Art by Jason C. Eckhardt
by Doug Allyn
The traffic was murder. With only seven shopping days left till Christmas, downtown Detroit was humming like a hive. Big-box stores and mom-and-pop shops were ablaze with holiday displays, caroling angels, glittering trees, fat Santas. Bell ringers with buckets hovered in every second doorway, clanging away, hoping to lure in the shoppers who were slogging through the slush, focused on their phones.
At the wheel of the Daily Maid passenger van, Ali Brooks was having his usual meltdown, griping at the traffic, griping at pedestrians in general and the handicapped in particular.
“Yo! Bitch! The damn sign says Don’t Walk! You blind? What’s up wit’ you?” Two elderly women, one using a walker, were frozen on the center line with traffic blasting past them from both directions, horns blaring. Ali leaned on his horn as he passed, shaking his fist out the window.
“Hey, retard!” Leon Broussard snapped from the shotgun seat. “Dial down the noise, eh? We’re supposed to keep a low profile.”
“Tell that to the next jerk I run over because the stupid bastard don’t look where—”
“Hey, guys?” Kelli McCoy called from the back of the van. “Could you slow it down? I’m getting carsick.”
Neither man paid any attention to her. There were a dozen uniformed maids in the back of the passenger van, six on each side on the long bench seats, facing each other across a narrow aisle. Mostly middle-aged, some married, some not, chattering away like a gaggle of geese. Kelli was new to this job, young, blond, and perky. Didn’t really fit in. Up front, Ali and Broussard were still carping at each other, cursing the pedestrians—
“C’mon guys, pull it the hell over for a sec,” Kelli said, standing up unsteadily, “I gotta puke.”
“Swallow it down!” Broussard snapped, swiveling in his seat to glare at her. “We can’t stop in the middle of damn rush hour.”
“Fine, keep going! I’ll crack the rear door and barf out the back,” Kelli said, duck-walking to the rear of the van.
“Don’t open that door!” Broussard yelled.
Too late! Throwing the back door open wide, Kelli leapt out of the van! She landed on her feet, but the streets were slick and she went down hard on the slippery pavement, sliding under the van as Ali jammed on the brakes—
Which saved her life.
The Chevy sedan behind them slammed into the van’s rear bumper with a crunch and a shriek of rending metal.
In a total panic now, Kelli wriggled out from beneath the two crumpled vehicles, their bumpers jammed together by the crash.
“Sweet Jesus, lady!” the second driver shouted, ashen-faced, shaken to his shoes at the sight of a bloodied woman suddenly appearing from under his car. READ MORE
Art by Laurie Harden
by Liz Cody
I was standing with five other people, arms linked, protecting a man dressed as a giant cauliflower who had superglued himself to Lambeth Bridge. The vegetable needed our protection: We’d all seen on Facebook how rough the police had been to climate protesters in the first two days of the action. Previous actions had passed off quite amicably, so no one had expected brute force.
While I was linked, I couldn’t protect my possessions and I watched, helpless, while the cops confiscated my tent, my bedroll, my wash bag, my spare underwear, and the thick woolly I wear at night. They broke my tent pole and my radio.
The irony was that the cops were damaging the equipment they had bought and paid for themselves. My name is Shareen Manasseh, police officer Shareen Manasseh, and I was employed by the Metropolitan Police to infiltrate a group of climate-change rebels. Six months ago we, the police, had been caught napping by imaginative, energetic climate rebels who had brought London to a standstill. Our bosses were left with egg on their faces as far as the media were concerned. And, ever sensitive to their public image, they decided, this time, to take a much tougher stand and get ahead of the game.
“Expletive deleted!” yelled Boxer, shocked at the aggression. “Can they do that?” He was almost as new to the game as I was, but much younger and far less cynical.
“They think they can,” said the cauliflower. “And that’s what counts.”
So the five of us protecting him watched, dismayed, as our temporary homes were destroyed. They even dismantled the kitchen tent and carried away the pots and pans that had fed nearly forty of us who had come to the capital from the West Country.
I hadn’t asked for the assignment. As usual, I was simply dropped in it a couple of months ago and sent, no argument permitted, to Bristol. The property officer said, “I am issuing quality camping gear. Try not to get it wet. You are house-trained, aren’t you, Shareen?”
I glared at him.
He was pleased enough with himself to add, “And here’s your vegan cookbook. From now on it’s adzuki beans and tofu for you, my girl. Don’t let anyone see you with a pork chop or they’ll kick you out of the movement.”
This was insult combined with prejudice. I opened my mouth to protest, but seeing his expectant leer, I shut it again.
“And them upstairs are suggesting you get a tattoo,” he went on. “You want to fit in with the other crusties, don’t you?”
“No,” I said flatly. “No tattoos, no piercings. It’s a cultural thing.”
The property sergeant looked genuinely surprised. This was not a familiar prohibition like the one against unclean meat.
“I didn’t think you believed in all that rubbish,” he said. READ MORE