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dog eat dog

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Spas are bullshit. If Amy wanted to listen to a babbling fucking brook pipe its cheery little ditties into her ears while she closes her eyes and wishes she was somewhere else, she'd lie down under a public urinal. At least that would more closely resemble the atmosphere of the West Wing, the fucking incubator of shit she's been marinating in for the past god knows how many years, like one of those fucking gourmet mushrooms carefully cultivated in just the right temperature of warm manure until it's mature and ready to be harvested for its goddamn cell phone contact list, the one concrete accomplishment it's managed to produce in its shitty, exhausting, fungal life.

"Could you just—stop touching me," she bites out, shoulder blades rising and anxiety humming through her fingers like they just want to clench around this pedicurist's cheaply highlighted hair with its layers from SalonCuts at the mall and fucking squeeze like the teats of a cow until the sense of peace and well-being spurts out of this docile, kind-eyed woman, leaving her a shallow, sickened husk of a human like Amy is, drained of life force by the goddamn fucking bullshit suck fucker chupacabra of careers.

Yoga is, if anything, worse.

"Relax into the pose," the instructor intones, a twiggy man whose ankles Amy could encircle between her thumb and index finger and snap like spun sugar, a man with a beaky nose and wide eyes that make him look like a shy owl, a man who would last one afternoon on Capitol Hill before going off to have a therapeutic wrist-slashing in the bathroom like the dainty little forest nymph he is. He's in pigeon pose, right heel digging into his left thigh crease and bony arms stretched out on the sticky mat in front of him. The way his wrist bones stick out makes Amy want to puke.

Amy's muscles, wound up tight by years of campaign stress like the fucking rack during the Spanish Inquisition, don't relax into poses. She tries to lower her hips, her right leg bent awkwardly beneath her, and hears something pop. If Amy was a doll, she would not have moveable joints.

"Come on," she hisses to her hip joint, coaxing it down with a hand on her thigh. The pressure is agonizing, which almost feels like a relief for a second before she loses her balance and slips to the side, catching herself right on her elbow. It jolts and fizzes from the impact. She has never been more stressed in her entire life.

"You've gotta do something," Dan says, standing by her car after work, speaking to her from the excretion hole in his fat fucking shit face. "Seriously, Ames, you're scaring people away. You're giving crazy eyes."

"My eyes aren't crazy," she snaps. "You know what's crazy? Working your ass to the bone for a puffed-up self-centered shaved vagina of a woman who's ready to toss you out like jizzed-on Kleenex the second you have the basic human dignity to stand the fuck up for yourself instead of lying down on the floor for her to step on when she gets out of the shower. With her disgusting feet."

"Look," Dan says, the tone of his voice carefully measured like he's talking to a caged tiger. He holds up his hands calmingly, which honestly makes Amy want to break every one of his fingers. "I'm just trying to help. I got fired too, okay, but I turned it around. And you can too, but we're trying to work against the Axe-Murderer Amy rumors here, not pour gasoline on the crazy fire."

"Maybe I feel like Axe-Murderer Amy!" she yells. "Maybe I should sell my likeness to Mattel and package it up for children this Christmas! Maybe Axe-Murderer Amy comes with Dan Egan's bloody head clutched in one uptight fist!"

"Did you try the yoga?" Dan says, his eyes wide as if Amy is being anything but one hundred percent reasonable given the mountain of ass she's had to mine through just to get to the fucking nowhere she is now.

"Dan," Amy says. "If a genie appeared to me and gave me one wish, I would burn the existence of yoga from history so that no one would ever have to suffer what I've suffered."

"Really," Dan says. "You'd go with that before world peace."

"Yoga dies first," Amy hisses.

The next day, Dan slides a CD onto her desk labeled Meditation Exercises for a Stress-Free Life. Amy listens to it in her apartment while tearing a cardboard box from Amazon into little bits. It doesn't help, except that the narrator of the CD is also on her shit list now. Maybe that'll be her next project. A whole career spent strengthening her list of contacts bit by bit, networking with so-and-so who guarantees they have influence over whozy-whatsit who pisses in the same street corner as the third cousin of the fuckbuddy of a Senator's grandma. Maybe this is next: a contact list of all the people whose pinky fingers she would like to crush beneath her work heels. And Mike McClintfuck had the nerve to call her unstable.

"Maybe," Dan says the next day, watching her tilt her head back at her desk to pour the last dregs of espresso past her lips, "we should just try going out for a drink."

"Oh, you think that would work?" Amy says, throwing the empty coffee cup into the wastepaper basket so hard it rocks. "Amazing! Incredible suggestion! Maybe this ingenious new invention called alcohol will have a calming effect! Unbelievable! That's why we hired Dan Egan!"

They go out for a drink, but honestly, Amy's not even sure if she can feel alcohol anymore. It's like lemonade at this point. She pounds back three whiskeys and tonics and barely even notices the burn.

"This isn't even about work anymore," Dan says, still talking to her despite being a shit-sucking ass-kissing little dickworm. "You just really need to unwind. I look at you and I see a blood pressure cuff exploding from shock."

"I can't unwind," Amy says. "I only know how to wind." Wind her hands around Selina Meyer’s neck, maybe. She laughs a little, throaty and whiskey-coated, and then spends a precarious moment trying to figure out if laughing ominously to herself or sharing the joke is more likely to bump her up on Dan Egan’s mental breakdown watchlist.

“You know what the problem is,” she says. “You’re giving me all the woman answers. Spas and meditation. It’s sexist.”

“Okay, I am not the problem,” Dan says.

“You are at least four tenths of the problem,” Amy spits. “If you weren’t trying to pull me back into this anthill of hell I’d be far away by now, learning how to shoot an assault rifle in New Mexico and making a living selling faux Native American jewelry. You know what I need? I need to punch someone. In the face.”

Dan takes a moment, lifting his vodka martini to his mouth and draining it, the tip of his tongue poking out to lick the last of the alcohol around the rim of the glass. Then he sets it down on the table with the clink of glass on glass.

“Okay,” he says.

Amy stares. “What do you mean, okay,” she says.

“Okay,” Dan says, “punch me in the face.”

The first thought that runs through Amy’s head is: he’s going to film this and charge me with assault. Dan’s always trying to ruin her career, except the thought crashes into her head that her career is already ruined. She ruined it.

She narrows her eyes. “What are you talking about,” she says.

“I’m tired of watching you blow up your second chance at life because you haven’t found a stress ball big enough to grasp in your giant man hands,” Dan says. “So let’s go outside, and you punch me in the face. Get it over with.”

“That’s not,” Amy sputters, but she’s not sure what it isn’t. Not what she meant? It is, though. There is very little in life she has fantasized about more times than her knucles connecting with Dan Egan’s smug fucker mouth. She’s pictured punching Dan more times than she’s pictured having sex with Colin Firth. The way her stomach suddenly tips sideways makes her think maybe she’s feeling the whiskey after all.

“I’m serious,” Dan says. “Punch me in the face.”

Amy chugs the rest of her drink.


It was hot in the bar, and now the cool night air is cold in the places where sweat has collected: on the back of Amy’s neck, in the creases of her elbows, in the center of the small of her back. They’re in the parking lot behind the bar, and Dan’s face is bleached white under the fluorescent streetlight, his expression totally impassive. He looks like he does when something goes bad and it’s his fault. Total, dead-eyed resignation. Like a fucking Dan Egan cardboard cut-out.

“This is not how I thought this would go.” The words spill out of Amy’s mouth, and she swallows back a frothy giggle, feeling a little hysterical. She’s always pictured hitting Dan in the passion of the moment, a way to finally, finally get him to shut the fuck up. The most vivid part of the Dan Egan punching fantasy is the look of total shock on his face as he reels, and the look of stunned respect on Selina’s, as the entire room’s assessment of the team shifts to include Amy Brookheimer as a dangerous force to be reckoned with.

“Just do it already,” Dan says through gritted teeth. His fingers flex against his thighs, like he’s bracing himself.

“Fine,” Amy says. She pulls back her elbow and lets her fist fly at Dan’s face.

The first blow kind of misses, her knuckles glancing weakly off his neck just under his jawbone. There’s an odd hyper buzzing in her limbs, maybe from the alcohol, maybe from the blankness of Dan’s expression waiting for her to hit him, maybe from the fact that her whole life has been a fucking waste.

“Come on, Amy,” Dan says, disgusted, and that does it. She pulls back her left elbow and hits him from the other side, her fist making a sick fleshy sound as it snaps against his cheek. Dan’s head swings to the side, pulling his body around with it, first his shoulders and then his hips, causing him to stagger a few steps to the right. He covers his cheek with his palm as Amy wrings out her stinging hand.

Fucking fuck,” Dan yells, his voice hoarse.

Amy’s fist hurts like hell, but for just a moment, everything inside her is blissfully still. She closes her eyes, breathing in the night air, her heart hammering like a fucking Hitachi Magic Wand.

When she opens her eyes Dan looks like Dan again, angry in the pissy little boy way that’s the fiercest he can manage. Like being menaced by Oliver Twist. His fingers are still clapped to his cheek, but Amy can see the redness spreading from underneath them, stark against Dan’s nighttime paleness.

“Okay, you fucking psycho bitch,” Dan says. “Are you happy?”

Amy takes a deep breath before she responds, her body sinking into the moment. The night and the satisfaction envelop her like a swimming pool. “Immensely,” she says, her voice warm with pleasure.

“Good,” Dan says. His eyebrows are drawn down, his face shifty like a little irritated badger hiding in its shitty little hole. His other cheek is turning red too, Amy notices, and his breath hasn’t evened out since she punched him—it only seems to be quickening. Suddenly it clicks—the shiftiness, the vague embarrassment, the panting like a dirty old man watching a college girls’ track team.

“Oh,” she says, “my fucking god. Are you getting off on this, you toilet?

“What I do is my business,” Dan says as loftily as he can, his fingers tightening against his struck face. “Jesus, you try to do someone a favor.”

The inner peace is gone. “Who the fuck is doing a favor for who here?” Amy says. “Because I didn’t sign up to be included in your spank bank with anorexic political groupies gagging for dick that’s touched the President’s breakfast omelette.”

“Look, I didn’t plan this,” Dan growls, looking hunted. “It’s just a physical response. Guys can’t help it sometimes. You’d know that if a man had ever touched you without getting his fingerprints burned off by your acid Gorgon skin.”

“Physical response my pulsating asshole,” Amy says. “Fuck you, Dan. Fuck you and fuck the job you got me and fuck your face. I’d like to go back and find the piece of land we were standing on when you first came into my life and have a plaque put up to inform the world of the atrocities committed thereupon. I want people to make international pilgramages to lay flowers at the site of the Eganing and say a prayer for my black, poisoned soul.”

“Listen, I have been putting my ass on the line trying to help you,” Dan spits out. “I was the one who vouched for you because I assumed you were still mentally capable of doing a political job, instead of putting your foot into your mouth like an infant and dripping drool all over my fucking life. I have advocated for you when our employers question your fucking sanity and I have given you meetings with clients off my list to try and lob some softballs your way so you can get an easy win. I’ve done all of this despite the fact that you are a literal serpent from hell because I got fired too and I know how much it sucks. I let you punch me in the fucking face. So yeah, I think I deserve one measly adrenaline boner after all of that if that’s acceptable to you, your majesty.”

Amy opens her mouth to scream into the night, and then her eyes snap open as her lips are covered by Dan’s hot hand.

“Don’t scream again,” he says. “Jesus Christ, do I have to babysit you?”

Amy bites down on the fleshy mass right under his index finger. Dan yelps and draws his hand back, and Amy reaches out with her foot and kicks his ankle bone. Dan bends over again, face distorting with anger or pain, it’s unclear. Amy grabs his shirt collar, pulls him up to her face and crushes their mouths together.

It’s more of a wrestling move than a kiss, especially since Dan struggles for a couple seconds—not fighting against the kiss, but fighting for position, shoving at Amy’s shoulders and then cupping his disgusting sweaty hands around her face. They end up with Dan pressed against the dirty brick wall of the bar, his tongue in Amy’s mouth, her teeth scraping his bottom lip. Dan is hot and damp with sweat and his skin is soft under her hands, his physique the fleshy one of a guy who spends all his time inside talking to a Bluetooth earpiece. Amy has never hated anyone so much in her life.

She pulls back and says, “I swear to god, if you put your dick anywhere near my mouth I’ll bite it off and throw it in the pool outside the Lincoln Memorial.” Dan, incredibly, moans.


“I have a question, Dan,” Amy says. She’s dropping by his new desk, which is, by her estimate, thirty percent smaller than hers. Behind it, Dan looks like a grown man lost in a kindergarten, his bony knees stuck up too high and his shoulders hunched over like he’s trying to disappear.

“Hemmings used to be your client, right? Do you find that he likes the personal touch, or does he prefer to get straight down to business?” She lets him glare at her for a few crisp seconds, and then says, “Oh right, you lost the account. I guess I’ll figure it out myself then.”

“Yeah, yeah, live it up,” Dan says in a low voice. It looks like he’s trying to tear her throat out with his eyes. “Let me tell you something, Amy. This is a dog eat dog world, and if you don’t have friends, you’re never going to make it. The day will come when you’re at the bottom of the dogpile, and I’m not going to extend a hand down to help you up next time. I’m going to step on your head as I climb to the top.”

“We’ll see,” Amy says, dropping her voice as well. “I know how much you like being fucked.”

It might be over-the-top, but she gives him a wave with just her fingers as she leaves. Friends. Right.

Dan Egan can kiss her raw angry cunt.