The cave had undergone a transformation, or maybe a series of small transformations, in the recent years of renewed occupation. The crates that had been stacked against the wall now ringed the edge of the pool. Long wooden boards were distributed across the crate tops forming a tabletop bent like the hook of the moon around the water, stretching from cave wall to cave wall. The wooden slats had been removed from the sides of the crates both closest and farthest from the pool exposing the clear jars with the shiny brass lids and reflecting and refracting the light from the pool across the cave in a spill of spiraling rainbows. At one end of the moon shaped table, a bucket sat on the floor of the cave, with a net loaded at the edges with metal weights and a long pole strung with a thin line ending in a hook.
The bookshelf was still there, but now filled with books. Next to the standardized shelving unit stretched a series of long planks of wood, stacked and separated by blocks of concrete. In between these pieces of wood more books lined the wall, punctuated by the wooden puzzles that used to sit on the desk, with matching written works abutting the associated puzzle.
Assorted chairs had been strewn about the cave floor, wooden chairs, a frayed recliner, one chair on four small wheels. The desk had been cleared except for a scattering of electronics in varying states of disrepair, a small screwdriver in their midst, and a replica of the Needle, built out of little interconnecting plastic blocks.
On the wall behind the desk sprawled a chalk map of the city, oriented around the miniature Needle. The blankets in the corner now rested on wooden slats, lifted inches off the ground, a stack of books sitting in the crevice between the makeshift bed and the wall of the cave, a grey canvas bag with brown leather handles on the other side. Between bag and books a boy, not so small as he once was, bundled beneath blankets.
In a space not dissimilar to the one in which the boy’s body was bundled the trio of his internal representatives sat in vigorous disagreement.
That might be the worst idea I have ever heard.
Listen, muffintop, you don’t own good-ideaness, or whatever.
Bu-ga-ah . . . I ah, you. . .
Hah. Ah, hem. Um, that is, I mean. Fighting about placeholders is pointless.
What? We’re letting “good-ideaness” slide? And MUFFINTOP? I can see you laughing, you know, even if you aren’t making any sounds. Fine. I’ll just leave all the planning to Mr. GoodIdeaness over here.
Hey, nobody wants that to happen.
Maybe we can try explaining the why of your idea instead of trying to attack the what of the other idea.
I hate not getting to be the one who makes sense. Ok, I was thinking that we could attach this memory to the memory of the fight itself, maybe by imbuing it into a tag we put on the pillar?
I was thinking a paint can, because it was our first time using a paint can.
Which I said was
Stop. Stay constructive.
Ok, remember why we chose the pillar to represent the fight? Because it seemed improbable that another incident with a pillar would be of greater significance? I just don’t think the paint can passes that test in this instance.
Well, I don’t think your sign does, either. For example, what are we gonna use to rep the actual job of tagging?
Wait until after a memory to decide what should represent that memory. Not that I disagree, though. That’s why I suggested we attach it to the earlier memory for both clarity and accessibility.
Works for me.
Come on, Whiny. Let’s make a memory.
The metal door clanged shut and the two boys walked down the sidewalk in relative silence for a moment. Twitch scuffed his feet along the pavement as he walked, spraying small stones ahead of him. Kid snuck a peek up at the lanky boy, shoved his hands into his pockets and watched the ground while they walked.
Why? We totally won!
Agreed. This seems like the exact moment to smile. And you’re usually a bucket of giggles. What’s up?
Twitch seems… more Twitchy.
You know, I noticed that, too. Is he talking to himself?
Um. He isn’t making any noise?
Let’s just wait this out.
They rounded a corner, and were crossing a street when Twitch threw both hands in the air and exhaled like a slashed tire.
“SMALLEST! Ah’kna’ I said smalles’.”
He threw his hands about, placing an Imaginary Kid next to an Imaginary Twitch, and having the latter reenact the previous conversation dubbed over at one and a half speed, fingers flapping and flopping in place of the imaginary mouth.
“I’as ‘ere, stan’in’ righ’ nex’a you when I sed’it, ‘Kid, go fo’tha li’l un,’ I sed, member li’e it wa’ yeste’d’y. ‘Cause it was yeste’d’y!”
Kid struggled to keep the smile from getting further than his eyes.
“Small-es’,” Twitch chopped the word in half with his hands, a fixing each half with and inquisitive stare, “Which’iz li’e whatchoo done, excep’ EXAC’LY THE FUCKEN OP’ASIT’!”
He threw both of his hands up, erupting into another blasting exhalation.
Kid broke into laughter, and Twitch stopped walking to turn and stare at the smaller boy, one eye casting about as if looking for a sensible person, anywhere, to whom he could appeal, eyebrows trying to tie themselves in a knot. Kid collapsed against the wall, laughing, holding his side, tears streaming down his face carving mazy cracks in his ever present layer of underground.
Um, it might not be THIS funny.
I think it is. We could have gotten hurt real bad in there.
And we rocked that shit.
So, ah, relieving tension then?
You never get anything.
Kid stopped laughing and, when he caught his breath, took the hand that Twitch had extended to him and let himself get pulled to his feet. He dusted off his clothes, and looked at Twitch.
“I know. I was going to, I even picked him out, but that little guy, um. He looked angry.”
“His arm broke. Aien go’ insurance, o’ scratch, so’e trien’ not le’ Big kna’. ‘Course ‘e’s angry.”
Sometimes, even when I think I understand what he’s saying I have no idea what he’s saying.
Probably not important. Voogle it if it comes up again?
Did he say the little guy had a broken arm?
“Oh. So… Huh,” Kid’s face scrunched a bit, twisted, “You wanted me to fight a hurt kid?”
He looked up at Twitch, who batted at the words in the air.
“I wan’ed ya’ta win! No such thin’ as a fa’r figh’. Winner, loser. Doan be the loser.”
Kid grinned again.
Twitch looked right at him, with both eyes. One eyebrow crept up as though pushed by an invisible finger.
That is so cool.
“Yeah, you was’n, huh.” Twitch’s head fell to the side.
“So I was thinking, this little guy is mad, he’s gonna fight real hard, and he is still bigger than me, but the big fucker was kinda tucked in the back and hunched over,” Kid scrunched his shoulders, looked up at Twitch from under his ducked head, “like he didn’t really wanna be there, right, so I thought that maybe he wouldn’t want to beat up a little kid, and he’d give me time to figure out what I could do.”
He stood up and held his hands out holding his idea in the air before him.
“You know, be unpredictable.”
Twitch looked at Kid like he had grown an extra head. His loose eye flickered up and about, looking for it. Then he dropped his hands and turned to continue walking. Kid scampered behind to keep pace.
“Ah, an’ abou’tha’ shi’ y’did do?” Twitch shot a glance at Kid out the side of his eye, “Um. You be’n trainin’ as’a ninja, som’shi’ li’e tha’?”
Kid missed a step, almost stumbled, and looked up at Twitch.
Dude. We were totally like a ninja.
Do we even know what ninjas are like?
Well, the name sounds like they are awesome.
And that fight was kind of awesome.
“Oh… Right. That.”
“Fuggen righ’, tha’! Shi’ was li’e kla-blao!”
Twitch shimmied back and forth and twist-jumped in a circle.
“That, ah. I don’t know. I run around, you know, jump on things?”
Kid waved at a bench and a wall they were passing, then a block of four concrete steps sitting in the middle of the sidewalk, unconnected to anything.
“So, I just kinda ran, and jumped on him.”
“Like a ninja,” Twitch nodded, “Goo’ shi’.”
They walked a block further, and Twitch indicated an alley they were passing. Halfway down the alley Twitch stopped them by a dumpster. He held out a hand.
Kid tossed him the can.
Twitch swiped the can straight from the air into a vigorous shake, rattle rolling through the alley. A thumb popped the cap off the can, and as the other hand swept to snag the falling plastic, Twitch had already started making large sweeping gestures, punctuated halfway through by another rattling shake of the can.
“Key’s a swin’ big a’tha star’.”
Twitch’s head bounced over a shoulder to make sure that Kid was watching.
“I’s easy, jus’ t’ree sweeps, a hook a’tha’ en’ o’the firs’.”
The paint hissed against the wall as Twitch demonstrated.
“The secon’ is a kin’a swerve.”
Another line of paint joined the first, intersecting in three places.
“An’ y’wan’a brin’ y’ur han’in’ real close, here in’a middle, so the line’s smaller, see?”
A third line started with a checkmark toward the end opposite the hook of the first line, then swirling to encompass both the other two lines in a loop.
“An’ ther’ it’is.”
Twitch stepped back to look at his work, and nodded. He stepped back again, tossed the can to Kid, and dropped to squat against the side of the dumpster, waving at the boy to take a shot at duplicating the sign. Kid turned to look at the sign again, tracing the pattern with sweeps of the can through the air. Twitch kept talking as Kid tried making his own signs.
“So, this job, tho… I’s a fuggen shi’sho’. Whe’ Big sez, ‘jus’ aquir’d,’ wha’e means i’tha’ we sai’ we wan’it, so wer’ pu’in’ our signs all up in they shi’.”
Twitch nodded at the line Kid just drew.
“Tha’ one aien bad. So, li’e was sayin’, i’s us’ally a job for a grou’, t’ree, meybe fo’. Y’gotta shak’it, when it gives ou’li’e tha’. Sen’in’ you alone… Thin’s coul’ ge’tigh’.”
What do you think that means?
Maybe it’ll be difficult to carry all the paint we need by ourself?
Somehow I doubt that’s what he means.
Twitch looked at Kid’s third effort, smaller, maybe not as smooth, but recognizable.
“Tha’ one’ll do. Anythin’ li’e tha’ll ge’tha poin’ across. Keep y’ur head up, yeah?”
Kid popped the proffered cap back on the paint, gave the can a quick flip, nodded at Twitch and headed back toward the closest entrance to the underground after a moment Twitch turned and walked the other way.
Ok. What do we know?
I missed this game!
Well, the Internet said that the street we need to tag is on the south side of the downtown, and that we have to tag the south side of these three blocks.
With a flicker a map of the city appeared in the midsts of the memory cavern, then zoomed to a three dimensional representation of the street in question, the northern side shaded red, the southern shaded blue.
I’ve been practicing. It is handy to have an accurate city map available when the big guy switches navigation to the autopilot. Or when we try blind drops off rooftops.
I didn’t mean it like I admire your artistry, so much as a leading comment hoping you’d explain why one half of the street is a different color than the other. Or even better why they have colors at all.
Right. Earlier when we asked the Internet about gang territories in Seattle, and found that real sweet map that highlights where all of the gangs mark their respective turf?
Yeah, that was cool!
Another flicker as all the buildings shrank when the map’s perspective pulled back, revealing a collection of blocks shaded red forming the shape of an abused boot abutted against a blue tinted group shaped like a cupped mitten.
The street we need to paint is right in between the areas with the signage dominated by two gangs: One Blood and the C’City Crew.
Ah, the red and the blue. I get it.
Yeah. So the B’s, our guys, I guess, have the Terrace, here on the edge of the downtown. These other guys, they are further south over by this other water, the lake, over there. And Seattle Boulevard…
Sections of the map brightened and faded in accompaniment of the narrative, ending with the initial close view of the blocks in question.
Is right in the middle.
Yeah. Same page now.
So what’s the plan?
Um, go paint it up, right?
The sign doesn’t seem too difficult.
Maybe cover up some of C’s signs?
Yeah, fuck those guys!
Wait, back up. First, we don’t even know those guys. But more important, how do we get there?
Twitch didn’t seem to like them, I don’t have to like them. And maybe we could get there underground?
I don’t know if the underground goes that far. None of the parts we’ve seen do.
And the Above Ground?
We haven’t really mapped that out so well. I mean, we know that we can get to these buildings.
The map flickered into the more distant view to represent the area of the city a dozen blocks in each direction. A few buildings lit up in green, all in the northwerternmost quadrant of the map, none closer than three blocks from the destination.
But I’m not that sure about the rest of those. We haven’t gone that far south a lot.
Or at all.
We should really look into mapping the Above like we have the underground.
I’m working on it.
So we handle most of this on foot? So we are in pretty much the exact situation we were joining to try and avoid?
I was thinking predictable.