Monday, June 11, 2007


As promised, the carriage came for them at seven. It was a rusty thing, made from an old truck chassis, but the seats were covered with sheepskin, and the tires were almost new. Diana kept a shawl wrapped modestly over her chest as she climbed in, and Amalia settled in beside her. "If we handle things right," she said as the driver turned the horses toward town, "We should be able to get a lot of information tonight. Be sure to get out there and meet people."

"Don't worry," Dell said, "We like those Lone Star girls, don't we, Boeing?"

"They seem to know how to have a good time."

"You need to mingle with all the groups, not just Lone Star," Amalia said. "And remember to seek out the people who seem shy. Sometimes they're the easiest to get talking because they're grateful to make a friend." She gave Boeing a firm look. "I want to see you talking to at least one ugly girl each hour. Be nice, flatter them, dance with them..."

"That doesn't sound like fun. I'm sure pretty girls know just as much."

"And are much less likely to fall for your imagined charms. Just one per hour. It won't kill you."

"Okay. Anything for Unitas, right?"

"So does that mean I have to dance with ugly men?" Diana asked.

"The uglier and more socially inept, the better. They'll be so thrilled to have a pretty girl pay attention that you should have no trouble getting information out of them."

"You might be able to pick their pockets, too," Dell added.

"There's an idea," Boeing said. "Then we can have a real party and only invite the attractive people."

"I'm not financing your romances," Diana told him.

"It's only a romance if you're playing for keeps. Otherwise it's just a good time."

"I'll remember you said that."

"I hope you do."

"That's enough," Amalia said. "I know it's a party and you want to have fun, but don't forget your training. This is work, not play. And remember, most of the people there will by trying to pull the same tricks on you." She looked at Boeing. "That means the pretty girls from Lone Star, too."

"I know. I don't tell tales."

"See that you don't. If you think you won't be able to hold your tongue, don't drink. I'd rather buy some whiskey to take back to the safe house than for any of you to have a few too many and forget yourselves."

"Anything else?" Boeing asked in annoyance. "I've been on spy missions to bars and parties before, and so has Dell."

"Yeah," Dell said, "And last time, you wasted the entire evening carrying on with a Hispanos Unidos girl who only wanted information and turned out not to be interested in you at all."

"Well, at least neither one of us got what we wanted."

"Just look out for each other," Amalia said in exasperation. "Try to make eye contact with each other at least every half hour, okay?"

"That should be easy enough." Boeing let his gaze drift back to Diana, who ignored him and stared out the window.

"Do you see it yet?" Dell asked.

"We're almost there. It looks like some sort of outdoor pavilion."

Amalia leaned over Diana's shoulder to get a look. "It's an old basketball court, I think."

That didn't mean anything to Diana. "A lot of people are already here. It's going to be a big party."

"I just want to know what they have to eat," Dell said. "We haven't had anything since noon."

"It looks like there'll be no shortage of food." Amalia's gaze wandered toward a group of ragged, dusty people just on the other side of a line of guards. "I hope they plan to give whatever is left over to the refugees."

Diana nodded. "There's a lot of them tonight."

"They smell the food. It's got to be hard on them seeing us eating and having a good time while they're starving."

"That's why I'm armed," Boeing said, patting his pistol. "Got to protect my privileges."

"You're no more worthy than they are," Dell told him. "We're just luckier."

"Maybe you are. I put myself in a lot of danger trying to win rights for these mangy scavengers."

"That's some way to talk," Diana said.

She was about to go on when Amalia ended the matter. "That's enough out of all of you. But for the grace of God, any one of us could among them."


Alice Audrey said...

So sad to see that such great institutions as basketball have fallen to the wayside.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

In Tin Soldier and Diana's Diary I have football fields converted into markets. Professional sports are a luxury the post-petroleum world can't afford. Diana finds the very idea of people paying good money to watch grown men play ball games ludicrous.

Alice Audrey said...

I love the short you wrote about her reaction.