I don’t know what’s wrong with this town but it sure can’t be the money. Sure, dock workers’ got spit for their complaint and now they’re back to work. It’s like someone wanted all that noise to distract us from something else, ‘n so?
You know, whoever paid my hospital bill must have got wind that I wanted to pay them back. Still don’t know who he is and I won’t dig for him. He wants to meet he knows how to find me, ‘n so? Until then James has introduced me to someone else, Mike McDanniels. You know, even if I weren’t psychic I’d know he was one high strung bow. I’ve seen his partner, Criswell, and that explains some of it, ‘n so? Mike makes a point of keeping me away from him. Won’t have to twist my arm.
Today we just did some errands, messages, and, um, pickups. This one building he had me stay at the door with a rough looking hispánica. She didn’t look like she did anything, just sat there reading, chewing gum. I tell you, even the conversation seemed bland. Hi, I’m Jack, what do you do here? Seems her Spanish is more Eastern than I’m accustomed to. Words the same, ‘n so? Some of them don’t seem to mean what they do around here, though. I got her meaning, sure enough: shut up and leave me read. What she meant was let her do her job.
Little did she know I had this other thing going on, ‘n so? Turns out her job is watching for trouble, customers, police, competition. I tell you, how does she do that and read like that?
I’ll tell you.
The book meant nothing to Esperanza, except as a prop. Her eye and ear caught everything, ‘n so? So, I sat, paid attention, followed hers.
Oh, about that? See, I can’t exactly shut it off. So, I do with that what I do with my ears and just ignore anything that don’t catch my attention. So, I just sit, relax, try to see and hear what catches hers. Cars, people, even that dog running for home—yeah, found I understand some of the animals, too. Police held her attentions for a while longer than the dog. A customer held it a little longer than that. She let her in and sent a text on her Nokia. And back to reading.
Mike came back ten minutes after that and had me follow him to the bus stop.
I know, a man with his position not using a car. He says the bus is easier to ditch. You know, makes sense.
know, we get to this corner where Mike has one more errand, and he asks
me to do that. Seems someone closed all the supermarkets in the square
and is trying to push all but the liquor stores out. One of the markets
still had a sign up, Barquilla Royal. You know, its been there for
ages. Then the riots that got some Serpents killed and Woop!
My errand? Step inside, look around, report.
Ten boys about my age. Makes sense I should do this. Mike might have worried them some. Especially the three girls and the couple who, um, want me to see them another way. They seemed depressed, hungry. You know, that don’t keep them from entertaining each other.
Laura, now she kind of stood out for me. I just didn’t know if she wants me or my allowance. I’m not ready for any of that, not until that nightmare dies out more. Don’t want to be sharing that with anyone.
While I’m sharing that and dinner with Mike I see this, um, fellow. He walks past us at the Taco Wiz looking heavy and homeless. Can’t hear his mind, though.
So, I try to finish my report when Mike sees him as he starts to run for the Canasta. He dropped his taco and ran. You know I’m going to follow. I don’t understand but I won’t sitting on my lunch.
The fellow looks kind of heavy, big pack, big paunch. That don’t make sense, though. His face looks gaunt, like one of them whose been on Jubilant too long.
And Mike is quite the runner. I’m just about to catch up to him as the man runs into that market.
Now, I’m thinking he’s just going to run through, maybe avoid a collector, ‘n so? Not doing. We get to that door when all mayhem breaks out. Boom! That door flies off its hinge, big glass windows up front shatter, and the roof comes crashing down. When I get Mike off me I fear the worst. The door broke an arm and his face. You know, didn’t have to worry about it, though. He borrowed my phone, calls 911, then told me to go home. Well, not until I help him rearrange his wallet to make him look like an insurance inspector by the name of “Joseph Micheals”.
Clever, ‘n so?
Next morning the news says the homeless kids started that fire that got them all killed. Might be a school day, but with my rage I best skip school and walk the beach. Them kids were murdered and the city blamed them. You know, it’s not fair.
Now, he looks well, like nothing broke. Bruises don’t look so bad, and I swear his eye socket looked crushed, and his arm bent where it shouldn’t. Don’t know about his arm. He won’t let me paint the cast, ‘n so? But the eye looks good.
While I’m here looking after a friend and mentor Jimmie came to get a better report than the one ‘Joe’ gave the police.
I’m ‘listening’ in with a question of my own: what did you see that I missed?
That caught Joe off a little. He sat up and tried to play it all out. The smell of C-4 triggered a memory, but that didn’t send him running. The only thing that stood out like a candle in the night was the same man rotting in the St Joans River, guts spilled across some bushes while he was walking to catch the buss a day earlier.
Jimmie’s helping me work that out when this news report flashed across a blast show, don’t know if it’s FOX or CNN. An airplane came down in an ice storm, in November? I guess the climate really is changing.
ˇAi Picante! Connie and Buckie,—I mean Buck—don’t seem to like today. You know, I kind of agree with them, except I still have Saturday to do, ‘n so? Laundry, as part of straightening my room, as part of being able to find my stuff and keep my life in order. Well, it helps me, but I think it helps Aunt Joan more. I haven’t told them about Sunday, but I think they know.
You know, I’m about to give up on my plan to take Connie and Buckie—I mean Buck—to that Taco Wiz when the phone rings. You would not guess who’s on the line, my most favorite person in the whole word, Aunt Eddie. No, not Edith, not unless she’s on stage. Just hang in there.
“Hay, Aunt Eddie, how’s it swingin’ Girl?”
You know, I’m going to know it’s her before she said anything ‘cause, well, it felt like her when the phone rang. I asked Jimmie about that ‘cause it keeps happening. He says it’s something to do with our alert system, you know, the one that tells us we’re being hunted, or something?
You know, Eddie skipped a beat long enough to worry me. “Aunt Eddie?”
Odd, her voice is so deep it tickles when she forgets her coaching. Today she didn’t even try to fix it. That has me worried like nothing else would.
“Is your papa home?”
I checked, “No, Ma’am, he’ll be back in about fifteen. You okay, Aunt Eddie?”
“Oh, sweetheart,” Ah, his coaching returns. “Just ask him to call me, Please?”
“He’ll be here in about ten or so. How is Mark?”
She sniffled. “He’s packing. Oh, it’s the end of the world, I tell you.” She sniffled again. “Oh, I don’t mean to unload on you after what you’ve been through. How are you holding up?”
“Better than great, ‘n so? Kind of getting some job training. Just some little things that can help the house. When do you two expect to get here?”
“What? Who told you?”
“You did, ‘n so?” Sort of. “Don’t worry, you can have my room. I can sleep anywhere.” Well, almost.
“What a dear.” She was nearly a thunderstorm with her bawling.
The next moment I hear Mark. “What did you just tell her?”
His natural timber is a bit higher than hers. And right now I could eat the stress in it. So, breathe, let it go, it isn’t mine.
“Only that you are welcome.”
Silence. Yet in that I can feel them comforting each other. That gave me a moment to let the last of his anger go its way.
Except it didn’t go where I’d hoped, ‘n so? A picture, a little cafe in Brawley, them enjoying a quiet breakfast on their way home from last night’s show in Palm Springs.
Then in a cascade of sequences I see a small forest of trees replace a building across the street. People lost, people gained. All of that could worry the strongest of soldiers. What had both of them faltering was one pale young man with teeth sticking though his chin looking like that had just happened just that morning. Half his body was gone. What’s left is pegged with three arrows. Though to say, the kid must have been ten or so.
When Mark’s voice returned to thank me my own felt shaky. “Hold on, Pop’s at the door. Take you what, about six hours? I’ll get started on the room.
I handed the phone over and had to sit. You know, that unsettled me even after what I’ve seen. I hope that’s a good thing, ‘n so?
To quote just about every Star Wars movie, I’ve got a bad feeling about this, real bad. You know, it’s been there since Aunt Eddie moved in, like hearing the neighbors dancing down the block. Can’t tell what it is, though, just that it’s made it tough to keep everyone’s thoughts private.
Last night the air seemed to settle. Buckie thinks it’s the Santa Anas. Me? Not so much. Something else is in that quiet. Even that one voice has hushed in anticipation, and that has my nerves tied up in sailors’ knots.
And now, I’m hearing more voices, worried voices. Angry voices. It’s not just the rumble of a crowd. I pick up snatches of conversation in a language I can’t understand. Sometimes is comes with pictures. Most look human. Some of them look like that boy in Brawley. The lot of them have teeth, no tusks, sticking through their chins, many adorned with metal. Even seen one nursing her young. For some reason that just about broke my heart.
I woke to one scene you won’t believe. A raven almost as tall as Connie holding an argument with a centaur as tall at the head as Mark, um six-nine, ‘n so? Still can’t understand them, but the centaur is looking over a note he’d just received from the bird.
ˇAi Picante! Lost the connection!
Connie is having a nightmare of her own. I roll off the couch and tiptoe to her room. The hardest part of this is keeping my mother’s song as I tuck her back in. It’s her old favorite, elephantine like centaurs holding an argument of their own.
I lift her bear next to her face and begin to restore her sheets when this godawful smell rushes into the house. Connie sneezed and looked up at me like I did it. What am I going to do? “Rest, or I’ll do it again.”
Mark is standing in the hall, silently asking my business. I shrug as I close the door.
Then I ‘hear’ two things. One, a voice like the Jubilant monster, Jimmy thinks it’s the Claw. Well, he’s like a mouse to the elephant coming through now. It just says, ‘Kill’. And our monster begins his chant in earnest.
Meanwhile, I get this other voice, she feels, I don’t know, stronger. Strong enough to get her point across without hurting anyone. She’s just asking if I know who I am.
I sat on the couch. I can feel Mark study me. I grab my tablet to tell Jimmie what I know. And I voice my thoughts to Mark. “Rest. Whatever it is it’s going to be bad.”
I can tell his nerves just knotted up.
I look up to him and repeat, “Rest, we’ll need it.”