Sunday, November 26, 2006

Childhood's End - Chapter 5

The renovation proceeded apace with more enthusiasm than talent for the rest of the day; Mark finished assembling the dinner table twenty minutes after Rowena had left for work, then stood back and admired his handiwork. True, professionals could have assembled the furniture - particularly the small kitchen - in half the time, tops, but the endorphine rush of seeing hard work bear freshly-painted fruit was hard to nitpick away.

The formerly drab walls were now sparkly white again, although Rowena had already threatened to redo the colors at some point. The Queen-sized bed was arranged as the centerpiece of the room, though Mark insisted that it not be in direct line of sight from the windows. Consequently, Rowena put up a Shoji, cordoning off the bed and nightstand from the rest of the loft - a response that fulfilled the letter, if not exactly the spirit of Mark’s order, though the old man had to admit he’d been outsmarted there. The bedsheets were neutrally white; again, Rowena had expressed disapproval, but Mark wasn’t in the habit of buying sheets patterned with “girly” colors. The desk was a simple Ikea-style affair, with entertainment electronics sitting in a big box next to it and awaiting someone knowledgeable. The telephone, at least, was already connected. Rounding out the place was a large bean bag chair, acquired from a neighbour after Mark had failed to dismantle the couch from storage into pieces light enough for the two of them to carry. It seemed light and inviting, but the lived-in look and traces of Marijuana flavor in its smell weren’t high on Mark’s “like” list.

They’d also need carpets. God, Mark thought, always the damn carpets. He briefly weighed disassembling half of the apartment to install carpeting against the fact that it was late and he was tired, and resolved to table the carpets issue for review at a later date.

He made the executive decision to forgo further self-criticism in favor of basking in the feeling of archievement, then walked downstairs to fetch his contribution to Rowena’s home security: a deadbolt kit, bulletresistant adhesive sheet - the Archer Pact’s weapon of choice for uparmoring ordinary windows - and a “small” stockpile of firearms. He’d deliberately stuck to more common weapons - two 1911s, a Winchester pump-action in 12 gauge and an M-16A2 - in lieu of feeding Rowena’s appetite for more exotic fare. The ammo was easier to get, training on them would be more useful in the long run, and, goddammit, home defense required reliability and firepower far in excess of what Mark could see a dinky microcaliber popgun do.

Installing the weapons package was easy enough: Mark merely slid the lockbox under the bed. He’d have to talk to Rowena to plan and install a more secure long-term storage system, but for the moment it was the best he could do. The deadbolt went in next, another hour of the day given to swearing, making holes and taking off the rough edges with sand paper. As such things went, the adhesive sheet was actually the most difficult to get exactly right. Mark had litle experience with attaching sheets, and spent the better part of fifteen minutes scooping out little air bubbles before he discovered that he’d cut the sheet in the wrong width and had to start over. Finally, he got it right, then went over it with a hairdryer, activating the second stage of the temperature-sensitive glue that bonded the sheet to the glass. With some trepidation, Mark repeated the process for the outside, which was an interesting challenge to his otherwise well-developed sense of balance - the window was hinged horizontally in the middle and only went from about 30 degrees from vertical to just a little beyond horizontal in its range of movement, so this process took place on a shaky little collapsible ladder.

That done, Mark decided it was time for a drink.

Down at the watering hole, Mark ordered a beer and sat back; in response, Trish shot Rowena a nervous glance whenever she served anything alcoholic. Even with the hipster price tags on the bellywash, that was well worth the price of admission. Speaking of shows - rising volume behind Mark gave rise to the premonition that a bar fight was about to get started. He turned his head to survey the situation; two guys in tacky business suits having a little shouting match over a secretary, allegedly the “girlfriend” of both of them.

“She pawned your fucking ring!” Suit A shouted; while Trish shot a concerned look at them, Mark used the distraction to snatch a little piece of ice from a tray, craddled it in his fingers, saw Suit B telegraph his punch and flicked the ice at them. Rowena, who had noticed Mark doing just that but was too slow to prevent it, watched it skip over the floor in slow motion, just like a pebble skipping over a lake.

The timing was perfect. By the time B’s fist connected, the ice was under A’s shoe, and the suit slipped back, knocking his head against the table behind him. It wasn’t enough to knock him out, not by a long shot - it just made him pissed. Mark had read the crowd just right; they grabbed B’s arms and pulled them back, but now that A was really itching for a fight, the throwdown seemed like a forgone conclusion. Rowena shuffled closer to Mark and whispered to him in as loud a voice as she could manage.

“What the fuck are you doing?”
“Field training.”

Rowena took the clue and vaulted over the bar, then ran towards the scene. Like a soccer tackle, she slid along the ground and tripped up A’s return strike, catching the man by the collar and putting him on his knees before he could slump to the ground.

“No fighting,” she said.

In response, she got elbowed in the guts.

By now, B had calmed down again, and was in turn trying to hold back A, who had completely forgotten about his quarrel with the colleague and was in the process of acquiring a new, scrappier target. He tried to punch Rowena. Big mistake.

His punch went nowhere, because Rowena rolled under it. It was even more painful on the hard floor, but it worked, and Rowena got up behind him, their backs facing each other. Then she did a casual 90 degree turn and sidekicked him. This time, the suit ate Linoleum; Rowena walked over to him, lifted his moaning head from the floor and repeated, “No. Fighting.” The man nodded, with whatever power he still had left. Rowena helped him up, then half-dragged, half-carried him back to B, who by now was actively contemplating patenting a process by which you could bundle your shame to sink into the floor, convinced that there was no prior art of similar magnitude as his own embarassment.

“Your friend, Sir,” Rowena deadpanned, then pawned the half-unconscious A off to his colleague. The two stumbled out of the bar, reaffirming their friendship.

Rowena turned back towards the crowd, then raised an eyebrow. “Show’s over, guys,” she said, and walked back behind the counter. The expression on Trish’s face was somewhere between horrified and impressed, while Mark showed a slight grin and ordered another beer.

The kid had potential.

1 comment:

Valentina said...

Mark's got a taste in carpentry and home improvement?
Sheeee-it, I'd never had guessed.
Cool detail. =]