"I appreciate what you're attempting to say, Gayle, but what you need to understand is that they are my favorite things."
Gayle looked up at Oprah from the cool stone floor. This idea struck her as . . . mostly bad. There had been other mostly bad ideas over the years. A number of them, in fact. Oprah was undeniably a woman of great enthusiasms, and she was always eager to share them with her audience. Some of these attempts went over fine. Cars, cruises, electronics. Others did not. Others cost millions to fix and took months for Gayle to clean up. Gayle fretted. Sensing Oprah's displeasure, she offered to her best friend forever a single grape, which Oprah accepted but pointedly declined to eat. Gayle hated it when they fought. It wasn't discord, after all, that got her that former doge's palace in Venice, the Volkswagen Beetle carved from a single blood diamond, the family of sugar babies so rare and delicate that she had to wear them in a special pouch belted to her midsection. Yes, the power dynamic had shifted significantly since they were kids in Chicago, but Gayle still felt some vestigial obligation to steer her best friend away from her more, well, eccentric notions.
"It's just that, O," stammered Gayle, "I mean . . ."
"You mean what?" Oprah snapped. She relaxed and sighed and let the grape fall to the floor. It rolled for a foot, gathering a surprising amount of hair as it did, and came to rest by Gayle's hand. Gayle snatched it up and placed it in the pocket of her teal O magazine tracksuit. There was a man in Delaware, some kind of strange colonel, who paid quite well for those sorts of things. Oprah knew about Gayle's sideline, but elected to say nothing. She was staring out the window. Gayle squinted against the light. Thirty or so feet away, there was an old maple tree with an ax head buried deep in its trunk. The tree was chewed to hell. It wouldn't take much more before it fell. All around it were ax handles and splintered branches. Oprah had not been sleeping well.
"It's just that, O: they get so excited."
"Well, of course they get excited! They're excited because I'm excited. My favorite things are their favorite things." Oprah stretched her arms. Then she yawned. Then she began to laugh. It was a flat, halting laughter, a new sound, and Gayle didn't know what to make of it. "Huh. Look at your face," Oprah said. "Huh. Huh. You're an imbecile." She sniffed. "An imbecile and a bore. Now get on that fucking plane or I take away your sugar babies."
Three hours later, Gayle was 32,000 feet over the North Atlantic, staring out the window of a private Bombardier Global Express XRS bound for Sweden. She wouldn't be staying long, and she packed accordingly. A coat, a hat, gloves, and a magenta O magazine duffel bag stuffed full of $272,500 in non-sequential American bills. About six hours from now, she would hand it off to a man named Gor. There was a discreet airstrip they could use outside of Bergsjö. When the drop was made, Gor would signal his men to wheel 10 large shipping cases containing double-bit Swedish throwing axes onto the plane. Gayle would never learn Gor's last name, nor would she ever see him again. Gayle hated this part of her job.