Carlo noticed a hall that led into a rest spot in the back, where for t wenty dollars, a person could lie down
in their own private opening, on a single mattress with a blanket and a pillow and nap undisturbed. Carlo knew
these stations well—liked them very much too—his favorite feature the dial that allowed a customer to adjust the
temperature in their space without affecting other nearby guests.
Carlo turned to the clerk, shoving his backpack into Alexis’s hands.
“Hold that, will you sweetie?”
Ale xis took it and shoved it into Maxis’s arms. “Hold that for me will you sweetie,” she said, and pinched
Maxis ro lled h is eyes, but accepted it, sling ing it over his right shoulder.
“Where’s the theater,” Carlo asked the clerk.
“Straight down,” the bald man said, cocking h is thumb over his shoulder. He wo re a colla red red and wh ite
shirt, and had a goatee. For some reason, he didn’t seem to care for the question.
“What about the clubs,” Carlo said. “Any clubs here?”
“Check the places around the theater and you’ll find those too.” The clerk put his hands on the counter,
watching Carlo c losely. It was as if he e xpected him to ma ke some sudden move.
“All right,” Carlo said, fishing his Vera from his pocket. “Give me a couple of singles.”
Carlo swiped his Vera—or Vera-phone to some people—over the scanner so it could deduct the funds, and
the clerk handed him a couple of single cigars. The group of five left the gas station. They headed toward the
theater, blending in with hundreds of other consumers and residents, some standing around in circles and talking and
some heading in the same or opposite direction.
“See, we should’ve just gone to the one that we always go to,” Carlo said. “Now we have to do all this
walking.” Problem was, his issue with the platform went fa r beyond that.
“Stop whining,” Alexis said. “It’s good exercise.”
“Yeah, you’re in a chipper mood, aren’t you,” he said, lighting his cigar with his lighter and starting to
puff. Carlo relished the taste.
Harmless tobacco, he thought. Ah, the convenience of human ingenuity.
Maxis almost dropped the backpack as he switched it to his left shoulder.
“Yes,” she said, taking one of the cigars from Carlo. “I am in a very chipper mood, indeed.” She looked
over her shoulder at Maxis. “Maxis. I let you hold that backpack because I trust you. Because I trust you dammit!”
She smiled and the twins laughed.
“Oh shut up,” Maxis told her and picked up his pace so he could return the book bag to Carlo. “Here. You
act like they’re going to search your bag just because you approach the counter with it.”
“The goal is not to draw attention to it,” Carlo said coolly. “And I must’ve did something right, because no
attention was drawn to it, now was there?” He took his accepted his backpack, slinging the strap back over his
“Yeah whatever. Sounds like some paranoid bullshit to me.”
Alexis, having lit her cigar with Carlo’s match handed it to Maxis so he could take a drag, and he accepted
gratefully, tipping her a s mile .
“Now,” Carlo said. “I’m one of the ones not in high school and I don’t want to live my days like I am, so
we have to watch out.”
“For the criminals you say, right,” Steven said, walking side by side with his brother, both strolling behind
“Exactly,” Carlo said. “We have to watch out for those wannabe thugs. Those goddamn wannabe
criminals. And fake thugs work in a whole new way than they did at the turn of the century, based on what I read.”
“And what you’ve watched on the History Channel,” Alexis said, smiling.
Carlo chuckled. “I love the History Channel,” he said quietly. “But anyway, I mean gang-affiliated.
Everyone here knows the signs. And if it’s not that it’s just some dudes trying to start shit. Let’s try to avoid them,
why don’t we? What do y’all say?”
“I just want to relax,” Maxis said.
“Me too,” the twins said in unison.
“Same here,” Alexis finished.
Carlo nodded and puffed more smoke. “Okay then. Anyone talks shit. Ignore it. I want peace.”
Question is, he thought. Am I really going to be able to get peace on this platform?
The group continued down the platform, each of them taking in the sites. Further down to the le ft Carlo
noticed an exerc ise yard, which included a pull up bar, a pushup bar, and an incline bench to do sit u ps.
“Like a motherfuckin’ prison, isn’t it,” Carlo said.