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Into the Forest


Harvey never ordered the tuna at Tuna Del Mar. He ordered the burger. Or the fish and chips. On one hand, Portia had fancier tastes, so Harvey needed to make sure he had enough cash to cover both of them. And on the other, when it came down to it, Harvey knew what he liked. He liked burgers and he liked fish and chips.

"Why don't we ever go anywhere else other than Tuna Del Mar?" Portia asked the previous Tuesday night, just as Harvey was digging into some fish and chips that tasted, he thought, a little off. He started squeezing lemon juice onto the cod to mask what he thought might be, but surely couldn't be, rot.

"I thought that you liked this place, Port," Harvey said.

"I do," said Portia, sighing heavily into her broiled red snapper, in coriander butter with a side of rosemary potatoes and grilled asparagus. "I just wonder if we'll ever be able to escape this place, you know? You work so hard, and I work so hard, and we never seem to get anywhere closer to being able to escape this."

"I sure agree," said Harvey, not thinking too hard now about either the taste of his fish or any potentially unsettling meanings of the "this" from which Portia seemed to be intimating a desire to escape.

"How's your snapper?" he asked.

"A little dry," said Portia. "Just. You know. A little dry."

And then a silence that extended for about ten minutes as they both finished their meals. Six hours later, Harvey hung over the toilet, emptying the fish from his system, and thought about getting out of town with Portia. Away from her father. Away from the factory. Away from Tuna Del Mar. He brushed his teeth when he was done throwing up and went back to bed, lying there next to Portia and holding the blanket up near his face.

He was thinking about all this as Brenda looked at him with pleading eyes. On balance Harvey knew that the millipedes in the chocolate forest did probably scare her more than they scared him. And the company had actually been suggesting that any child actually found in the chocolate forest and brought out safely without needing to call the local police again would reap some kind of bonus time off. Maybe they could finally get down to Mexico for a little bit, at least to chase away the blues for a spell.

"Sure, Brenda," he said. "I'll go in there and find the kid."

Brenda was overjoyed and Harvey felt suddenly sheepish about what was obviously being perceived as such a big act of bravery. When really, it was just that he'd have to go poke around in the darkness for a scared kid throwing an ill-advised temper tantrum.

"No sweat, Brenda," he said. "Really, don't worry about it."

He felt around his utility belt for the flashlight and hoisted himself up and into the darkness of the forest.