Alfonzo Redic expected another noise complaint when he answered the door for the third time that evening. Some trumped up mall-cop looking shithead with a flashlight instead of a gun was going to tell him that his neighbours had called, and that the music was too loud, and that it smelled like weed.
He did not expect an eight-year-old, her hair matted at the ends from where she had been chewing on it, raising her little hand for a handshake.
“My name is █████, but my friends call me Em.” She started, her voice incredibly casual. “I like your music.”
Alfonzo had seen this kid before: her mother worked at the community center, and she was usually there too, sitting behind the desk and boredly kicking her feet. The taller man stood, dumbstruck for a moment, staring down at this stranger’s kid.
“Ey, Alf.” Alfonzo’s friend Phil started behind him. “Is that your new girlfriend?”
Alfonzo spun, snapping through gritted teeth: “Man, shut the fuck up. That’s a kid, get your act together.”
“Man, my act?” Phil clicked his teeth. “You’re the one inviting kids over.”
“Phil, you better get off this. Swear to God.”
“Hey, and don’t cuss either, ‘cus it’s literally a kid.”
“That’s okay,” Em spoke up, her thin voice cutting through the two baritones. “I know ‘fuck’.”
“Okay, well, you shouldn’t don’t you tell your mom we said cuss words in front of you, alright?” Alf knelt, finally getting a handle on the situation.
“Okay.” Em smiled. “What's your name?” Her hand was still raised for a handshake. Alf took it, probably too careful to not accidentally pull this kid’s arm off. He had no idea how delicate or non-delicate the average eight-year-old was.
“I’m Alf, like the alien. You like Biggie?”
“Uh, yeah.” The rabbit bluffed. At the turn of the decade, you didn’t have to be a child not to know about Biggie. “I heard him through the floor and I thought it would be cool if I came and listened to some. There was one like- uh-” Emily tried to beatbox it out. Alf laughed.
“You mean like:” He tried to match her beat.
“Yeah. Can I listen to that one?”
“Sounds like you already heard it.”
“Yeah but like, through the floor.”
“Ohhh…” Alf nodded. “For sure then. C’mon.”
Alf Guided Em into the apartment, helping her up onto the cleanest section of the couch as Phil balked.
“Phil put the fuckin’ weed away.”
“Shit, like you meant an actual child.”
“Man, what did I fucking say?”
“I dunno dude, who the fuck brings a kid into this kind of situation?”
“He ain’t never heard biggie before.”
“Nobody heard of Biggie. The kid’s like 18, just ‘cus he’s got a mixtape out doesn’t make him like - a person people shoulda heard of.” Phil ribbed.
“Well.” Alf gave Em a friendly nudge as he sat down next to her. “Me and Em both like him.”
He grunted as he bent down under the coffee table, fiddling with the controls of a cassette player and starting the tape from the beginning. The three of them went through Alf’s entire collection that night, Phil thoroughly uncomfortable the whole time. Alf had a few staples: a completely un-worn copy Licensed to Ill, a copy of Straight Outta Compton that had started to flutter in places, a few clearly pirated Public Enemy singles, but mostly his collection was made up of other people’s demo tapes. Some autographed, some vandalized with red marker by some angry studio exec, all very lovingly kept.
Em sat still for most of it, asking questions as they popped into her head, making conversation as best she could with two men three times her age. It was easy to tell what she liked: she would stop abruptly in the middle of a sentence, a slow smile would dawn on her face, and she would rock back and forth to the beat.
“Hell yeah.” It was exciting every time it happened. Time passed pretty quick, Alf’s collection grew thin, and before he knew it it was down to a dusty old box labelled ‘weird shit from qbec’. It was halfway through an admitably annoying French chorus that another knock came at the door.
“Hi, I’m so sorry to knock this late but-” Em’s mom started as soon as the latch clicked. “I can’t find my son and I’m just-” She froze as she spotted Em over Phil’s shoulder.
“█████ Emanuel Sloth-Bunny Jr.!” The older rabbit roared, charging through Phil and towering over her daughter. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing walking out in the middle of the night? What the fuck is wrong with you?”
Em looked up at her mother, a blank confusion on her face. “Alf and me are talking about music.” Em’s mom glared down at her before turning her ire on Alf, burrowing him into the couch as he gave an awkward smile.
“It’s all cool, he’s safe with us. We’ve really just been talking about music.”
“Did you know about hip-hop, mama?” Em asked, knocking her mother out of rage and into confusion.
“Wh- Yes I know about hip-hop █████. C’mon, we’re going.”
Em gave a weak “Okay” as her mother dragged her out by the wrist. “I’ll see you later Alf.”
“See you around little rabbit.”
June 27, 1998
Em was out of breath as the newly installed phone on her bedside table rattled in her tight grip. She could hear Uncle Alf’s phone ringing below her floor, hear his floor creak up through the wall as he rolled out of bed.
“Alf, it’s Em.”
The old man let out a long sigh.
“Em, it’s fuckin’ 4 am. What the fuck do you want?”
“You know the like, queer thing that happened today?”
“Yeah, the fag march. What about it?”
“So like…” Em started, running through all the ways to come out in her mind like a Rolodex. “What’s a transgender?”
Alf let that one sit for a moment, mulling it over. Emily jumped - too used to the moment of silence - as part of the old apartment building creaked behind her.
“Man, I don’t fuckin’ know.”
“Didn’t you date one of them once?”
“Nah Em I just- That’s not, that’s nothing. Why couldn’t this wait?”
“Do you still have her number?”
“Em why the fuck- What is going on?”
“I think I might be one.” The words fell out of her mouth like vomit as nausea took over her body. Her heart kicked at the walls of the chest as the background hiss of the call r█se to a roar. Time stretched on as-
“Real shit?” Alf asked.
“Yes, dude.” Em replied, suddenly comfortable in the silence, having overwritten the last thing sh█ said.
“So like,” Alf started cautio█sly. “You got a ██w name or something?”
“Yeah, “I’m thinkin’ █mi█y.”
“█lright. Tight. Go the f██k to sleep Emily.
Uncle A██ was actual█y pr██t█ s██████, or, well, ██ █████ a█ ███████ ██ ███ █ou██ ██████ █████ █████████████████████ █████d█████████████ ██████████ █e█ ██████████████c████████████████████████a████
████ ██, 2000
“Emily. C’mon. Wake up, we’re leaving.” Emily blinked the sleep out of her eyes to see her mother, panicked, pulling a spare backpack from the top shelf of her closet.
“Wh- What?” She dropped the backpack on Emily’s bed, forcing recent laundry into it by the fistful.
“We’re going on vacation.” Her mother said, not making eye contact.
“What? No, I have like- class to go to.”
“It’s fine, I already called the school. It’s fine, okay?” A familiar annoyance rose in her mother’s voice as she rolled out of bed.
“What about- me and Uncle A were supposed to-”
“What do you mean, we’ve been-”
“Emily. He’s busy.” She snapped. An awful an█iety rose in Emily’s chest with the panicked confusion.
“Mom, can you please just tell me what the fuck is █████ ██?” ███████ █ █ █████ ███ █ ████████████ ████████ █ ███████████ ██████████ ████ █ ██████████ █. █████████████
“So, Emily.” the neatly disguised voice of a god started politely. “Can you tell us why you want to work for Warner Brothers?”
“Well, I’ve ██████████████████████████████ █ ███████████████████ ██████████ ██████████████████████████.
This isn’t working like this.
“Next stop, Olive and Warner Bros 1.”
[The bus's brakes squeal as it stops.]
[The doors hiss open.]
[Emily's shoes thump down onto the curb.]
[Emily takes a deep breath.]
[Emily starts to lose her breath as she jogs down the sidewalk.]
[A voice calls from the security booth.]
“I know I'm late. It was the bus. Buzz me in.”
[Clipboards clatter in and out of a plastic holder.]
“Who's… Ellie! Where are you? You have my clipboard again.”
[Paper flutters as the clipboards are traded.]
[Emily clicks her tongue.]
“I don't- Emily, Ellie. They're different names. Look-”
[Paper rustles as Emily shows Ellie her clipboard.]
“You're up in the booth today. You shouldn't even be here.”
“You shouldn't have headphones on.”
“First of all, I have one headphone on. Second, you tell your supervisor and I'm sure she'll let me know.”
“I don't wanna be a prick. Just next time: Emily, Ellie, okay?”
“Okay. Good job yesterday by the way- I saw that cover. That was quick work.”
“It's alright. It's scary every time. You did good.”
[The music in Emily's right ear dims with a pop as she drops her headphone.]
“Okay. Big smile. Pretty bunny.”
[A door clicks open.]
[Quiet conversations come to a halt.]
[A child stops crying abruptly.]
“Hi everyone! My name is Emily, I'm gonna be looking after you until Ellen gets a second, okay?”
[A quiet child-like cough fills the silence.]
“And you must be our special guest. Are you a big fan of Ms. DeGeneres?”
[The father clears his throat.]
“We just came to make an appeal.”
[The mother's breath hitches in her throat.]
“Some water would be nice.”
“For sure. I'll be right back.”
[A door clicks open again.]
[Emily’s sneakers stop as she checks her clipboard.]
“I might be just one second. Gotta make sure my team is doing what they should.”
[Emily's music comes back to its full volume.]
[A rope can be heard straining.]
“What are you guys doing?”
“Hoisting the thing.”
“What? Why? These go by the door. Who told you to do that?”
“Why? Did she tell you why?”
[The rope is tied around an anchor.]
“There's no time to bring it down now. We'll give them out at first break.”
“If you wanna question her go right ahead.”
“I'm on my way to her dressing room right now dude, and I'm sorry who's your supervisor?”
“I answer to a higher power than you.”
“Not on my set you don't.”
“She's not in her dressing room by the way. She's in hair and makeup.”
[Emily snaps her fingers.]
“I said leave that.”
“Go talk to her!
[Knock knock knock]
“Hi, Ms. DeGeneres?”
“Hi! Ellen, right?”
“It's actually Emily, Emily Sloth-bunny.”
[Emily laughs nervously.]
[Ellen laughs genuinely.]
“Of course. How could I forget? Y’know. Don't tell anyone else, but I think you're destined for great things after this show.”
“Thank you. I-”
“I don't think we run half this smoothly on days where you're not here.”
“The uh, mask box, for the selfie thing.”
“Right! Of course.”
“Jim said you told-”
“I have some special plans for it. I just want it to be out of the way. It'll come down before the show starts.”
“Alright. You let me know when.”
“Will do! You'll be the first to know. I hate to go over your head but no one could find you.”
“I was late. The-”
“Of course… Did you meet Devin yet? Lovely kid. Such a shame.”
“I did. I'm actually supposed to be getting them water.”
“Oh! I'm so sorry I didn't realize you were on an errand. You can go, so sorry to keep you.”
“Are you going to give them the time?”
“It's not as easy as it looks. We have to have some to give first.”
“I hope you find some.”
“I'm sure we will.”
“Good! Hey, why don't you come see me after the show?”
“If I have time, of course.”
“I'm sure you will.”
“Well get going! I'm sure poor Devin and his parents are parched by now!”
“What did she say?”
“Leave it up.”
[Emily's walkie talkie bleeps.]
[Emily's music is drowned out.]
“Talent moving. On in five.”
“Go get your make-a-wish kid seated.”
“Who's supervising who?”
“Hey folks! We're running a little behind so we'll have someone bring you those waters once you're already seated okay?”
“Cool cool. We've got you right in the front row so if you look really close you might even be able to see me.”
“Alright! Let's get moving!”
“Alright. Family seated.”
“Emily? Could I get you over here real quick?”
“Sure. Hold on.”
[The front of stage facade gives a hollow thump]
[Emily hops to her feet.]
“Big Ellen just wanted to see you uhh, over here.”
“Yeah. I'll go get her.”
[Emily taps her toe to the beat.]
[Emily's walkie beeps.]
“I hate this.”
[Emily's walkie beeps]
“Could I see that for a second?”
“Hi Emily! I'll be right over, okay?”
“What is she doing over there?”
[Emily's walkie beeps.]
“Can we get the light test guys over here?”
“Is she… Okay yeah. Hi? What is she looking at?”
[Emily's walkie beeps.]
[Crackles and static.]
“I'm looking at you, Emily!”
[Emily does not laugh.]
“How did you…”
“You shouldn't take your eyes off me, Emily.”
[Emily does not laugh.]
[Emily does not laugh.]