Exzy backed away, sacks of groceries falling out of the bubble . . . He closed the bubble, grabbed a bag and ran for it as the two men wrestled on the ground.
The winos grabbed sacks as they ran past and they all wound up in front of “their” house, watching the fight from a safe distance.
People were popping out of houses across the street, some talking on phones, more holding them up to record the fight. One man cussing, one screaming non-stop. The knife flew out of the screamer’s hand. The cussing pimp got his hands around the screamer’s throat. Caught a knee to the crotch and flinched back, cussing louder as the screamer broke his grip and scrambled for the knife.
The pimp was slow to block and took the knife in his lower ribs.
Sirens in the distance, but a black car shrieking to a halt and the fat guy leaping out of his car. “Hey! Hey! No killing each other on my property!”
The screamer jerked the knife out and leaped for the fat man.
Who sidestepped, blocked the knife, grabbed the man and rammed him into the car. The screamer staggered back . . . turned and ran.
“No, no, no! Not into the house! I have to sell that house, dammit!” The fat man turned to the pimp, laying on the ground. “Oh crap.”
Jimmy dropped the sacks he was carrying and trotted back, dropped to his knees and ripped the pimps shirt open.
Oh yeah, he’s a doctor.
Exzy put his sack down and hunted through his bubble for the first aid kit Mom had put in there. He trotted up and opened it to show Jimmy, who started grabbing stuff.
Exzy stepped back beside the fat man. “Don’t worry. He’s a doctor, he knows what he’s doing.”
The fat man sighed. “’Invest in slum property,’ they said. ‘It’ll be worth so much when the area gentrifies,’ they said. And fool that I am, I listened.”
Three police cars shrieked to a stop.
The first cop took a quick look around. “The ambulance is on the way. Now what happened?”
George answered. “A guy with a knife came screaming out of that house, and attacked this guy. I dunno either of them. Seen this one around.”
Another cop took a look. “Local pimp. Hot Mikey something.” He glanced at the gathering crowd, and Queenie gave him a little finger wave.
The fat guy started talking. “When I drove up—I own that house, unfortunately—they were wrestling around. The guy that was screaming—I think he was high—stabbed this guy. Then attacked me, then he ran back into the house.”
The police were looking around at the stuff on the ground.
“We were walking home with our groceries when the fight started. We dropped a bag when we ran away.” Exzy volunteered. He peered at the house. No sign of that reg glow.
Good. He’s gone. Maybe he won’t come back.
More police came, all in bulky black stuff. They pulled down faceplates on their helmets and charged the house.
The ambulance pulled up, men jumping out. Exzy backed away as Jimmy told them stuff in medical terminology, told them to check the pimp’s blood pressure but he thought there wasn’t any arterial bleeding. Talked to someone on the ambulance guy’s radio, and the pimp was loaded up and taken away.
Jimmy stood up and watched it pull away. “I’m going to be a doctor again.”
The only policeman still with them raised an eyebrow, and asked for ID. They all gave him the same address. He looked down the street, and looked skeptical.
The fat guy sighed. “Oh. I’ve got the contract in the car. They’re buying it. Poor fools.” He handed over his own ID and leaned back into the car to pull out a folder.
“Here’s the tax receipt—that smart boy was right about checking that.” He looked at the policemen in black coming back empty handed. Sighed. “Don’t suppose I can sell you that one too, can I?”
Exzy snickered. “Maybe next year.”
The policeman shook his head. “Good Luck.”
Exzy trotted back and forth picking up his scattered granola bars and oranges and taking them back to the house. Checking for that red glow . . . but the weird guy was too far away for him to feel. “Good.” He looked around the house and started bringing out the rest of the groceries, all the chairs and walked from bedroom to bedroom delivering the mattresses.
Looking around at the filthy house. Filthy floor, broken windows, spiderwebs.
He walked over to pick up big shard of broken glass on the floor. He held it up to the splintered remnants in the window frame and could see where it had come from. “Dad could fix this. He said glass was easy, because it’s amorphous, not crystalline.”
“Exzy, you’ve got an interestin’ vocabulary for an eight year old.” Ruby scuffed her shoe across the floor and frowned at the dirt. “I ought clean this place up.”
Exzy stared at the broken glass. He couldn’t see the Moon, and anyway it wouldn’t rise for hours. He looked at the sunlight leaking around the edges of the boards nailed over the window. He held out his hand and collected a little bit of light. Then put the glass shard in place and drew a light filled fingertip around the edge. It looked almost like he’d melted it together.
He grinned and picked up another shard . . .
Fortunately not all the windows were broken, because he was whipped by the time he was done.
A soda and sandwich took care of most of that. He snickered as everyone walked around the house, poking at the glass. Mind you, it wasn’t very smooth, but it would do until the grownups figured out how to buy new glass.
With no electricity it was a pretty boring afternoon, and the grownups got restless.
Jimmy poked around, looking alarmed. “Did we drink all the doped up wine? Where are the bottles?”
Exzy shook his head. “I’ve got the left overs. You guys will need . . . what? Little bottles of it to sell, I guess.”
Jimmy drummed his fingers on the counter. “Right. I’m going to go get more wine to experiment with.”
Ruby looked around. “I need to get cleaning stuff. Lots of cleaning stuff.”
Queenie and Cherry Blossom swapped looks. “Hot Mikey’s in the hospital. We could go get all our stuff.”
“I’m going to take the boards off . . .” George and Paul nodded and headed outside.
Exzy bit his lip, then shrugged and relocated to the tree with another soda. He listened to the various crunching s and crashing, but there weren’t any tinkles of broken glass.
The tarts made four trips from wherever they lived, furniture hanging out of the trunk of Queenies tiny car.
When Ruby returned and started scrubbing the floor, Exzy tried to help magically and was sent away when he started removing something called linoleum.
And once it was clean and dry Queenie and Cherry Blossom rolled out colorful rugs in their rooms and in the living room, and set up their “TeeVees,” that were kind of clunky versions of screens.
Which had them all wondering how to get the electricity and water turned back on.
Jimmy produced two six packs of little bottles of wine, another of beer, and brandy. Exzy brought out the bottle with the dregs in it. They all looked dubiously at it.
“It’s going to be really dilute, this time.”
“Nope.” Exzy grinned. “It’s a von neumann’s so it spreads.”
“What?” Jimmy held it away in horror. “That’s so dangerous!”
Exzy shrugged. “Dad says the assemblers are partly made of alcohol, and run on alcohol. When they run out of fuel, they eat themselves. We use it all the time.”
“I . . . see. Well, that will solve the manufacturing process.” His adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “So. I’ve got white wine, red wine, beer, and brandy. Let’s see how they compare. And what dose is effective.”
Exzy rolled his eyes. “I’m going to go climb a tree. Have fun.” Eww. You’d think once would be enough.
It was colder than the night before, so once the running around and laughing had stopped, he ventured back in and curled up in a chair and slept.