fix you 2
Gary didn’t want to go out and play. He was small for his age. They could fix that his dad had said, but they didn’t have the money, and anyway you are who you were. There was nothing to do and nowhere to go. But he didn’t want to stay in either. The only warm room was the kitchen. That was where his dad was and he was always fussing about, trying to get him to do things that was good for him.
When the door chapped Gary hoped it would be his mother, but it never was.
‘Wee Mikey to see you.’ Dad led him through the hall into the kitchen, a note of triumph in his voice that his son had friends.
Mikey had ginger hair and was wee like Gary, but older by three years. He scooted round the kitchen table, hips pushed against the sink and looked out the window at the same view of falling snow that he had from the house above theirs as if he had never seen it before. ‘It’s snowing,’ Mikey said. His face shone with excitement and he was encased in a greenish tinged quilted jacket and coat that was too big for him. ‘You want to go out?’
Gary eyed him warily. There was no telling what Mikey would do next. School had given up on him, as had most adults, but not his dad.
‘Sure he does.’ Dad answered for Gary in that sugar-coated voice as if they were still babies. Trailing away he fetched his son’s coat.
Mikey smirked. Head turning from side to side, looking for something, anything, which grabbed his attention.
‘What’d you want to do?’ asked Gary.
The question seemed to catch Mikey unaware. He clattered a soup spoon up and down on the table. ‘Dunno,’ he said. ‘What do you want to do?’
‘Nothin,’ said Gary. ‘I might just stay in.’
‘Rubbish,’ said Dad, appearing at his back. ‘It’ll do you good to get outside. Dad held the arms of his quilted coat out like an invitation. ‘Get some fresh air. At least that’s free.’ A stupid joke that only he laughed at, cajoling and prodding his son until he found himself shepherded with Mikey up the hall and outside their Block.
Gary sulked and pulled up his hood. Mikey leaned backwards, holding his mouth open and his arms out, letting snow drift into his mouth. It had already covered most of the roads and paths, the air crisp and sharp, fleecing the bushes, making near seem far and far seem near as it obliterated landmarks replacing them with stretched white dull bumps. The windows above them were dark, but light in the glittering snow.
Mikey took off, skating down the path, tumbling and laughing too much as Gary trudged behind him as he cut down into Risk Street. Mikey scooped snow off the top of the bins that had been left out for collection and lobbed a snow ball at him. It fell short of the mark, but Mikey had already armed himself with another, and with a whoop flung it and it slid off the side of his jacket. Gary ducked down sheltering behind the bins, gathering snow into balls, ignoring the burn of cold in frozen fingers and the redness creeping into his cheeks. He attacked with glee, smashing snowball after snowball against Mikey’s shoulder and back, before running away and retreating to his bunker stronghold behind the bins. They tagged back and forth, making strategic forays out and in of each other’s territory, the war won and unwon at different times.
‘What you doing? Linda-two-heads appeared like a stray thought before them, framed against a smudge of stairs. Moist brown eyes catching the light in golden crescents, her pretty face peeking out of an all-in-one pastel blue suit, disarmed them.
‘Nothin’,’ Gary said, but he couldn’t look at her without grinning.
‘But why are you flinging freezing liquid projectiles at each other?’ Linda-two-heads stood very still and spoke very precisely. ‘Don’t you know it’s dangerous and you can get hurt?’
‘Nah,’ said Mikey, kicking falling snow in her direction. She took a step backward.
‘Stop that,’ she said, her chin jutting out, ‘or I’ll need to contact the appropriate authorities, for your safety and my own’.
She was repeating a meme looped in her head by the state protectorate services to those hard wired into the system. Neither Mikey nor Gary’s parents could afford the upgraded bio-implants that offered such protection.
‘Aye, stop it.’ Gary pushed Mikey’s shoulder as he gathered a snow ball, the smaller boy stumbling and falling into the snow. ‘Or you’ll be sorry.’
A snow ball whacked against the back of his head, falling into his hood and trickling uncomfortably down the back of his neck. Gary shivered, and spun round to deal with his adversary. Mikey had slunk away to where the snow was thickest against the kerb and was frantically kicking up snow to make armaments, his eyes shining in delight.
A shrill piping noise coming from Linda-two-heads startled them. She rocked back and forth tightly clutching her hands close to her chest, her eyes like that of a porcelain doll shuttling from side to side. ‘I’ll need to report in. I’ll need to report it. I’ll need to report in,’ she prattled.
Gary and Mikey eyed each other, faces frozen in fear, ready to run.
‘It’s ok, Linda, nobody is goin’ to hurt you.’ Gary tried talking her down the way his dad did to him when he was having bad dreams. ‘Nobody is going to hurt you Linda. Honest. Nobody is going to hurt you.’ He slipped across to where she stood. Her eyes stopped travelling inwards and sideways. Bright blue irises focussed so intensely on his face he found himself blinking and taking her warm hands in his. ‘We were just playin’.’
‘Playing?’ she said, in that clear voice.
‘Yeh, playin’, said Mikey. He sneaked up and stood at Gary’s back. ‘Playin’. We could show you.’
‘Yes, show me,’ she said. Up close she smelled clean as toothpaste. Gary tugged her arm pulling her towards the bin area where Mikey had stacked his ammo.
‘Look,’ said Gary. He picked up a snowball and smacked it hard against the bin. ‘It can’t hurt you—try it!’
Muscles flexed in her calf, delicate ankles, she took a tentative step forward and picked up a snowball. ‘It’s cold,’ she said.
‘For god sake fling the thing,’ said Mikey. He skated a snowball off the far away bin, bits of snow sparking away.
Limp wristed, Linda-two-heads floundered as she flung a snow ball, and it dropped a few feet away. ‘Wow,’ she said. ‘That’s amazing. My heart beat is up thirty percent and endorphins are flooding my body. So that’s playing?’
‘Aye,’ said Mikey, grinning at her. ‘Maybe we could play with you?’
At the bottom of the street the waste-disposal unit executed an abrupt turn and beetled up towards them through falling snow. Stopping at the first bin area down the street they stood with their arms at their side watching as two long slits opened like eyes on top of the vehicle and an antennae flickered out. With balletic precision it hooked one of the bins and lifted it up into the air and into the back. A few seconds later the bin popped out, placed back into the same position, waste processed. A sonic pulse. The next bin in line followed its partner and the next.
Mikey scudded a snowball off the waste-disposal unit. Everything came to a stop. A raised aperture in the structure slid open, drones flickered into view and took flight.
‘Don’t run,’ said Linda-two-heads. ‘The drones will easily catch you. They won’t hurt you. They’re just protection against subversives and antisocials. They’re not programmed to hurt us. Just stand still and they’ll scan you and let you go.’
Mikey bolted up towards the stairs, an insectoid buzz darting after him. He slipped, his body falling like a hinge as the drones hovered above his head and he began crying, ‘I didn’t mean it. Honest I didn’t mean any harm.’
Gary was running towards him before he knew what he was doing. ‘Leave my mate alone,’ he shouted, skating and flopping on top of Mikey and covering his head with his own as the drones attacked.