I overslept this morning from being out so late last night and from the eternal darkness of the common room I was sleeping in. Even so, I was one of the first ones up. These city people sure sleep late.
When I got to the hospital, the breakfasts had already been doled out and I had to beg the lady in the cafeteria for something to take to Ishkin. She grumbled that I should pay for “proper nursing” if I wasn’t going to do it right, but finally gave me his tray. She may have a point. If this job with Vince starts interfering with my ability to care for Ishkin, I’ll have to find a way to pay for the nurses to do everything.
Ishkin was a little better today. He’s still twitching, but I was able to rub some of the cramps out of his feet and legs, which had been impossible before. He was all knotted up again by dinner, but I rubbed everything out again then, too. He can talk a little, now that the spasms in his throat have subsided. I wouldn’t let him talk about anything too serious, though. He shouldn’t be worrying about things, and besides, I don’t have any answers to his questions about when he’ll be well, or anything else. I reassured him, though, that his horse was fine and no, the hospital didn’t cost too much.
In the afternoon, I went to the communications place, but the man didn’t have any messages for me. He said that there had been no signal from the ham in Castaño, but that he’d try again, for a fee. I was a little surprised at this, since I thought the price I paid yesterday covered that. But he said no, it was one amount for the first try, and a smaller amount each time after, should the first message not go through. This seemed a little unfair, but I didn’t want to argue with the man and maybe he explained all this yesterday and I just didn’t understand. I’m not used to city ways, except that I know they charge for everything. I paid a couple coins for him to try again, and left.
Then I checked on the horses and went back to Vince’s headquarters. I tried to strike up a conversation with Gitana, since I figured making friends with her would be a good move, but she only gave short answers, turned her back on me and started playing with her kitten. So I hung out with the guys for awhile, not saying much and just trying to get an idea what this group is all about. After awhile, one of them brought out a radio and we listened to a real radio program from a station, not a ham. I hadn’t heard an actual broadcast since I was a kid, but it seemed like no big deal to these guys, so I tried to act like it wasn’t all that special to me, either, although I could’ve listened to those faraway songs and voices for hours.
All too soon, I had to go back to the hospital. Sara came in while I was feeding Ishkin some soup.
“How are things going with your new job?”
“It’s all right,” I said. “Not much money yet, but everyone has to start at the bottom and prove themselves.”
Sara nodded and began switching out the bottle on Ishkin’s tube. “I don’t like the business Vince is in, but I have no real room for complaint.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s how he put me through nursing school. When our parents died, he said he’d take care of me, no matter what. I had hoped that once I was working he would get into something less dangerous, but whenever I say anything about it he just says he’s not ready to be a respectable citizen, and then he laughs, like it’s a joke.”
“You can get to a point where fighting really is all you know,” I said. “I’ve been trying to do something different for nearly a month, with no luck at all.”
“Iit can take a lot longer than a month to find a good job. And you’ve been traveling. It helps to have a proper address, you know.”
I acknowledged that this was true, and our conversation turned to more ordinary things. After she left, Ishkin looked at me. “What kind of work are you doing?”
“Paid work. Don’t you worry about it.”
“It’s something dangerous, isn’t it?” He turned away and sighed. “I’ll get better soon and I’ll pay you back.”
I patted his hand. “You don’t have to pay me back for anything. Just help out the next person who seems deserving, okay? That’s how we’re going to make the world a good place to live in again.”
Vince has us going on another mission tonight. It sounds like really small potatoes. All we have to do is guard a warehouse while some other people take things out. We’re not even involved in the movement of goods this time. We’ve been hired to just stand around and keep an eye out for anything suspicious. I don’t know why Vince took this client on, but maybe he gets a lot of other business from this guy, or maybe it’s a night he couldn’t have found us any other paid work. We’re all just mercenaries, and the money has to come from somewhere.
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