I watch the stock market feed on the square’s monitor. Three stories tall, the monitor can be seen for twenty blocks. No one can afford private monitors anymore. This is where we get the news. That and the black-market feeds. I wonder, as the rain drips from my broken umbrella down my upturned coat collar, if the feed is right. Or if the black-market is right. Or if it is all a bunch of crap and we’re all being fed a bunch of lies.
More likely it’s all lies.
That’s what ma told me long ago. I believe her. She passed a year ago but she told it true. Always. She had a knack. She could spot a lie a mile away. I wish I had her gift. It would come in handy, it would.
I rubbed my calf. It was hot, and a lump, I was sure. I shook it off. No one could pause for something like a lump. I couldn’t stand around. I had a route and a package. It had to go where it needed to go.
That was another of Ma’s sayings. By way of meaning, do what had to be done. I said I’d do it and by dang, it had to be done. I could feel her hand clouting my head when I’d said one and did another. She didn’t hold truck with that. So now, if I said, I did. Despite the lump.
I run. The monitor news runs through my head. Aliens, they say. Something about aliens. I think that’s a bunch of crap. I think it’s just the posh making it all someone else’s fault. Yep. Why else all the hype. I dodge a youngling beggin’ in the street. More and more of those, and oldsters. But what the hell. They’re no competition to me.
The lump in my leg aches. I ignore it. I can’t make my credits if I’m not moving.
I bound around a rickshaw, then a scooter. They carry people. Ugh. I can’t imagine. What a pain, the people constantly bitching about every damn thing. Better to be a messenger. I just carry small packages, envelopes. Fast! Quick! Snappy! That’s me! That’s until my leg gives way.
I roll. Quick, so no one sees. Like I just tripped on something. The leg aches. The damn lump! But I move on. No one pays a slow messenger. Three blocks to go. A barrier across the street. Criminy’s sake! Another parade? What is wrong with the leaders? Don’t they know what they’re doing? I shove through. I don’t give a crap about who ever I knock down. I need to get this envelope to the address.
Three blocks I shove, elbow, knee. They need to get out of my way. I deliver the message, breathing like my lungs will explode. The secretary gives me a pitiful two credit tip. I push her flowers over and water spills all over her desk and onto her suit. Serves her right. I’ve just run twenty blocks through a parade! She should have more manners.
My comms beep. I have another client, three blocks away. I hurry to the site. Just like every other day.
Six months later I’m in my crib. Bed-wide and two feet longer than the mattress, I lay in pain. I’ve braced my leg up on the top of my crib. My upper neighbor doesn’t’ like it. He’s complained to the owner about the stench, but the owner doesn’t give a flip. What’s it to him? As long as I pay the rent, I can rot in here.
That’s what I’m doing. Rotting. I can’t run. I can’t even walk. On my better days I roll out of this damn cage and pull myself out to the sidewalk. Not an easy feat as I’m three cages high, but I do it. My saved tips won’t last forever.
I make the bandage look extra gross with beet juice but lately that’s not really required. It’s bad enough all on its own. I can just see the neighborhood monitor from the stoop. It’s election season. The monitor is full of the jack-asses claims to help. Damn! What a bunch of crap. Who are they helping? Not people like me. Not people with long-term illness. Not people who can’t pay for medicine. Not people who need a living wage. Damn. I’ve never voted. Never had the chance.
But really. Why would I? Those people aren’t about me. They’re about the rich. The ultra-rich. The people who can buy health. The people who don’t worry about lumps in their legs. The people who I used to run messages for.
I’ll be dead in another six months. The owner will sell off my pitiful belongings and another poor sap will take my crib. And no one cares. Not even me.