When Jemaine walked into the apartment Monday evening, he noticed something was different. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but the kitchen had definitely become smaller. He stood in place for a while, plastic grocery bag in hand (mustard; he'd had a hankering for mustard sandwiches), before he figured out what had changed.
"Bret," he said to his roommate and friend. "What is that bike doing in here?"
"It's not a bike," Bret replied, looking up from the kitchen table where he appeared to be eating something suspiciously like a mustard sandwich. "It's a motorized scooter."
While Bret hadn't answered the question Jemaine had asked, his answer seemed satisfactory enough.
"Okay," Jemaine said, and he proceeded to make himself a mustard sandwich.
It wasn't until the next evening that the next logical question occurred to Jemaine.
"Bret," he began slowly, turning to where his bandmate sat at the electric keyboard. "Where did you get the money for the motorized scooter?"
"You gave it to me," Bret answered without a pause. He poked out a few notes on the keyboard before looking up at Jemaine and thinking to smile brightly. "Thanks for that, by the way."
Now Jemaine was confused (more so than before). "Bret, I didn't give you any money for a motorized scooter." While he was a bit annoyed, and certainly confused, his voice barely changed from its usual monotone.
"Yes you did," Bret said. "You gave me that money last week and said I should use it for something that runs on gas."
Jemaine didn't remember immediately the monetary transaction to which Bret was referring. Then he did, and when he spoke his voice was no longer monotone.
"That money was for the gas bill. I said you should take it to pay for the gas." He paused for a second and then thought to add, in case it wasn't clear, "For the apartment."
"Oh," Bret said thoughtfully.
"Band meeting. Bret?" Murray said, eyes on his log book.
"And Murray. Present." He made the final notation before looking up at the boys. "Now, what do we have on the agenda for today?"
"Murray, we need the money we're due for the gig we played last week," Jemaine said without hesitation.
Murray looked down at his book. "Ah, no, see, I have that written down here under 'Money for Gig' and it says you get it on Friday. Today's Wednesday, not Friday."
"But we really need it now," Jemaine said. "Can we… I don't know, get an advance out of band funds?"
"No," Murray said patiently, like a father explaining something to a small child. "You can't because there aren't any band funds. The money from the gig is supposed to replenish the band funds."
"Oh." Jemaine hadn't thought any farther than this.
"What's the trouble, then, boys? Why d'ya need money so quickly. Got a hot date?" Murray managed an awkward wink.
Jemaine looked over at Bret, who had remained silent the entire time, and glared. "No," he said dully, "Bret spent the money for our gas bill on a motorized scooter and now the heat has gone out."
"Well that was very irresponsible of you, Bret," Murray said. "Heat gone out, huh?" He looked down at the newspaper sitting to the side of his desk. "Let's see the weather report. Ah, not too bad, then. According to the newspaper it's supposed to be in the high 80s and sunny. Don't need heat for that, do you, boys?"
"It's snowing outside," Jemaine replied.
Murray frowned and checked the paper more carefully. "Ah," he said finally, laughing at the hilarious error. "This paper's from July and it's January now, isn't it? Not going to be in the 80s in January. Just a sec." He pressed the button on his intercom. "Greg?"
"Yeah, Murray?" came the metallic sounding reply.
"Do you happen to know the weather report for the next two days?"
"Uh, yeah," Greg said. "The temperatures are supposed to drop overnight and then keep getting lower on Thursday. It'll be below zero Thursday night."
"Thanks, Greg," Murray said chipperly before releasing the button. He turned back to face the boys and let out a deep sigh. "Doesn't sound too good. Bret, you'll have to give Jemaine your blankets so he can stay warm."
Bret came alive for the first time in the conversation. "What? Why do I give him my blankets? Then I'll be cold."
"I know," Murray said, "and if there were anything I could do to change it, I would. But fair's fair. You spent the gas money and now there's no heat, so you have to make sure Jemaine stays warm."
"Okay," Bret said sullenly.
"That hardly seems fair," Jemaine said suddenly, surprising Bret, who was certain Jemaine was quite mad at him. "What about that?" He pointed at the electric space heater sitting at Murray's feet, seemingly keeping Murray's feet warm.
"That's my electric space heater."
"Yeah, and you should give it to us. We still have electricity."
"But then how will my feet stay warm?"
"Wear thicker socks," Jemaine answered shortly, unplugging the heater, grabbing it, burning his hands, cursing, and then leaving before Murray really had time to respond.
The space heater did a very good job of keeping the small bedroom Bret and Jemaine shared warm. Until the electric went out. Bret waved an electric can opener at Jemaine by way of explanation.
The boys spent the whole day dreading the night. In the afternoon they went to their favorite kebab shop to get warm (and have a kebab).
"Hey guys!" Mel said as they exited their building to head to the shop. She had popped up from behind a trashcan, where she had either been hiding or going through their garbage. Neither cared to consider that question for very long.
"Hey, Mel," they both replied halfheartedly.
"Boy, it's cold out," she said cheerfully, failing to notice their down expressions. "I'd hate to be outside on a day like today."
"But you are outside," Bret pointed out.
"Yeah," Mel said, "but Doug's keeping the heat on in the car so I can go back in and get warm." As she said this, and gestured at the car behind her, the window rolled down.
"Hey, Doug," the boys said in unison, giving him their usual awkward wave.
"You guys don't look too happy," Doug said.
"Our heat went out," Jemaine said. "And then our electric. And now it's very cold in our apartment."
"Gosh," Mel said, her voice becoming lower. "That sounds awful. Do you guys need a place to sleep? You could stay with us."
Jemaine looked at Mel and then at Doug and then shook his head. "No, I think we'll be better off in the cold."
"Okay," Mel said doubtfully. "But try to stay warm." Suddenly the look of an idea appeared upon her face. "You know what I heard works really well for when you have to stay warm in the cold?"
Neither Bret nor Jemaine cared to know.
Mel's voice became raspy as she continued, her lisp more pronounced. "You have to get completely naked," she said. "And the other person has to be naked. And then you get under the covers together and press tight together." She was looking at Bret and Jemaine with a sort of glazed expression and her hand held Jemaine's bicep tightly, only loosening occasionally to massage the muscle. "To… conserve body heat, you know."
Jemaine stepped back, pulling his bicep (and everything else) away from Mel. "Yeah," he said doubtfully. "I'm sure we'll figure something out. But, uh, we have to go now."
He and Bret were walking away before Mel and Doug could even say goodbye. Now would be a good time for the motorized scooter but, as Bret pointed out, they hadn't had any money to buy gas for it.
The evening came and the cold came and Bret and Jemaine lay in their respective beds shivering.
"Jemaine?" Bret asked, teeth chattering.
"Yeah, Bret?" Jemaine managed to answer through his clenched teeth.
"Sorry. About the gas and the electric and the motorized scooter."
"'s okay," Jemaine replied. "I should have written instructions."
"Do you want my blankets?" Bret asked. He was very cold, and was certain he would die without blankets, but fair was fair, as Murray had suggested.
"You'll be cold." It wasn't a no, but it wasn't a yes, either.
Bret hesitated before voicing his next thought. "D'you think what Mel said is true?"
"Probably," Jemaine answered far too quickly. He had been thinking about it for a while too. "I mean, it's more heat and more insulation."
"Do we really have to take our clothes off?"
Jemaine was pretty sure the answer to that question was 'no.' Bret thought the same. But when Jemaine answered 'yes,' he didn't protest. Instead he brought his blankets over to Jemaine's bed, slipped his clothes off, and climbed in. Jemaine did likewise, and neither noticed the cold for the rest of the night.
Murray had said it was Bret's job to keep Jemaine warm.
At the band meeting, Jemaine couldn't look Murray in the eyes, only glancing up once to take possession of the money from the gig.
"How did you guys fare overnight? I see you didn't freeze to death, so that must be nice. No missing toes, then?"
"We made due," Bret said with a shrug. It was definitely, totally, a casual, casual shrug. Jemaine had to look away to hide the smile plastered across his normally blank face.