Two low-orbit laboratories bump into each other. Twenty-seven scientists die. Terrestrials call for greater international traffic control. Space travel suffers, as it always does immediately following this type of thing. There are videos of coffins draped in flags on monitors in Canada and Australia. In the U.S., the season finale of Did I Really Do That? nets record numbers.
My home is new. Or, new to me. It’s a fresh cardboard box with a tarp to keep the rain off. It sits on two plastic palettes. It’s warm enough. There are two others that share this section of the alley. We leave each other alone, but share the burning barrel on cooler nights. They don’t drink either, so the bullshit is kept to a minimum. Just surviving.
I’m sitting against the building, waiting for that nice lady that works in the plant store to walk by. She almost always drops a dollar into my lap, and that buys me a sandwich or a 3-day clip of synth meals. She looks nice, smells nice, and probably has a nice life with her nice boyfriend in her nice apartment. I’m waiting for that nice to rub off on my sorry ass. I see her down the ways.
“Hey, indigent. Get your stink off my block before I end you.”
Some kid. A thug-in-training, exerting his new power. His street persona, “Killer McBadass,” fits him like hand-me-down shoes, so I know he’s pulling his reserves from a piece tucked in his pocket. He’s talking to me but won’t look at me directly.
“See that fem there with the bag of dirt or whatever? I’m gonna move right after I talk with her a sec, okay?”
The thugling seems confused. Can’t decide if my response is a plea, a negotiation, or an act of defiance. His picture book of gangster ways didn’t cover this, so he errs on the side of offense.
“You ugly AND deaf? I said you gotta get up off your homeless ass and get off this block.” He pulls out his little gun. I look at it; it’s a joke. He’s holding it 8 inches from my head… dumb. As I stand up, I slide my arm up under his grip and step into him. The wrap is elementary, and I follow through with the move that shatters his elbow. He may never use this arm again, but I’m saving him years of grief… giving and receiving. He quietly sits down, mute with agony. Probably in shock.
The nice plant lady sees me. I smile. She drops a buck into my lap.