Saturday, August 16, 2014

Chapter 6

(Another week … not doing too good writing in this thing but I’ve been busy.  Trying to be company to Mr. Crankypants uses up all my energy too.  I don’t know for sure what day it is but I think it is early August … I think it is anyway.  I’ll go with that until I find out otherwise.) 

Last couple of days have been clear and Mack’s chest cold has gotten a ton better.  Aunt Trudy always said she’d rather deal with a man almost dead than she would one that is just a little sick.  I’m beginning to see just how brilliant my aunt is.  Geez talk about cranky. 

On the other hand Mack’s cranky is different than what I’m used to … instead of wanting lots of attention he wants to be left alone.  I don’t think it is just the cold that has made him foul, it’s why he got a cold.  He’s sleeping again but at least this time he said thank you for the chicken ramen soup I made. 

I guess I should be cranky too but I’m not.  It’s kinda … well, cool sounds stupid and calling it anything else sounds almost worse but basically Mack doing what he did .. Oh heck … why not … it’s supremely cool in my book. 

What happened was Mack got real bent out of shape when he found out they – Dylan’s group – planned to “detain” me.  Nice way of saying they planned on holding me prisoner and making me give them what they wanted. 

I didn’t think much of their plan and said so.  “Dumb move on their part.  I can think of a half dozen ways in less seconds than that to cause them grief for trying to force me to do anything.” 

Mack’s voice was tired and gravely as he wheezed out, “Yeah, me too.  I have a kid sister … I know … (cough, hack, sneeze, honk into the handkerchief) … what teenage girls can do if they get T’d off.” 

“You got a sister?  Where’s she at?” 

“Living with my step mom and her new husband.  Well outside the quarantine zone.  Shani is my half-sister.” 

“Wow … real blended family stuff.” 

“Yeah,” he said in a way that told me the subject was closed.  “What about you?” 

“My folks … aren’t around anymore.  I went to live with my aunt.” 

“OK … just one more question.” 

“No.  ‘Cause it’s gonna be about what Mace said and I don’t wanna talk about it.” 

Mack shook his head.  “Actually Winx I was just gonna ask if you’re looking to start a group.” 

Cautiously I said, “Uh … no.  Why?  Are you?” 

And that’s when he finally spit it all out.   

“I’m tired of people.”  I started to tell him to shove it sideways but he held up his hand to stop me.  “I mean tired of the kind of people that always want something from me or expect me to change to suit them.  You don’t seem to fall into that category.  You just tell people to shove it if you don’t want what they are.  I’m actually fine with that.  It’s … honest I guess.  What I’m trying to say is that when Dylan’s group was small and mainly … you know …” 

“You aren’t going to offend me if you call a spade a spade.  Street people or homeless.  It is what it is.” 

“Yeah … ok … when the group was small and made up of only homeless people.  Most of them wanted to be left alone too so it was ok.  We worked together but gave each other’s issues a lot of space too.  It was even ok when he got on the save-the-kids thing.” 

“For your info Dylan was always on the save-the-kids thing.  I saw him in the city plenty of times preaching and trying to tell the kids to go to a couple of the local church shelters and get cleaned up.” 

“Hmmm.  I didn’t know that.  Before my time.  I first met him when they were still trying to figure out what was going on.  He’d stop by the Vet center downtown where I was staying.  He fit in.  I’m pretty sure he was a Vet too but he never said.  He was just accepted.  He made sense too.  Said it was probably something in the hooch or the drugs people were doing … and that’s even what the scientists started saying.  At least until the plague started jumping to people that didn’t drink or do drug.” 

“Yeah,” I said nodding.  “I heard all that stuff too.  In the group I was hanging with it probably started with someone sharing a needle.  But I don’t do that crap and I still got sick so it may have started in the drugs but it didn’t stop there.”
“Excuse me?!”
“Don’t blow a gasket, I mean was the guy you were sleeping with pass it to you that way.”
“I don’t know what flavor of crazy you think I am but I ain’t crazy enough to get pregnant on top of all of the other crap life has handed me.”
“Er.  Uh … you saying … uh … no opportunity to get the plague as an STD?”
“Yeah so don’t get no funny ideas.”
“Don’t worry Sunshine.  It ain’t that kind of thing; you’re jail bate.  All I was doing was testing a theory.  I still don’t know how I picked up the plague.  That scratches that off the list.”
I shook my head.  “Stop looking for one way for it to get passed around.  For all we know it’s in the water and this is some giant experiment by people with more money than sense.  It’s here now so all we can do is deal.  And if you’re immune and I’m immune getting the plague is just one less thing we got to deal with.  Everyone else will have to take care of their own pile of crap while we shovel our own.”
Mack gave me a serious look and then sort of relaxed.  “Not bad Sunshine.  But I won’t let no little kids …”
“Aw I ain’t heartless.  I just mean …  Look, case by case.  I’m no bleeding heart do-gooder.  I’m no Preacher Guy.  I’m not drawn that way.  I’m more the type that causes trouble than gets people out of it.  I got too many issues.  I don’t mind giving a hand every once in a while but only if I’m pretty sure my arm isn’t going to be chewed off up to the elbow while I’m doing it.”
Mack gave a tired chuckle.  “Sounds about like I feel.”
“So we ain’t so different above the belt buckle after all.  Back to why you were taking a rain bath and busted all up that night.”

“Yeah,” he muttered.  “See, after a while kids weren’t enough for Dylan.  I think he might have … I don’t know … maybe gotten a Messiah complex or something.  He started taking in Normals to what he called his family.  Heck most would be dead if he hadn’t.  Eventually though the Normals started outnumbering the rest of us.  And you could tell it bothered them to be hanging out with street people.  They wanted things to look like they used to look and be run that way even though it didn’t work that way very well.  The ‘family’ atmosphere changed and we were just a big group of people trying to survive.  Which was still ok because we were all desperate and things were so insane.  The street people taught the Normals and the Normals kinda gave the Streets some dignity.  When the problems started was when the Normals wanted to run things as a democracy so they could feel like they had some say.  Then some of the Normals started changing that to rule by committee – though not everyone has caught onto that yet – and things really started to suck."

I told him, "They didn't seem bad.  A little pushy but not really bad.  That one woman though … what was she?  Like a prison matron or something?"

He snorted.  “Mrs. Zigler used to be a PTA mom from what I heard.  She’s not bad but bossy as hell that’s for sure.  And stuck on having her own way or else.  Most of them aren't really what you would call bad, but there are some Grade A jackasses in there.  It is all ‘us’ and ‘them’ and if you aren't an 'us' you are the enemy and all enemies are the same level of threat, from the Infecteds to some curly headed kid that has a few screws loose."

Not minding the dig I nodded my understanding and asked, "So I was ... an enemy?"

"When you wouldn't play ball their way ... yeah.  They think they own everything and everyone in what they mark as their territory.  What they wouldn't listen to is that their so-called territory is just marks on a map, they don't control anything.  It is just a boundary they use for salvaging in."

"But they think they control things."
"Pretty much Sunshine.  By the way what is up with the tye dye hair anyway?"

I shrugged and then laughed.  "I've got 'authority figure issues' according to some people.  I didn't want to be in quarantine so I busted out but couldn't get through any of the road blocks.  They had my name and picture on every list.  I thought if I changed the way I looked ... but all I could find when I went back to my aunt's house the last time was my old permanent hair chalks.  I was trying to ditch the whole ‘goth girl of death’ look.  Let's just say I'm not sorry it is growing out ok?"

"Yeah.  You kinda stand out."

"I tried to cover the mess I made with black dye but all it did was make me look like a psychedelic zebra.  I thought about cutting it short but ..."

He shook his head.  "Don't.  Better a psychedelic zebra than a clown with mange."

I snorted.  "Pretty much what I was thinking.  So ... how'd you get separated from Dylan's group."

"Isn't really Dylan's anymore and I only hung around for his sake.  He still thinks of it as his but … he’s tripping.  I think he’s been self-medicating a little bit lately.  A bunch of them found a huge pot stash last month.  Rodney told the ones starting to make noise about it to shut up and so long as they do it on their time and it doesn’t cause any problems that he ain’t wasting his time busting people for toking when there are bigger problems that have priority. But what he would say for the self-medders was the opposite of what he said about anyone thinking of … being disloyal.”
“Meaning anyone getting tired of the way things are who wanted out.”
“Yeah.  I'd been looking for a way to make a graceful exit and a place to ... uh ..."  He stopped like he’d gotten ahead of himself and that let me know what was going through his head.

It took me all of two seconds to decide.  "Sure, why not?  This place is big enough."

I'd caught him off guard.  "Huh?"

"You were casing the places up here.  That's how you knew so much about Old Town.  That first day I mean.  It's how you figured out so fast where I was staying after you found out it wasn't the B-n-B."

I really had surprised him.  "Damn you're slick."

"I might not have been too smart to run away in the first place but I ain’t completely dumb and learned stuff on the street.  You have to put two and two together fast if you want to stay out of trouble and away from trouble makers.  You don't seem to like trouble any more than I do and you aren't a trouble maker.  Let me guess, Det. Rodney must have set someone to keep an eye on you and they caught you trying to exit while that gang or whatever created a distraction.  Am I right?"

Hesitantly he said, "Yeah."

"Good to finally be right about something.  And you don't seem like you are really a people person ... or at least you need your space if you are going to stay human enough to deal with people when you have to.  Am I right?"

Another hesitant, "Yeah."

"Are you here to boss me?"

"Don't want the hassle Sunshine."

"Good.  Though if we're both honest you'll probably try and boss me some.  You keep it to a minimum and I won't grow horns and a tail over it.  I'll make you another deal, you help me get rid of the meece in the walls and I’ll even volunteer to do most of the cooking."

He snorted a surprised laugh that turned into a cough that sounded like the last of the nasty crap was exiting his lungs.  When he finally could draw a breath I could see he needed to sack out some more and after promising to “work out the details” when he got up – yeah, like he was getting up anytime soon while he still sounded like a wheezy radiator – he crashed and burned and I went off to figure how much more stuff I would need since it was going to be two instead of one.



  1. Thank you :) another great story.

  2. Thanks Kathy looking forward to more of this one.