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Living Standards

by Bill Kowaleski

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Chapter 18: Feeding the Beast

DeShaun had just returned from a short shopping excursion when he heard the five rhythmic knocks on his window. The kids at the Gates’ house taught the runaways well, just as he’d instructed them when he’d moved out to work for Jiri. He walked casually outside, into the garden. A slender, gangly boy, as tall as DeShaun, olive-skinned, barefoot, wearing nothing but white knee-length cotton shorts, appeared from behind the root system of a fig tree.

“I’m Paco,” he whispered. “Are you DeShaun?”

DeShaun nodded and motioned with his arm, leading the boy into his living quarters. He pointed to a walk-in closet, closing the door behind Paco. “I won’t be two minutes, I promise.”

DeShaun walked through the kitchen and large living room, finding Lea there, watching a video. “We’ve got another one. A boy. Is Jiri home?”

“No, it’s safe for him to come out.”

She stood, following him back to the closet. The door opened to reveal a crouching, shivering boy, looking very young, his large brown eyes fearfully staring at them.

“Hi,” Lea said softly. “I used to work at the Gates’. You’re safe here. We’ll feed you, if you want, then take you wherever you want to go.”

“I don’t know where I want to go,” Paco said in a voice so tiny she had to turn her head to hear him. “I just got to get away from that monster Bain.”

DeShaun met Lea’s eyes, shook his head, sighed, “It’s OK, Paco, don’t worry about him. You’ll never see him again. Here’s what we can do for you. We can take you back to your enclave, or we can take you to Joliet and hook you up with United Enclave Services. They’ll give you a good job, but you gotta play by their rules.”

“Will they make me have sex with them?”

“No way! They’ll treat you with respect, my man. That much I’m sure of. But you’ll be trained to do enclave security work. You’ll carry a gun, and you’ll have to follow orders. It’s almost like an army.”

Paco’s face brightened into an infectious smile that evoked memories of Jiri in DeShaun. “Carry a gun! Be in an army! Wow, that sounds so cool! Yeah, I want to do that.”

Lea put her arm around his neck. “We’ll take you there as soon as you shower and eat something. I’m going to give you a change of clothes, but they’ll be issuing you uniforms when you get there.”

They directed Paco to the shower and, as the water ran, Lea said to DeShaun, “Are we really doing the right thing, giving UES cannon fodder for their revolution? Could these kids end up coming back here and burning our house down?”

“I’m hoping they remember all we did to help them,” DeShaun whispered. “But when stuff gets going, all hell breaks loose. I don’t know, Lea. I just don’t know.”

Proceed to Chapter 19...

Copyright © 2016 by Bill Kowaleski

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