And that’s when I punch Red Fury in the face.
Red laughs, wiping his bloody lip on his suit, and smiles. With a casual flex, the Chicago hero’s monkey suit comes ripping off, revealing what the local press calls his “billion-dollar physique”. The testosterone is flowing like the fricking Amazon.
The party is aghast, but spellbound. Within a minute, we’re wrestling, and rolling on the marble floor. Dancing under the chandeliers, Red and I, the best way we know how. The dance of muscle and blood, and man, is there a lot of muscle locked in that embrace, the pain waltz.
Man, I can’t stand the guy. And the feeling’s mutual. I’ve wanted to hit him in the face for twenty years. I think he’s wanted to kick my ass just as long. Bad Craig, bad role-model!
Say goodbye to that tuxedo. Johnny Versace might weep; We’re as shirtless as sex now. I’m glad Alex or Faye isn’t here. The two men who were voted “sexiest superhero alive” by Uncaped (four out of the last five years) are now acting like a pair of kids, rolling on the floor. We don’t even throw a punch, we just wrestle, we just try to show the other who’s stronger. There’s a lot of grunting, us idiots. Twenty years ago, when Red beat the shit out of me during that one “misunderstanding” between the Peacekeepers and the Northern Guard, he was clearly the stronger party, but now we’re about even. Thank you, Jaye, for the power boost. You may be killing me with this radiation-filled brawn but being strong enough to match Red and give him a taste of his own medicine is worth a slow, painful death.
“Oh, so you’re putting up a fight, Carson,” Red hoots, mocking me.
“The question is… can you?” I snarl back. Yes, folks, ask your doctor if overdosing on testosterone is right for you. Responsible doctors will say no.
“Craig!” Justiciar exclaims, the lone hero to dare stepping between two titans, and pulls me to my feet., I’m puffing and sweating. I’ll never say Red isn’t ridiculously strong. Red is up as well, puffing and grinning like a madman, his emerald eyes twinkling twilight stars in the ballroom night. He’s laughing.
“What’s the matter, Carson? Didn’t like losing the auction? Didn’t like losing the fight?” He mocks. He’s bouncing like a boxer in a dance, like Muhammed Ali. He’s practically giddy.
“He’s not worth it, Craig,” David says. “Let’s get out of here. Now.”
“Trump needs to put a tariff on you!” Red goads.
I bristle. David pulls back on me, giving me just a slight jostle to disrupt my concentration, and the deathstare I’m shooting Red at the moment. Probably a good thing, as I can see the sparks encroach on the edge of my vision, and that alkaline, electric taste in my mouth. “Let’s go, Craig. Now!” he yells. At least his suit is still intact.
Oh, superhero parties. Caprice could learn a few things about mayhem from you.
“This is long overdue,” I spit, and a lump of blood stains the marble. I didn’t think he tagged me that hard, I guess he did. I leap at him, and he teleports away at the last moment. He rematerializes behind me, gives me a shove, and I end up facedown, kissing the marble.
Sexy boy laughs even harder. David, who’s also glaring at the jerk, helps me to my feet.
“Aw, Justajerk to the rescue.” Red sneers at Justiciar. As usual, David, his anger as chill as winter, won’t allow himself to be baited. Me, on the other hand, I’m a little easier to incite.
‘Hey Carson,” he adds. “When you’re finished with your boyfriend, why don’t we settle up? Warden’s Gym, you and me. Black room. Winner take all.”
The Black Room. I’ve heard about that place. “What, we’re going to kill each other?” I ask, scoffing.
“No. A long hospital stay should suffice.” Red grins. “But I’m going to own you, Carson.”
“I’m not for sale,” I growl back, bristling. Testosterone was fun when you let yourself go! “Give me a time to be there…”
“Craig….” David warns.
I shoot David a glance. I love you, David, but you’re not my team leader anymore, it says. The man sighs. I know he understands, but still he sighs. Still he registers his disapproval.
“7 pm tomorrow.” Red smirks, puffing his magnificent chest.
“Let’s do this,” I snap. And the deal is consummated.
“For Firehammer,” he snaps at me. “I’m going to beat the shit out of you, Carson. I just wish your ladyfriend was still alive to watch." That one hits hard. It's a cheap shot, but effective. "Get some rest Carson. It’ll be your last pain-free sleep for a long time.”
5 PM, the next day.
Now I was just Lance Callahan. The brawl at the auction had long ended. Carson had given me a swollen lip and a s
ollen eye; it had been awhile since anyone had done that to me, not with their fists.
“The Canadian golden boy’s gotten a bit tougher,” I say to my dead pal, laying his flowers on the grave. White orchids,
they were slightly fluorescent, from the Cosmic Garden of the Green Gardener. Three years ago, the Peacekeepers had spared the cosmic garden from the Blight, and the Gardener had rewarded each of the Chicago heroes with a bloom. Man, was that ever an adventure. Man, was that ever a garden. Since then Lance had cultivated its blossoms into a small garden of his own – all for flowers for the graves of dead teammates.
Thirty years of superheroing. I have a lot of graves to decorate. Orchids, lilies, and lilacs are becoming a big part of my life, and roses were next. Whoever would have expected that from a scrappy kid from the South Side?
“Hi buddy,” I say. “There’s a big one coming up. One that’s been a long time coming. I guess I could use your blessing, from way up there.”
The grave stares back at me. Rain droplets are starting to splatter on me, like paint.
“It might be a fun scrap. I hope it is.” I smile. “I could use one after those vampires we faced last month. No offense to the dead,” he added to the grave. “Vampires suck you know. In every possible way.”
Silence. Silent smiles from the fallen, and memories of the broken. Silent tears fall. I swallow hard. Lumps in one’s throat, part of a veteran superhero’s daily unbalanced diet. Did Carson cry as often? He always seemed so composed in public. It was fun to rub off the veneer of that jackass. Canadians have so much veneer, it was hard not to scratch them with the slightest contact.
“Hope you like the flowers.” I tell the dead. “And I hope you like what I’ll do to Carson more. I haven’t forgotten. The kid stood by while his bitch of a teammate killed you.” Mentor, friend, and almost lover. “But I’m sure you remember. The dead have memories etched in their eyes, or so I’ve heard. Twenty years ago, that fight I had with him, I was just getting started. Now I get to put on the finishing touches. I’m going to beat the man until he weeps. Until he begs me to forgive him for the part he played in your death. Then I’m going to drag him here and make him beg to your grave. Then you can rest a little easier.”
Portentously, the lightning fell. That was one Hell of a coincidence. Maybe the storm wasn’t on Carson’s side for a change?
“At least I hope it makes a difference. You deserve it.”
More lightning. Chicago storms. They kick and dance around you, and holler louder than a drunk at a riot. Windier than a pol giving a stump speech.
“He’s become a bigshot now. He’s no longer that awkward lumbering kid we met years ago: he’s one helluva handsome specimen of the male animal, at least until I get through with him. You’d have appreciated the man-candy. He carries himself way better than he did when you were still running around. But then so do I, so it should be a good scrap. I can tell you one thing, it’s going to be vicious. Hero fights always seem to be, y’know, way nastier than hero vs. villain.”
The wind was picking up; although in Chicago, you only really notice the wind when it dies down.
You better be careful this time, Red,
something on the wind says. Ghosts?
This is a poor alternative to bringing him back. But at least it’s something.
“Southside, buddy. Southside. We rock. There ain’t no Canuck who can touch us.” I smile, clenching my fists.
How did this mess happen?
I’m in my hotel room at Soho House near the Fulton Market. Nice rooms: comfortable woods, and a sweet poster bed. I lie on the bed as if looking up at the stars.
I don’t really know the man. The people who do know Red say he’s a standup guy, rugged and a little rough, but genuine. He’s the sort of man that I’m usually friends with. His rep is near spotless.
I’m constantly revisiting 1994, which, like most of my non-Hell memories, feels like “a little ways back”. Funny how those work.
You can blame Mechanon, Mk. XIII. Or as we called him: Technomancer. Yes, he was the one Mechanon model to experiment with sorcery. He took control of Lyle’s battlesuit, the Forceknight III armor, and he went on a technopathically-controlled rampage in Chicago. The Peacekeepers confronted him just off the Magnificent Mile. We tried to be reasonable – especially Billy (that is Ravenspeaker) who was insistent that hero should never fight hero, but they mocked us and worse. For our part, most of us were happy to kick the ass of American loudmouths and avenge our team leader. While Ravenspeaker frantically negotiated with the Peacekeepers’ native American member, the Kickapoo, the fight continued and Anne impaled Firehammer on an ice lance. A fluke interaction of powers, the wrong vulnerability at the wrong time. I was standing next to her as it happened. I was the one who felt for Hammer’s pulse, and, not finding it, pronounced him dead. Man, did my voice quaver. It was surreal, like I was listening to someone else pronounce the words. My gloves, normally canary yellow, were crimson. Anne was aghast, as you might expect. She always saw herself as above such consequence.
I’d never been responsible for a hero’s death before. Not even tangentially, not even in SUNDER, and that was a far more of a rough and tumble crowd than the somewhat more responsible Guard. Later, we were exonerated, and the record wiped clean. Mechanon received the blame for poor Firehammer’s death, one more added to his list of atrocities. But Firehammer was dead, and we couldn’t change that, not even Billy. Red Fury was no fan of the deal that exonerated us, and though it’s been decades, he’s never forgiven us, especially me. We’ve brushed shoulders a few times over the years; Red’s made quite a few disparaging remarks, which I’ve ignored.
I’ve tried to look at the situation from his point of view. I’m sure I’d be pissed if I were in his shoes. I’ve tried to apologize, but he’s just brushed me aside. Part of me can’t blame him. Another part of me says that a quarter century is way too long to hold onto a grudge, and we need to resolve this shit. Especially if I’m leading the Protectors. No one wins if there’s a schism between Millennium and Chicago’s premier superteams, except for villains like Kostadin.
“Not in costume tonight?” David asks, seeing me start to don some red MMA-style trunks.
“I wear the flagsuit to remind myself I’m a foreigner on US soil,” I explain. “I don’t need the reminder tonight. Plus, the flags we wear are kinda a matched set for the two of us, and I don’t want you you associated with this mess.”
“I am involved. I was part of the team,” David says.
“You tried to stop it, at least until Mechanon froze you.” I tell Justiciar. “I didn’t. As far as I – and he – is concerned, I own what happened. And he may have a point.”
“Don’t go guilting yourself, Craig.”
I shake my head. “I was a dumb kid who made a lot of stupid mistakes,” I say.
“You were my first friend after I awoke,” David replies. “You were the one who dragged me out of the abyss where Cyberlord left me. So don’t you dare talk to me about mistakes. You’ve always been next to faultless in my book.”
Faultless. As usual, David is being way too kind with me.
I shouldn’t be working out this close to the fight, but I’ve got to get at least little bit of this anger out of my system.
So I punch the bag with enough force to puncture foot thick kendrium. I imagine it’s the Canadian Hercules’ face.
So damn handsome. So damn destructible.
“I’m stronger than you, Carson. I’m prettier than you, Carson.” I tell the punching bag. Each blow breaks the machine’s limits. How many tons per square inch was that punch? The scale stops at 5 kilotions. “And this time, I’m more right than you, Carson.” I add, slamming it full force. “For the truth. For Fire.”
And I break the machine.
An ominous clang. The Black Door closes. Red is there, wearing black trunks that are even skimpier than mine. It’s his style, though like me he has the “tougher than his clothes” problem that leads to a lot of accidental nudity.
“Neither of us decided to do this in our suits, huh?” Red snirked. I’m sure he’s checking me out. Brickhouses tend to do that, even when we’re not gay.
“This really isn’t a very heroey situation now, is it?” I reply.
“Well, you’re looking great Carson,” Red says, whistling and grinning.
“We’re both “specimens,”” I say.
“We are at that. And you’re going to be the best looking mangled guy in America by the time I’m done.”
“I’m not really in the mood for speeches, Red,” I answer. Or threats. “No one’s ever said we don’t look every inch the hero. We just have to act the part.”
“No, not today, Mr. Canada.” Red says. “Today we act nothing like heroes. Just men.”
“If you say so, Mr. Chicago,” I snap back.
And then suddenly the room lights up, a scanner washes over us, and something in the Black Room’s infrastructure hums and whirs. Wait, this room has an AI? In a private club’s gymnasium? Even Carl’s, built for metahuman violence, doesn’t have one of those!
“The disputing parties will state their name and purpose.” a computer voice tell us. “Introductions, please.”
“Craig Alexander Carson,” I say. “I wish to resolve my dispute with Red over here, so we can move past this.”
“Lance Bridgefield Callahan.” Red says. I didn’t know his real name. His middle name is Bridgefield? “I intend to beat Craig Carson until he pays for his role in the death of my friend.”
“This combat will continue until objectives have been achieved.” The computer says.
“The devil,” Red mutters. “The Black Room’s never done this before.”
“I think the bell just rang,” I say, and I advance on Red, and smile. There’s a bastard’s grin on both of our faces. The testosterone is really flowing tonight. This is going to be a fight.
Except – it isn’t.
Two hours have passed, and two of the strongest superheroes on the planet are having a cutthroat, no holds barred wrestling match, me and handsome Craig here. Except, despite the fact I can’t stand this man, despite the fact that I want to take my fist and break his nose, I can’t. And neither, so it seems, can Mr. Canadian muscle. Boy scout. Instead, we’ve spent two hours rolling around, trading holds, going back and forth. No punches, no kicks, no bites, no low blows, no eye gouges. Just a lot of muscle on muscle, bravado. and grunts. This is no holds barred, but neither of us wants to be the first guy to use dirty tactics. It’s the cleanest grudge match ever. But wrestling isn’t cutting it. Much as I hate to admit it, he’s way stronger than he was twenty years ago, and he’s so damn experienced it’s hard to catch him at a disadvantage. We’re two grandmasters of muscle chess, and between our seventy years of fighting experience, we’re stalemated.
“What’s the matter, Craig. You too good to throw an honest punch?” I goad.
“Aw, you care,” Craig replies, his smug voice oozing the obnoxious like Canadian tar sands. “I’m not going to be the first one to start fighting dirty.”
“Well, I’m not going to be the first one to start fighting dirty, either!” I shout back.
“Shut up and get back to grunting,” he says with a smirk.
“Fine!” I snap. “Be like that, jackass!”
And we wrestle for two more hours. A kid from Chicago and a kid from Vancouver grunt, a lot. Hammerlock to King’s skull-3. Armbar to Left Arm-2. Leglock to knight’s knee-1. The fighting chess grandmasters continue their stalemate waltz. Is this chess or dancing?
By the third hour, our bodies are as slick as summer sex, and we’re huffing like a set of bellows in a forge. Huff, huff, huff. We take turns grimacing and grinning like a pair of wolves, luring an opponent in for the kill, eluding the other guy’s traps. And, given that my hate for the guy is rising every second, I wonder why I’m not throwing a punch. It isn’t just my code of sportsmanship. Southsiders don’t have one! It’s not that I can’t do it, but that I won’t. Nor, amazingly enough, will he. Are we being mentally influenced? Is one of our teammates secretly mind controlling us, keeping the fight from getting out of hand? It’d just like one of these idiots from Passive-Aggressive-ada!
“Time out.” I say, holding up my hands and making a “T” as if I were reffing a football game. I push the palm of my hand gently against his face, on the bridge of the nose, not a slap, just to get his attention. He scowls, but I’ve got it. “Hold up, big guy. This is fun, but we’re not here for fun. We’re here to settle accounts. I’m here to settle your hash. I think someone’s telepathically goading us so we play nice.”
“The room, maybe?” Thundrax speculates.
That idea never occurred to me.
“Hit me.” I say, “Throw a punch. Let’s turn this into an honest brawl.”
“Fine,” Carson says, and he tags me with a right cross that is so heavy and so sweet that I immediately regret my offer. After picking myself off the ground, Carson walks over to me and throws up his hands. “Your turn,” he says. Huffing, I tag him with a punch that would take off the heads of 99% of the people on the planet. He winces, and snaps his head back. I can’t believe he’s still conscious. How’d this guy get so tough? Back in the 90s, I owned the Maple Leaf chump.
“Nice punch,” Carson says, blinking, and getting back into his stance. “Let’s do this.”
We’re point one percenters, and I’m not talking about the lost Toltec platinum mines I own, or Carson’s oil reserves. The fight, finally, is on. The billionaires are throwing down.
Ring the damn bell. For real this time.
I knew this job was dangerous when I took it. That’s a quote from Super Chicken, a cartoon I watched when I was a kid. A brawl with Red certainly qualifies as dangerous.
So the kid gloves are off. And once they’re off, we fight dirty. Really dirty. Some of the things we’re doing to each other, I’d rather not describe. Use your imagination. On second thought, knowing that most people’s imaginations are pretty disgusting, maybe you shouldn’t. Suffice it to say we pretty much knock each other senseless and keep fighting on instinct.
Twice during the match, I secure a rear mount, and get him in the dreaded rear naked choke (which takes on new meaning when you blast away each other’s clothes, because Heaven forbid I have a fucking fight where I don’t end up in the buff!) He teleports away twice, but I’m persistent. I know how hard it can be to teleport away when someone’s clutching you, and every time he tries the trick, he’s dog tired for about thirty seconds afterward. So, like Elizabeth Warren, I persist.
And finally, five minutes later, I’ve got him. Hanging on his back, legs scissoring his waist, I’ve got him. He’s not teleporting anymore, he’s fading.
And then, I let him go before he loses consciousness. Before I’ve technically won.
I take a moment to look at us. Naked, burnt. Our bodies are charbroiled third degree burn hellscapes. Not unlike Ricardo Montalban at the end of that one good Star Trek movie; we’re grotesque. It hurts to look at him. I imagine I look the same, a make-up artist’s burn job wet dream. I really don’t feel good about doing that to another human being. To a hero.
“This is stupid,” I say. Man, that’s hard for me to admit. The other part of me was having so much fun, dancing the combat waltz.
“What—?” Red can’t believe it either.
“We’re two of the planet’s veteran good guys,” I say. “We’ve both been diplomats. You negotiated a peace treaty between the surface world and the Subterroks. Me, I’ve negotiated a ceasefire between alien war armadas. We’re twenty-five years older than we were back in the 90s, when this crap happened. We were kids back then, stupid kids – now we’re adults. We’re leaders. Why can’t we resolve this without going all WWF on each other? Shouldn’t we be looking for a better way?”
It takes awhile, but he shakes his head at me. Man, those green eyes are burning.
“No way in Hell…” he snarls.
“Red…” I stammer, taken aback.
“I mean it!” Red rages. “It may be twenty-five years, but Firehammer’s still dead. And you haven’t even admitted your part. You’ve never admitted it. You’ve been too sanctimonious to own it. Well, you killed my friend, asshole! You!”
“But Mechanon…” I stammer.
“Fuck Mechanon,” Red snarls. “And fuck your mercy. No excuses, Carson. Own his death! Own his blood! I ain’t stopping this fight until you put me out, or until you admit your part in what happened.” Red vows, hobbling to his feet. “And you have to mean it.”
“What if I don’t?” I say. “We fight forever? To the bitter end? Do you think your friend would want that?” I sigh. It’s a sick sound. “I didn’t kill him! You know it, you were there!”
Red shakes his head. “Not directly, no. But your two leaders were incapacitated. People were looking to you for leadership. You could have ordered your team to stand down. You didn’t, and your ice bitch killed Hammer! The man who took a scruffy, misfit kid out of Southside, and made a man of him. The man who brought me into this business! I don’t give a damn how much time has passed. His justice is not getting swept under the carpet for your convenience!” Man, is he hyperventilating. “Let’s do this, Carson! No more excuses, no more stoppages, Not until it’s finished.”
This is like soap opera, but the pain is real. I want to say I’m sorry, but no, sorry won’t cut it. Sorry is callous when it’s spoken to graves. Am I responsible? Could I have stopped Ann? Why didn’t I?
Ann. The woman I loved. The woman I killed.
Was it inexperience in leadership? Or did I just want to show up a pack of arrogant Yanks who had made assumptions about our guilt? Who had said nasty things at us? Was I that petty? National rivalry is so stupid!
I look at Red, look upon my handiwork, and despair. He’s back in a combat stance, a classic boxer. The fighting man still wants to fight me, even after all we’ve done to each other. We’ve done a world of hurt to each other, and that world is not enough.
Am I responsible? Looking hard into myself, and remembering those wild crazy, fever dream-like events, the answer is yes. I didn’t throw the ice lance. Mechanon set up the situation. But I could have stopped it, and I didn’t. The blame was mine.
Is mine. Twenty-five years later, it’s time to pay the piper.
Each second increases the physical sting of my body. That’s the least of my problems.
“You’re right.” I admit. “Dammit, you’re absolutely right. I do bear full responsibility. And I’ll make amends in whatever way you wish. Including giving up my company. Including turning myself in and accepting a prison sentence.”
Red gapes at me in disbelief. He confessed? I can see him wonder. Did he really, after all this time?
Yes Red. I did.
“We’re men of service and we need to be true to our ideals.” I say. “People mistakenly call us heroes. But even if we deserve the name, we’re not above the law.” I say, swallowing hard. “I don’t think it’s possible to fully repay any of you for the memory of your dead friend…”
“Fire,” he gasps.
“…but I apologize to him. And to the dead he would’ve saved if he hadn’t died. To the lovers who might have prospered in his care, to the children he never had. The friends he would’ve made, whose lives would have been enriched by his company. I’m responsible for all of that. The absence of his goodness, the void of his virtue. That was me. Because I was fighting for country and pride, not for ideals.”
He stares at me, this swollen, charred mess of burns, and then he smiles. “I did it.” He just wanted the admission. Not a pound of flesh. though we certainly scraped off enough of that in the fight. His voice is a laugh, caught on the edges of his injuries. “It’s finally over.”
“We really didn’t have to do this to each other,” I say, pointing athe burns that line his body. Red shakes his head emphatically.
“I’m Catholic,” Red replies, his teeth a cheshire cat grin set in a face of ruin. Tooth and truth, that’s what we fought for today. “It was a penance.”
“One hell of a penance,” I mutter. From his laugh, I think he agrees. I’m tempted to add: was that what you needed to hear? But no, I meant what I said about putting my fate in his hands. No backhanded questions allowed. No mitigation of guilt.
The lights flash in the room. “This arbitration session has been concluded,” the computer says. A spray washes over our bodies and our injuries start to regenerate. Nanites? “Thank you for using Xavatl’s arbitration booth. Xavatl, the galaxy’s leader in persuasive arbitration technology. Not approved for those prone to cerebral hemorrhaging. Side effects of arbitration may include serious injury if pacification protocols ignored. Consult your medical practitioner before using the arbitration booth. Always have a back-up clone available in the event of accidental death. Void where prohibited."
“Huh?” Red wonders. He never understood the function of the Black Room. Kinda handy. Isn’t alien tech such a joy?
And, fully healed, Red and I stare at each other in our nudity, a little embarrassed, though we’re both buff, and there are a lot of rumors about Red. Well, that’s his own damn business. “Computer, give us five minutes!” I shout. May as well not have David or Red’s team walk in on us while we’re naked. I'm no saint, but if people are going to believe salacious bullshit about me, let it be for things I’ve actually done.
“Door will open in five minutes.” The computer announces.
I summon a pair of shorts, remove them and hand them to Red, then make a second pair for myself. For a change, people aren’t going to see me naked. I don’t have much shame, but I have a little, at least after draining myself physically and emotionally. But I give us a chance to recover. As for Red, he just laughs and laughs and laughs, a fountain of glee, bubbling as if the world’s been lifted off his huge shoulders. I’m actually glad to see the son of a bitch happy.
So there you have it. Me and Craig Carson, settling our differences, and having an epic fight in the process. People grow and change, and sometimes age does a bring a little wisdom in its wake, even to a pair of muttonheads like us.
Of course, I forgive him. I’ve done some stupid shit in my life. I’m going to do more stupid shit in my life. I wish I hadn’t
needed to push him into realizing what he’d done, wish he’d come to the realization on his own. But that’s the human animal for you. “Homo imperfectus”. Or “Homo sapiens really”?
So we laugh, and make fun of each other, and do the usual things that heroes do when they’re friends. We discuss business deals: his mining tech, and my lunar mineral rights. We don’t hug, at least not yet. Give us time. We’re going a little fast, but damn, the combination of our businesses have some sweet potential for good. Profit and prophet. Save the planet’s soul and make a few bucks doing it.
I think the mediation chamber is telepathically prodding us, encouraging us to make nice, find commonalties, accelerating the natural process of reconciliation. But look at us. Two kids, one from South Chicago, and one from East Vancouver: heroes, ones who struck it rich, handsome walking muscle shows. We could use a battleship for a medicine ball. Damn, we’ve got a lot in common.
“We’re both human,” Carson says. “And I will find a way to make amends.”
A memorial scholarship to schools in South Chicago Heights. A fund for local businesses to make low interest loans. Those are a nice start. “Hand ups and not hand outs” he says, and I agree. We discuss some f the other neighborhoods that need a helping hand. We’re finally acting like we should have from the start: as generals in our own personal war against misery.
It isn’t a perfect accord, though. He doesn’t like Budweisser. The heathen.
I think I need to beat him up.