Bread Line

Gray sidewalks.  Always gray sidewalks.  There were so many colors available, but gray, in all its plainness, was the most prevalent of all.  Rodney thought it had to be an intentional choice.  There was no hope in gray.  There was no hope in the city.  The market had collapsed, jobs left, work was scarce.  All that Rodney could look forward to was standing in a bread line with fellow unemployed beggars.

The queue was full of people in long coats and thick hats, all gray or brown to keep in theme.

“There’s no escaping this is there?” Rodney asked his friend, Adilai.

“That’s pretty down beat, Rod.  There’s some nice bread and a potato soup waiting for us at the other end of this line,” Adilai tried to reassure.  She had been coming to the bread line since the market collapse as well.  She needed to keep her hope and found it in items as innocuous as bread and salty water.

“How has it not been fixed yet?” Rodney was a poor listener this morning.

“Things take time.  Right now all that can be done is this,” Adilai said, again trying to provide any sort of comfort.

“I carried a pulse cannon up and down mountains during the war.  I never complained.  When offered a spot on a Float Barge, I always told my spotter to get on.  Never once took something I didn’t earn.  Now the fat-cats in those high rises up there are saying money is scarce and they want us to be sated by bread and broth?  Oh, oh no,” Rodney was gathering an audience as he paced along the gray sidewalk delivering his rant.

“I came back home, worked in a mine for years gathering all those precious minerals to keep those cannons running.  Worked my way up the ranks.  One bad day in a town a thousand miles away and I am left to queue for soup.  It’s garbage.  The whole thing; garbage.  There’s a bank right across the street.  It is running fine.  But we are left on the gray concrete like rats,” Rodney trailed off.  The others in the bread line started a chorus of sounds showing their agreement.

“Rod, things are going to get better,” Adilai was unsure of her words this time, but needed Rodney to calm down before things spiraled out of control.

She stepped to her pacing friend, placed her hands on his shoulders and looked into his eyes.  “Rodney, we are all tired and worn out from this.  Every morning we hear the motors of jetcycles overhead and the hums of hover-carriages zip down the street.  These sounds, these sights, are defeating.  But we are all here together and we will make it through this only if we stay together.”

Across the street the familiar sound of a jetcycle engine demanded the attention of the bread line’s occupants.

Rodney and Adilai broke eye contact to look at the cycle.  It was a brilliant blue color with red paint highlighting the sleek curves of the engine and chassis.  Two pilots, masks over their faces and bulbous ray guns hoped off the cycle and ran into the bank.

“Wait, wait, wait, just a second here,” Rodney muttered as he slowly made sense of the moment.

“They are robbing the bank?” Adilai asked.  She knew what was happening, but did not want it to be true.

A flash of light came from the bank building.  The whir and crackle of a fired raygun Rodney had heard so many times before echoed through the street.  Frightened screams followed, but there was no shouts of pain.  Rodney knew those sounds well.  The blast was made as a warning.

The two masked figures ran out of the bank with bags upon bags in hand.  One ran across the street toward the bread line queue.

“Wright wishes you well,” the masked bank robber shouted before tossing the bags on the cement and running off the jetcycle.

The bread line raced to grab the bundled bills.

Rodney and Adilai stood still, watching the chaos unfold as desperate people ransacked the bags.

“Wright?” Rodney asked.

“Elias Wright.  Gangster.  Runs this very soup kitchen.  Wants to run this town,” Adilai said.  Her stunted speech brought on by the shock of the ordeal.

“He’s well on his way by the look of it,” Rodney said.

The jetcycle left a streak of blue and red as it headed skyward in escape.

“The first bit of color I’ve seen a long time.  I was hoping color would come back to the city under better circumstances,” Rodney said.

“We all were, Rod.  We all were.”

 

 

Thanks for reading!

Check out my newest collection of short stories (not dieselpunk related unfortunately) for free today and tomorrow (Nov. 19 and 20) by clicking right here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B017Z4WJHK

 

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