“Well,” said Moira, breaking the silence. “I guess Operation Titty Dancer was a bust.”
I sat on the sofa and put my head in my hands. “I have no control over anything that is going on,” I mourned. “I haven’t done anything right. I’ve lost entire people. I just need to stop doing things and admit the truth.” I looked up at Moira and Lynn. “I don’t know what to do,” I stated. “That’s the damned truth.”
“No shit.” Mike came out of the bathroom, wrapped in several towels. “In more ways that one, no shit,” he said, gestured at his newly clean self. Bethel plopped down at his feet, looking miffed that Mike had washed the best part of himself, in her opinion, down the shower drain. “Nobody knows what to do. Nobody got a manual in advance. Nobody sat on their Grandpappy’s knee and listened to stories about surviving in a city when giant birds attacked. You are just upset,” Mike finished, “because you are a stage manager and nobody is following a script. Well, there isn’t a script.” He picked up his backpack and went back to the bathroom to get dressed. Bethel came to sit with me and actually seemed mildly interested in my distress.
“Mike’s lovely theatre metaphor aside, I might have gotten us kicked out of here,” I informed Moira and Lynn. “Bob saw us on the street. He told Kat and Kate that they need to watch the company they keep.”
“Boy, you really suck,” Moira said. “Not good enough for the Navy and not good enough for coochie show girls, either. You aren’t actually in charge of us, you know. Last time I checked, there was no leader. If anything, Jonathan was the boss, and that’s just because he hands us our pay checks.”
I was starting to feel a little better, if a little embarrassed by my sudden, dramatic, self important outburst. At that moment, Kate stuck her head in the door, “Ah. Hi. Um, you guys have to leave. Kat made me sneak down during a break so you’d have some night left to find a safe place. The bouncers are going to kick you out at daybreak, if you are still here. Blessed be.” She shut the door.
Moira turned to me. “This is your fault,” she said.
Lynn decided to go her own way. It seemed to be for the best. She knew how to live alone on the streets. She could keep right on doing that. We loaded Jonathan’s backpack with Spam and a carton a cigarettes for her. Before she stepped out the door, she shyly asked if she could take some typing paper and some pencils.
“Take ’em,” Moira said, “but I never want to see what you draw again.” Then, she actually hugged Lynn. Mike and I hugged her, too.
“See ya’ on the street,” Lynn said. And she was gone.
Moira, Mike, and I weren’t sure what to take. We knew what we wanted to take, which was everything we’d brought into the apartment with us and a little besides, but we just couldn’t carry it all, not unless we took the cable hamper. We sure didn’t want to leave all of the food and the other stuff. It was really all we had.
We stood staring at the hamper for a while until Mike said, “I think I know how we can take it. I don’t know how far we’ll get before someone takes it from us and shoves a boot up our ass, but we might be able to hang onto it for a little while.”
Mike’s plan involved one of us looking sick. Really sick. The “sick” person would ride in the hamper. The other two would push the hamper and beg for help for their sick friend. Begging in NYC affords you an amazing amount of privacy. People look the other way. Illness wasn’t going to be very attractive either, considering the current state of health care in the city. It would hopefully be an invisibility cloak, if it worked.
However, even if beggars carrying plague did ward off people, it wasn’t going to ward off the giant birds any better than our damned mirror box had. Our only hope was to avoid people long enough to find a place to hide from the birds before the sun rose.