and asked, “You paying for the ice cream?”
Which was how Max bought two pints of crime against nature ice cream, forgot to get any wine and ended up being late to her sister’s apartment.
Her sister already had the blender going and the place was full of women’s laughter. Dana handed her a margarita the moment Max came in the door. Max raised her glass to the room and handed off her tote. “Behold the conquering hero.”
Dana laughed into her own glass and blinked a little glassily. There were a dozen little tubs of ice cream in ice buckets all over the coffee table. Over a dozen women from every phase of Max’s life. High school. Summer Camp. College. Work. The one that helped the world run. The one that helped save the world. She swallowed some of her drink so she’d have a reason to be misty eyed.
The blender ground down and her sister came in with a pitcher. They traded careful hugs and everyone got settled on the couch, chairs or floor pillows for last year’s “Pride and Prejudice”.
Chelsea ate some super-cherry ice cream and said, “I want to be Elizabeth Bennett when I grow up.”
Max said, “Who said we have to grow up.” They all laughed. Max suppressed some hiccups.
A few minutes to midnight, all the women over thirty went into the kitchen. Darlene, from her office, stood in the doorway with her arms folded.
In the living room, Max chatted with Dana. They clinked their glasses. Whispered about all the things that Terry would completely aneurysm over if he heard them talking about. The blender started up again at midnight and Dana shoved Max through the door into the kitchen where she was presented with a birthday Margarita and a plastic red crown. Dana hovered in the door, until they all went back into the living room to finish off the ice cream. It broke up around three am. They were all used to late nights.
In the late morning, Max bounced up. Made coffee. Showered. Caught the Atrac. Phoned up Terry. He’d been up all night fighting cybernetic ice spiders. She told him about the Jokerz. They chatted about getting together over the weekend. Her thirtieth birthday was good for at least a month of schwayness. He told her that Dana never wanted to drink another margarita as long as she lived. Max grinned. “Wait until her birthday.”
Max got donuts on her way into work, which was her thing. Sugaring people up on her day. Course it turned out capacity planning had completely torqued the projections on the needed throughput for the application layer. So she had to save the day. Again. That was why she took the raspberry filled donut for herself.
By the time she arrived at the Batcave, all she got from the Old Man was an extremely cranky, “You’re late.” She’d been secretly hoping that there would be a surprise party in the Batcave because she wanted to see the Old Man in a party hat. A girl could have her dreams.
Max bounced on her toes and said, “What did you get me?” She didn’t really need to ask, because he always got her the same thing. Credits The Old Man was a lot of things - cranky, cantankerous, curmudgeonly and a whole lot of other words that started in c - but cheap wasn’t one of them.
Still. Wow. She stared when she looked at it. “That’s. Wow. I. Wow.”
Bruce said, “Don‘t spend it all in one place.”
“I don’t see how. I think I could run a country with this.” She stared at the card. And really, she couldn’t help it. Max handed him a fat-free, sugar-free, no-gluten muffin with non-dairy icing. Just because he could hardly eat anything these days didn’t mean that he shouldn’t have some fake sugar on her birthday.
He looked at it. His lips turned downer and he said, “Hrmph.” Which was his version of bright red. He bit into it. He said, “It tastes like sawdust.”
“I had them put that in especially for you.” She rocked on her feet and grinned at him. She had the odd thought that he was almost three times as old as she was. That she could fit her life again into the length of his three more times. She grinned some more. “That extra bite at the end. That’s the last redwood tree.”
He said, “Hrmph,” and turned away.
Max tinkered with the face matching algorithm. Looped lines of code. Elegant. No extra lines. Like a look inside of the Old Man’s head. She chatted with Terry and ran backup surveillance while the Old Man didn’t nap. He never napped. He also didn’t snore.
The night was pretty tame. A gang of spliced jaguar men got into some radioactive catnip and trashed a pet shop. Really, she’d hoped for something bigger on her birthday. But that was okay. On her birthday, she fought crime. How schway was that.
After a few hours, she knocked off and met up with some friends. Went clubbing because she wanted to school her thirties for what they were in for. Somehow, schooling her thirties ended up with them at the Gotham Academy of Sciences for singles night, because Darlene had heard it was a good way to meet smart single guys. They’d made it as far as the albino alligator when a group of goons in KOBRA outfits ran in waving guns and a metal bomb. They declared an end to the reign of mammals. Blah, blah, blah.
Max glared at Darlene and said, “If I end up a dinosaur queen, I will never forgive you.”
Which got a, “Eeep,” from Darlene, who hid behind a holographic plesiosaur. Max pinged the Old Man, who probably slept in the Batcave. Waited five seconds. But Terry hadn’t shown up to save everyone and there was a bomb and crazy guys in lizard suits.
Max muttered, “What is it with you guys and snakes anyway?” She wadded a cocktail napkin into her plastic glass and chucked it on the other side of the snake guys. They turned to look and she dashed into the gift shop.
She crept her way past the magnets and over to the chemistry sets. It took a combination of this and that, and a rock crystal set, but she had what she needed. She though fondly of Chemistry class, which contrary to what everyone in class had thought, was pretty useful on a daily basis.
She tossed her first mixture into the albino alligator’s pool. The water hissed and bubbled. A thick fog rose into the air. Max didn’t have a suit of invisibility, which was okay. She could make invisibility. Also, flash bombs. And a flail. Perpetual motion devices were good for that.
By the time, Terry got there, she was sitting next to a pile of KOBRA goons, a disassembled bomb and drinking a very tiny paper cup of Mexican hot chocolate. She tried to decide if it was the chili flakes or the cinnamon that made it so very yummy. She licked her lips.
She jumped off her stool and said, “Hey.”
Terry crossed his arms and said, “You,” his eyes widened, “saved me a cookie.”
Max tossed it over. “Who has your back?”
He said, “Happy Birthday.”
She grinned. “Yeah. It was.” She decided it was definitely the chili flakes. She got another cup of hot chocolate. There was no reason not to.