Let Us Remember the Beautiful Dead

Sunny days and unseasonably warm. Cries of human traffickers in the harbor—drug and disease free! height-weight proportional!—and the clash of riot shields against barricades. Smell of spices and formaldehyde from the vivisectionist’s quarter.

Valentine is lounging. He should be looking for work, or hustling, or even sleeping, but instead he’s propping up a lamppost watching the world go by.

Flow of families in and out. In with a mouth too many, out with their thirty pieces of silver, ears stopped with wax. Protestors throng the sidewalks, singing, screaming, shaking fists. Their signs—a ten year old, rib cage wetly open; BETTER A CLEAN DEATH—are garish and ardent as folk art.

Sometimes Valentine does sidework for the clinics, running an autoclave, changing feeding bags, processing leftovers. The pay’s all right. He picks his teeth with his thumb and thinks about what he wants for dinner. Bouillabaisse at Antoine’s? Liver and onions at the Hash? He’s got fifty in his pocket and no desire to hang on to it.

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