"Messengers. Waiting for one to come who can understand them. I must go." Brain buttoned his fly.

"You can't go. You to give Straight Mick the money." Frishta stood and walked carefully to the bedroom door.

"I'll wait for him. Where are you going?"

"Home?" Frishta looked back at him over her shoulder. "To the bathroom."

Brain chuckled with friendly advice. "Watch your stools, They are your body's way of telling you what it wants."


Frishta turned to the door. "Yes, I suppose. But I don't know what to look for." Brian began "Pay attention. . ." but Frishta opened the door and stepped out. She stepped on the calf of a boy sleeping in front of the door, his upturned coat collar half-hiding his face. He retracted into a ball before he woke up, so that Frishta almost slipped as he pulled his leg out from under her.

He first looked up at her with startled eyes, fearful, until he realized he was awake. He found his hands around his calf. "Ow."

He was as young as Brian. Frishta peered at him. The central room was always dark because magazine pictures had been pasted over the sole window. The pictures themselves glowed translucently like stained galss, but the light in the room was as browned and tired as the most yellowed paper. Frishta asked, "who are you?"

"Tom said I crash." The boy nodded towards the couch. The couch's horsehair splendor showed its stuffing; one end was splayed so that it rested a foot lower than the other. Tom lay rumpled with his head at the low end--he felt the extra blood improved his dreams. His eyes were open. For Frishta his face was upside down. She scowled to keep his mouth from seeming eyebrows. Tom said, "That's Sven. He's Norwegian."

Frishta nodded to him. "Hello." She nodded to Tom. "Why didn't you sleep in Phil's room?"

"Michael's in there with some guy of his."

"Oh." Frishta shuffled towards the kitchen and bathroom.

Tom sat up. Brian walked into the room, stepping carefully over the boy, "Hello." The boy drew his legs up, nodding at them dumbly, in apology. He pushed himself into a corner and answered carefully, "Hello." His English was not good. There was a clicking of fingernails drummed against the window. Brian looked at Tom, alert, in case of police. Brian sidled up to the window and looked out a peephole cut from the paper eye of the Buddha., "It's straight Mick." Brian undid the chain, the bolt, and the key lock of the door.

In a brief puff of cold air and light, Mick entered the room, grinning, clapping his hands with cold. He unbuttoned his navy blue businessman's overcoat and held it out like a cape, strutting about the room. Under the coat he wore a jacket and a narrow silver tie. "Dig the coat, man! Dig the coat!"

"Frishta returned carrying a large bowl of spiced garbanzo beans with one hand and a fistful of chopsticks with the other. "That coat?"