How Many More Times

People were laughing, talking, bunching up in anticipation of the big moment that had come so many times before and was about to come again. Vince leaned over and whispered, "How long until Marnie brings out the cake?"

Rob shrugged. "Not until after Fred's gone to the bathroom. I was in the kitchen while she lit the candles last time; she waits until he comes back because she wants him to video."

Vince nodded, and then noticed Rob's odd stance: leaned over, off-balance, braced against the back of the couch. "What are you doing?"

"I'm going to try to hear the other end of the phone call. Maybe it's important."

"Rippy's phone call? Why would it be—"

"I don't know. I was standing pretty close to her last time. I think it's her mother, but it's hard to tell: she never puts it on speaker." He rubbed his head. "She leaves right after, while everybody's gathered around the table. Doesn't talk to anyone. Maybe it has something to do with why we're stuck here."

"Why would Rippy's mom have anything to do with it?"

"I don't know, man, and I won't know until I listen to the phone call, okay?"

"Hey, knock yourself out."

"Don't you want to get out of here?" Rob hissed. "She gets out of here. Rippy gets out. You know how many times I've tried to follow her out? It's the only time the front door opens the whole loop."

"Oh, man, that wouldn't help. It doesn't help her, does it? She's always back here, just like us. And she doesn't even know it." Vince said.

"She only lives two blocks away. Maybe she doesn't go far enough."

Vince scoffed, "What makes you think—"

"Just shut up, she's going for her phone."

Vince shrugged and wandered off.

Rippy's finger was in one ear and her iPhone was tucked between shoulder and the other ear. Rob got as close as he could, but only picked up a few words here and there. Frustrated, he went in search of Vince; he found him lying down in the master bedroom, on the side of the bed clear of coats.

"What are you doing?"

"Taking a nap. I'm tired. We've got to have been up for two days straight by now, right? I'm gonna sleep. How long until the next loop?"

"Twenty minutes, maybe twenty-five."

"Don't wake me, maybe I can sleep through the reset. Maybe I can sleep through the whole thing. Maybe two of 'em." He rolled over onto his side, facing away from Rob. "Nobody comes in here at all. Lucky the door's even open."

"I'm going to keep trying to figure out how to get out. Do you want me to wake you if I do?"

Vince took a long, exhausted breath. "Just leave me a note. How you think you're getting out. If it's here and you're not when I wake up, I'll know that's how to get myself out."


"Good luck," Vince yawned.

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