art by ShotHot Design
Barb-the-Bomb and the Yesterday Boy
by Julian Mortimer Smith
I have a crush on a boy from yesterday.
He's a small, lean boy, about my age. A beggar-child. I first see him sitting in a boarded-up doorway in Fumblers Alley. He holds a cloth cap out in front of him, shaking it so that the coins tink-tink together. He has a piece of slate with words scratched onto its face: "Spare a thought. Spare a coin. Thank you from yesterday."
It's the tink-tinking that catches my attention, but it also catches the attention of a gang of proudscum kids. I've seen them before. They call themselves The Sniders and their leader is a big ugly kid named Mulligan. As I watch, they muscle right up to the yesterday boy. They dare each other to touch him and then Mulligan steals the change right out of his hat. The others laugh. The poor yesterday boy doesn't even notice, of course, because that happens today and he's still living yesterday, but he will notice tomorrow.
I tear across the street, all fists and kicks. At school they call me Barb-the-Bomb because of my sudden tempers. I like that nickname. I have to dodge a clattering carriage and a group of properfolk to get to Mulligan and his gang, but I'm fast and I reach the Sniders before my mother even notices I'm no longer by her side. She starts to scream at the same moment that Mulligan does. Before the rest of the gang realize what's happening I've punched him twice in the nose and kicked him hard in the shins. He drops his stolen coins and yells a lot of nastiness and then his gang is upon me. They're bigger and heavier than I am. They pin me to the cobbles and sit on me, force my face into the filth and sewage that fills the gutter. Then Mulligan stamps on my fingers and it's my turn to scream.