One Hundred Thirty Three

We talked God down from being the Vengeful One and rebranded Him to the Infinitely Merciful; we changed him from Old To New, like the Testaments and the Labour Party. We levered up His graven image, put it on runners, and dragged it to a place where the weather was sunnier. We can’t do the same with death. Death can’t be talked down, or parlayed into anything; it simply declines to come to the negotiating table. It doesn’t have to be Vengeful or Merciful, or even Infinitely Merciless. It is impervious to insult, complaint or condescension.
Julian Barnes, Nothing To Be Frightened Of

We’re immortal, we won’t die of old age, but that has nothing to do with getting shot, falling off a cliff, or being overwhelmed by zombies. Any of that, or any other lethal bad luck, we die like anyone else. Well, except for the zombies, they would turn us into more zombies, like married people. 
Do you ever wonder why zombies don’t eat other zombies? Is there a Zombie Code of Conduct? Those are the Big Questions. I looked it up, a lot of people are asking the same thing. The generic answer is they want warm living flesh.
Our thieves and murderers arrive, Natasha bought a rather nice RV, which I tour after we’ve unloaded twenty five boxes of cash.
Natasha, ‘We decided to get one big enough for all of us, even the dog. Once we’ve rested, we can talk about the project.’
Fin, ‘It was a great idea, we took it easy, driving something bus sized is different from even a mega-SUV. Mostly pay attention to the space you need to turn, keep distance from the vehicles in front of you. The ride is quite pleasant.’
CC, ‘We thought about renting, but after we got to know this one, Natasha bought it.’
‘What’s it cost?’
‘Three hundred, but it’s a house on wheels. Roomy, lots of overhead compartments for storage, bath and a half, even a washer dryer. Full kitchen capacity, USB ports all over, TV, we watched a couple of movies while scooting along the highway. For a long drive with all of us, it’s much better than loading up two SUVs. If we get a rear rack, we can secure the scooters to use for errands.’
‘I’ll have a shed installed to park it under, no point in cooking the thing in the sun all day. Run it for a few miles every week.’
Fin, ‘I’ll take care of it, I like driving the beast.’
‘Thank you, now find a rest spot and rest, I assume after twenty nine hours on the road, showers are in order.’
CC, ‘There’s a shower in the RV but we didn’t buy soap or shampoo.’
‘Can you shower while the thing is moving?’
‘Yes, they told us it has a water saving showerhead, and to get wet then turn it off to lather, then back on to rinse.’
Travel girls go off for wash and dry. 
I look over at the menu board, tonight is pot roast, mashed and spinach.
‘You decided not to do marsala?’
Zoe, ‘The hunk of chuck was in the refrigerator marinating, it needed to be cooked today. Zoe will make marsala tomorrow, she needs the veal anyway, fresh mushrooms, we have marsala wine she thinks, let her check.’
She shuffles around bottles in the refrigerator, pulls out a bottle, ‘Some, not enough, another bottle, and get fettuccini, it will make a good side for the dish.’
All tapped into my phone’s grocery list, I can go now while the girls lounge.
Zoe, ‘Add a loaf of ciabatta, and two boule for tomorrow. Zoe is lengthening the list, I’ll go with, let me get jeans and tell CC we’re going out.’
We take the NSX, it needs to be run and it’s been sitting in the garage for a week.
‘You want to drive?’
Zoe, ‘Sure, you trust your rocket to Zoe?’
‘I trust you with my life, a car is easy.’
She smiles, Zoe’s smile could light a forest on a moonless night.
Our private road is a mile and a quarter to get to a public road that leads to the highway, she’s doing a hundred fifteen by the time we need to turn. The two lane blacktop to the highway is almost always deserted. She makes the ninety degree, by backing off the accelerator, but doesn’t touch the brakes. Tires scream, but the car is built for this, no swerve, I do find myself smushed into the passenger door as she makes the turn, then she’s back up to one twenty until the highway comes into view.
Zoe screeches, ‘That was fun! Wow, I can’t wait for the return trip.’
‘You handled it beautifully, a natural evade and escape driver.’
‘Can we put a track around the gun range? With curves, not a racing oval.’
‘Good idea, never occurred to me. You know, there’s a natural path on the south side for a dirt bike run.’
Zoe, ‘The girls are going to love it.’
We shop, Zoe cranks it again on the return, giggling at one twenty and another squeal on the corner turn, floors it again for the final stretch to the house. When we dismount in the garage, Zoe does a hip shake dance, runs in the house.
I haul the bags inside, Zoe is breathlessly telling the others about her new found fondness for velocity.
Zoe, ‘And commandant is building us a race course at the gun range, plus…wait for it…a dirt bike track!’
Fin, ‘Fuck me sideways, brilliant. Now I’m pumped.’
‘I’ll find a contractor, the people who laid our private road might know what to do. It’s a different project, need to have properly designed banks on the curves for instance. Our road is concrete, more expensive than asphalt but far sturdier, that’s what we’ll use on the track.’
A thought floats by, what’s the name of the place, racing, tactical driving, someplace near Phoenix. I Google it, yes, Bondurant. 
‘Fin, take a look with Zoe, I think this is something the girls need to attend.’
They take the tablet, park on the couch, Zoe on one side, CC on the other.
While they check it out, Zero and the twins join me at the island.
Natasha, ‘Abbreviated version. CC shot the brothers Tarkov, did a splendid job from five hundred yards. The first went down, which froze the second, I assume because all they heard was a glass breaking. The two guards ducked and waited, not really much choice, they had no idea where we were. The lights doused in and outside, we had the drone in the air and as predicted, the two jumped in one of the cars and went directly to a dead industrial park. They opened the locked gate, a simple padlock and chain and drove slowly around the only building with lights on. They didn’t lock the gate, we figured they wanted to see if the place that was supposed to be anonymous had somehow been discovered.’
‘Except nobody was there.’
‘There were two guards inside, which we figured. Nobody is going to leave stacks of cash sitting around unmonitored. Of course we did not know there was cash, it was simply a logical guess. While the two from the house were inside explaining what happened, Nikita went to the rear of the building, assuming there was a back door, which there was.
CC stayed with our SUV, the rear of it facing the warehouse, she could lie on the floor with the Ruger aimed at the building. Fin and I moved to the front, on either side of the building. Fin figured they would box up the money, open one of the rollup doors and drive the cash right out. She was right. We waited about thirty, the door rolls up, one guy comes out and looks around.’
‘CC take him?’
‘Not then, we wanted the truck in the loading dock to pull out first. Skipping details, Fin shot the passenger, I shot the driver, CC shot the first guy, which left one more. He ran back in the warehouse, Nikita was waiting.’
‘How’d she get in? The back door must have been locked.’
‘They were stupid, left it propped open to go out for smoke breaks, she said there must have been a hundred butts on the ground.’
‘You transferred the boxes then, left the truck with two dead guys in it.’
‘That is when I checked in to ask about getting the money home, we bought the RV the next morning.’
‘Beautiful, and everyone got to kill someone.’
Nikita, ‘CC gets to keel three, but she ees best for distance so we do not complain. We anyway make sex wiz her on the drive.’
Zero, ‘Fin said they broke in the RV bed, several times.’
From the couch, CC, ‘This is perfect Commandant, when do we go?’
‘I think three of you, then the other three later. We have Morshchiny and there’s no reason to park her in a hotel room for three days and four nights, plus the flight.’
Zero, ‘I think we’d like to take the course together, they put three people per instructor, six girls works, we can really break in the RV. You can keep an eye on Morshchiny while we go to school.’
‘I’ll stay here while you all go, Morshchiny will be good company and she has the whole property to roam.’
Zoe, ‘Doesn’t seem fair, you stay while we play.’
‘It’s good, I can get started on the tracks at the gun range. Sign up when they can take all of you.’

One Hundred Thirty Four

I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I'm doing. 
 John Cage

Habit is fine if you want a dead mind.
Zero

Girls are off to Glendale AZ, three signed up for high performance racing and three for tactical, a four day course.
None of them should have a driver’s license, but they do, and they are legit, sort of. Fakes good enough to get through the TSA if they ever needed to. Birth certificates say they’re twenty one or two. Zoe is only thirteen, but she’s tall. Once CC does her makeup, she still might not look twenty one but she easily passes for eighteen. To take the course all they need is a driver’s license.
I’m meeting with a road contractor, one that has built race courses. A mile and a half oval with exits to curvier track inside the oval. He threw in grading the dirt track, which for his crew and their road building equipment is a one day job. I didn’t negotiate the price, don’t want any corners cut, no cheap concrete. He guaranteed the work, said nothing would alter the surface unless there was an earthquake. Heat, cold, or rain would have no impact. It should be completed in a few weeks, give it a month to settle and dry.
It’s an eleven or twelve hour drive, closer to twelve in the RV from our house to Glendale. Zero shopped RV parks, there are nine close enough to Bondurant and they will rent an SUV to avoid having to connect, disconnect and reconnect power and water.
Zero calls, ‘We got settled in, the park is nice, things work, lots of retirees but they don’t bother us. We did get a few curious glances, six young girls in a three hundred grand RV with a Lincoln SUV. We’re out early tomorrow and I’m really glad we did grocery basics before we hit the road. Tonight we’re having a Popeye’s Chicken extravaganza, red beans and rice too, something we haven’t made at home.’
‘Tell Zoe Morshchiny goes up and down the stairs searching, I took her for a slow jog around the place, got her fed, she’s lounging on her downstairs bed while I enjoy a drink. The place seems empty, no adorables coming and going.’
‘We’re pumped about starting the courses, Zoe, CC and I are doing racing, Fin and the twins the tactical. We don’t need to cook, there are a million places to get takeout, we can get a breakfast thing from a fastie, there are three of the biggies down the block. Probably protein bars for lunch.’
‘I hear the girls goofing in the background, call me when you get in tomorrow, go play, keep it light, don’t let the twins kill anyone.’
She laughs, ‘Talk to you tomorrow.’
Strange, to wake up with only Morshchiny poking her snout on my leg, no girls in t-shirts and knee socks, the view has definitely deteriorated. I thought to get Morshchiny a dog door, but it would be half the size of the regular door. I get up and let her out, replace her water, pour the pellets in her food dish, start the coffee and go do morning things in the bathroom. By the time I make a cup, she’s ready to come in, then to the water, then to the food. 
‘Well girl, it’s you and me for a few days,’ she trundles up the stairs to verify my observation, then returns and flops on her bed, snout between her paws. 
I try explaining that Zoe and the others will be home soon, she ignores me, I ignore me, we’re creatures that like our family in snout’s reach.
Books, my pulp crap will keep me occupied for an hour at a time, in between I do simple stretching, read, pushups, read, no breakfast, I make breakfast for lunch.
I know, perfect, Zero has a list of charmers on the sex offender registry, I’m going to left swipe one. Keep my hand in so to speak. Look on her list.
Got a rapist two hundred north. I open the gun closet, take two Glocks, this time the G17 standard, and the subcompact G43, all our Glocks are nines to simplify buying ammunition. Box of hollow points, throw a change of clothes in a small duffel, Morshchiny pellets, a dozen bottles of water in a cooler. Set her up in the back of the Mercedes Bankruptor and to the highway.
During the drive, my brain comes up with a quote from one of Zero’s books, Nisargadatta, I Am That. 
--The inner guru is not committed to non-violence. He can be quite violent at times, to the point of destroying the obtuse or perverted personality. Suffering and death, as life and happiness, are his tools of work. It is only in duality that non-violence becomes the unifying law--
Destroying the obtuse or perverted personality…okay, I’m hardly a guru, that’s more Zero’s area; we do, however, violently destroy perverted personalities. That’s not a justification, merely a statement of fact. Our tribe doesn’t need justification, if we adopted society’s hypocritical morality we’d be doing something wrong.
The drive is simple, mostly interstate until an exit to a state highway, a few miles east and here I am. Parked across the street and halfway down the block, I’m watching Perry the Perv, aka Perry the Child Rapist, adjusting a sprinkler on his lawn. I open the listening device, click it on, point the dish. Not looking to listen to Perry, I want to see if anyone else is inside. Doubtful, but not impossible, Perry might have a friend, or a live-in even. Likely not a same sex, he was nailed for little girls, not boys. 
Could be he’s gay, can’t come to grips with it, thus the girls. In some psychology it’s said the obstacle is the desire. Think of a man who pursues married women who are largely unattainable. In fact, he pursues them because they’re unattainable, the husband is the obstacle, and it’s the husband he desires. Women aren’t exempt, like going for married men when what she wants is a woman. I can’t see how that applies to Perry, the girls weren’t married, too young for boyfriends. Enough convoluted psychology, what do I know anyway? I know his brain has misfired, and he’s going to die because of it.
The device picks up TV, or perhaps a DVD, sounds like a cartoon, or a kid’s movie. Singsong voices, words no longer than two syllables, plot of saving a fish or a princess. I’m stuck for now. If there’s a child, I don’t want to pop him in front of her. 
Perry goes inside, TV turns off, ‘You can watch that later.’
Little voice, ‘I’m hungry.’
‘Good, bring me the peanut butter.’
‘Do I have to lick it off your thing?’
‘It’s a dick, and yes, smear it on, lick it off.’
Mystery solved.
If there’s any moaning and groaning, I can’t hear it, until…
‘Open your mouth…ah…ah…ah…ummmm…feels so fucking good…swallow it down, you look so pretty with cum on your lips.’
She must be saying something, perhaps just whimpering, Perry says, ‘Cut the whining or I’ll take you back to those foster assholes, you want that?’
A jittery small ‘n n no’.
‘Go play outside, get a little sun on your butt.’
Light crunch of a sliding door.
I drive to the next street, peer between houses to his backyard. No good, but good. Can’t see jack, thick hedges just inside a chain link fence surround the yard.
No good because I can’t see the girl, good because after I take out Perry, I can get the girl gone without a neighbor wondering who is in the yard with the kid. Watch cap, sunglasses, little stickys on my fingertips, uninteresting slacks, sneakers, pullover and a jacket.
I back the Mercedes into his drive, his car is under the carport, another good. Get out, to his front door, knock.
‘Who is it?’
‘Delivery for Perry Mapleton, needs a signature.’
Door cracks open, ‘Didn’t order anything.’
‘Yeah, you did,’ he’s got a puss chain on the door, one kick from my fifteens and I’m in. Perry is on his ass, the door whacked him hard. I shut it.
Point the Glock, actually the barrel is resting against his forehead, ‘Get up, slowly.’
‘Fuck is this?’
‘Wrong answer,’ I crack him across the jaw with the butt, blood in his mouth.
Grab him by the shirt, yank him up, march him to the bedroom at the end of the hall.
He’s trembling, ‘Nothing to steal here, got maybe fifty in my wallet, take it.’
‘Not after your vast fortune,’ he blinks his confusion, I shoot him dead center, cute red hole in his forehead. 
Perry falls on the bed, staring at nothing. I check the other bedroom, little girl things and not much of it. I grab jeans, a t-shirt, sneakers.
Down the hall, through the living room, slide open the patio door. The girl is on a lounger, she’s nude.
‘Hey, put this on, we need to go.’
She’s up and dressing, asks, ‘Who are you?’
‘Nobody important, I don’t think you want to be here, so I’ll take you someplace you want to be.’
‘He makes me do…things.’
‘I know, no more doing things you don’t like doing. Finished? Let’s go.’
‘Where is…the man?’
‘Gone.’
‘You make him go?’
‘In a manner of speaking, put everything that belongs to you in this duffle, including toothbrush and hairbrush.’
She does, then out through the laundry room, then the carport, open the passenger, she climbs in. Morshchiny’s massive head rests on the passenger seat.
I buckle her up, get to the driver’s side, we’re on the street, then the highway, then the interstate.
‘That’s a big dog.’
‘Her name is Morshchiny, she likes kids.’
She turns and strokes the mastiff’s head.
I ask, ‘What’s your name?’
‘Sarah.’
‘Parents?’
‘I was taken from them a couple of years ago, the social people took me, our house was nasty, I was sick all the time.’
‘That’s when the foster family took you.’
‘Yes.’
‘How were they?’
‘Better, not much, but better. They didn’t…do things…but I was on my own, bad food, old clothes, yelling if I made noise. When the man took me, he said he would help me, but he just wanted to…’
‘I know, and I’m not him. No more nasty.’
‘Can I sit with Mor…what’s her name?’
‘Mor shin ee, and yes, unbuckle, climb over and put the seatbelt on.’
She does, the dog’s head in her lap. Ten minutes later, she’s asleep. I mentally thank the mastiff, she is most reassuring and the kid feels that.

One Hundred Thirty Five

Home, long day, driving stiff. 
‘If you need to use the toilet, it’s that way,’ I point to the original downstairs bath. 
She goes over, shuts the door, out again a minute later.
‘Take Morshchiny for a walk, she knows what to do, just follow along. I’ll get us dinner.’
She goes with the mastiff, her head is even with the dog’s when she stands. I open the blinds, watch Morshchiny lead her to the fence, then along her path, made from a few zillion times around the property.
Phone dings, Zero, ‘What’s doing Commandant, we have so much to do I haven’t been in your head.’
‘Tell me what your day was like.’
‘Class time, but mostly track time. Zoe is funny, she zooms, completely fearless, our instructor was impressed. CC and I did well enough, they are thorough and if we follow the instruction, it’s basically simple. Fin and the twins have been learning to brake and one eighty, like in movies. Tomorrow they do other evasive maneuvers, and learn how to clear a roadblock, drive another car off the road or make it spin out. I spoke with their instructor, he said the twins are so focused it’s scary, and that Fin is just crazy.’
‘We knew that. Anything else?’
‘Nope, going for a shower, then pick up dinner. Phoenix metro is four million people, there are restaurants next to restaurants. Probably Chinese. We won’t much care, we’re tired, in a good way, but tired.’
‘You may have a new little sister.’
‘Tell me.’
‘I decided to hunt Perry the Pedo, you remember?’
‘Yep, on the list.’
‘Not anymore. And he had a five or six year old he swiped from foster parents. The kid went willingly, the fosters weren’t much better than her real mother. She was removed for neglect and physical abuse, the fosters didn’t abuse so much as ignore. What they got from the state went for booze and smoke, almost nothing for the girl. Perry came along and spotted what he thought was a safe bet. He was wrong.’
‘She healthy, reasonably anyway?’
‘Too soon to tell, nothing obvious, she doesn’t have a fever, cough, sniffles, haven’t checked her teeth, likely still her baby teeth.’
‘Watch her brush, there are a dozen fresh toothbrushes in my bathroom, CC won’t use one for more than a month. She have a name?’
‘Sarah, right now Morshchiny is taking her for a walk. I’m thinking over dinner, since I wasn’t sure how long I’d be gone, didn’t take anything out.’
‘There’s Trader Joe’s stuff, battered frozen fish and chicken. I bet she’d like those chicken nugget things, there are usually frozen fries around, you can skip having to go out. She have clothes? Probably not, use my t-shirts, and a pair of CC’s stretchy shorts, socks will be too big but serviceable until I can get home, check her size and order things.’
‘Will do, she’s got to be hungry, I didn’t stop, she was asleep for half the drive, sat in back with Morshchiny and looked out the window. The dog kept her calm, I think.’
‘I’ll pass along the story to the others, take a photo and send it, get her height and weight, I can get things from Amazon and you’ll have something before we return.’
A voice, ‘Who are you talking to?’
I turn, she’s back, ‘Zero, call me on Facetime,’ we disconnect, ten seconds later the phone dings, I give it to Sarah.
‘You can see your new sisters, and they want to see you.’
I move over to the freezer and pull out the chicken and fries, frozen chopped spinach. If I make creamed spinach, she might go for it, it’s sweet with heavy cream. Turn the toaster oven to four hundred, make myself an icy vodka while it heats. I hear giggling, she’s talking to Zoe.
They go on until the oven is ready, I slide the rack in. We use a separate rack that fits inside the oven, resting on the wire rack that’s part of the oven. It cooks top and bottom better if the stuff doesn’t rest in a flat pan. Spinach is simmering and ready to turn into creamed spinach.
I warm orange sauce for the chicken, ketchup out for the fries, pour her a glass of tea, pour me a glass of red. I can hear conversation, but occupied with the simple dinner don’t pay attention.
As I lay plates on the counter, I tell CC, who is the one on the phone now, ‘Time for dinner, girls, talk tomorrow.’
I see the screen filled with the tribe waving, then it clicks off.
Sarah lays down the phone, she’s sniffling.
‘What is it?’
She looks up at me, ‘They like me,’ she swipes a tear, ‘nobody ever liked me before.’
‘The girls will take good care of you. Right now they’re at driving school, they come home at the end of the week, three days.’
‘CC said she was ordering me clothes, oh, I’m supposed to measure my foot and send them the size.’
‘We’ll do it right after dinner, you can text them.’
She looks at the phone, ‘What is text, I don’t know how to work the phone.’
‘I’ll show you, these are chicken, very good with the orange sauce, fries and ketchup, try the spinach, the girls have it all the time.’
I figure if she knows her new pals eat it, she will too.
Wow, that is one hungry sprite. I didn’t overload her plate, not sure what her tummy can take. I let her have a couple more chicken pieces, Trader Joe’s calls them drumellas, no idea what that means. A couple more steak fries and she even wants another serving spoon of spinach. That was easy.
‘Okay hotshot, upstairs to borrow some clothes, then down here for a shower. I’ll show you what’s what, then you’re on your own.’
Collect a t-shirt, socks, CC’s teeny shorts, which will fit the tiny thing more like boxers, back downstairs. Show her how the soap and shampoo dispensers work, get the rainfall temp right and how to adjust it. 
‘Here’s a towel, one for your hair, one to dry the rest of you. A hairbrush, toothbrush on the counter.’
‘Stay with me, can Morshchiny come in?’
I call the dog, she thumps in and parks upright, watching the girl. She strips, gets in the shower, soaks her hair, shampoo, lather up her body. I’m not paying attention, I don’t know if she’s private part hygienic, and I don’t need to. Zoe will figure out that later. Water off, I hand her the towel to dry, dry her hair myself. I’ve done this stuff for all the girls, it isn’t a thing.
‘Okay, wrap this dry towel around you, I’ll blow dry and brush, or you can do it yourself.’
She looks at me in the mirror, ‘Will you do it?’
‘Sure,’ I get busy blasting the dryer and brushing. Her hair is little girl soft, light brown, thick, CC will get it styled, right now it’s straight to her bony shoulders and uneven.
‘They cut my hair with scissors, and not very good.’
‘Not a problem, CC will take you for a cut and style, she knows what looks good, you will be happy with it, she does all the girls except the twins.’
Nikita is funny, she has an accent, what is it?’
‘Russian.’
‘Her sister waved but didn’t say anything.’
‘Natasha talks, just not much, and she doesn’t have an accent, not a Russian one.’
‘Nikita said I will have a good life and I am very fortunate you found me. She said you found all of them.’
‘Sort of, Zero helped with the finding, Zero was first, then the others. She’s like the big sister, or was while the other girls were growing up, now they are like sisters but not blood related. Of course the twins are blood related, but only to each other. You know blood related?’
‘The same parents.’
‘Right, it also refers to aunts, uncles, cousins, like that.’
‘Oh, if I had any of those I didn’t know them.’
‘Our family isn’t blood related, we’re better, together because we want to be, not because we have to be. Let’s take a look at your teeth.’
‘They’re ugly.’
‘Open up.’
She does, she’s right, but they aren’t a mess, some are missing, I can see the nubs of permanent teeth.
‘Little kids lose their baby teeth, then your big girl teeth grow in. You can brush before you go to bed. We’ll have ice cream later, no point in brushing right now.’
A smile, ‘Do you have chocolate?’
‘Yep, and cones or just in a bowl.’
‘I’ve had ice cream maybe twice, never an ice cream cone.’
‘You will have one tonight. Get dressed, I’ll show you what to do with the towels.’
We watch TV, she watches TV anyway, on the mat with Morshchiny as a headrest. I read another not so thrilling thriller. Apparently most readers are easily thrilled.
I show her how to fix up her cone, wrap a strip of paper towel around it, she licks and nibbles until the final crunch.
‘That was good.’
‘Glad you enjoyed it. Now before young ladies get too sleepy, let me see your toothbrush technique.’
She’s learned that anyway, does a respectable job. 
The TV is still on, some Netflix original. One of the most noticeable things about Netflix originals, they can kill more screen time with nothing happening than just about any other programming I can recall. The dialogue is either cliché, dull, hackneyed, common as house dust. Of course they now include at least one black character, usually two, one male, one female, a token Asian, and a sprinkling of Hispanics. I don’t consider myself racist, that’s not the point, it’s that the characters seem forced, and there’s lots of white girl black man but never the other way round. 

One Hundred Thirty Six

'It's very good jam,' said the Queen.
'Well, I don't want any today, at any rate.'
'You couldn't have it if you did want it,' the Queen said. 'The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday--but never jam today.'
'It must come sometimes to jam today,’ Alice objected.
'No, it can't,' said the Queen, 'it's jam every other day: today isn't any other day, you know.'
'I don't understand you,' said Alice. 'It's dreadfully confusing!'
'That's the effect of living backwards,' the Queen said kindly: 'it always makes one a little giddy at first--'
'Living backwards!' Alice repeated in great astonishment. 'I never heard of such a thing!'
'--but there's one great advantage in it, that one's memory works both ways.'
'I'm sure mine only works one way,' Alice remarked. 'I can't remember things before they happen.'
'It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,' the Queen remarked.
Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

The days pass, clothes and shoes showed up at the mailbox, the girl was delighted, new clothes.
‘I never had new clothes before, do I look pretty?’
‘You are splendid.’
‘My feet are big, and my ears too. I’m skinny.’
‘All your parts don’t grow at the same rate, most little girl feet look too big at your age, ears too sometimes. I saw a photo of one girl whose arms nearly reached her knees. Skinny girls wind up beautiful, fat girls wind up fat.’
She giggles, ‘The foster woman was fat, really fat. And she smelled bad.’
Zero had a copy of Alice in Wonderland, the girl devoured it, so I played the movie for her, the one with Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. She didn’t move a muscle the entire time.
‘That was so good. When do the girls get here?’
‘About two hours, it’s a long drive, but they have an RV, like a big bus. They can sleep, or stretch out, read, watch a movie, they swap driving so one girl doesn’t get stuck behind the wheel the whole ride.’
I make a light dinner, roasted chicken I got from the market. There’s half of it left and another whole one in case the girls are hungry. 
‘If you will get fresh water for Morshchiny and fill her food bowl, you can take her for a walk after. You know how to turn on the outside lights?’
‘Yes.’
The lights are on the ground, not in the air, when they’re on, the property is surrounded by circles of light along Morshchiny’s path. The dog’s scent keeps the little varmints away, I have a chain link fence, hidden by dense shrubbery, as an extra precaution I had a rail fence installed just outside the chain link. The fence rails are only four inches apart, it’s eight feet high, the rails are spiked at the top. Good luck trying to get in. If you do, you get to brave a confrontation with the hundred forty pound mastiff. The girl goes off with her for an evening constitutional, about a half hour depending on what the dog decides to examine along the way.
As she comes in the door, I hear the RV rolling up, ‘Girls are here.’
She scoots to the bathroom, I see her brushing teeth and brushing her hair. Sweet, she wants to make a good impression, doesn’t understand she can’t make a bad one.
Zoe is in first, met by Morshchiny for a sniff check, she tells the girl, ‘Morshchiny has to check everyone out. Look at you, totally adorable,’ she hugs the sprite, subsequent hugs and ‘welcomes’ from the others. 
The girl is teary, ‘I hope I can stay here.’
Nikita, ‘Do not make ridiculous, you will leaf here wiz us, this is best place ever.’
CC dabs little eyes, ‘Your new things fit just right. I am a fashion wizard, tomorrow I take you to get a hair style, I know just what to do, big beautiful eyes, wow, light brown I’ve never seen before, with gold sparkles even. What a cutie.’
Zero, ‘Got anything to eat?’
‘Yep, chicken in the oven, coleslaw, cornbread courtesy of you new little sis.’
‘Commandant showed me how to make it, he said Zoe might teach me more cooking things, it’s fun.’
Zoe, ‘Zoe sure will, she can use the help. Commandant did all the cooking until Zoe got into it, he deserves a break. Let’s get dinner organized, cool, Commandant has already cut up the chicken, and there’s beet salad, enough for a late dinner.’
Girls nibble, they’d called every night about their racing adventure, today was twelve hours of drive.
‘I need to go to the range tomorrow, see how far along the tracks are. Let the contractor know I’m paying attention. Probably overkill, his reputation is excellent, he’s built NASCAR tracks in several states, knows the Bondurant people, I called, they gave him high marks.’
After food, they go off to shower and wind down, Zero takes a second with the girl.
‘Commandant will get you a new birth certificate, you can’t be who you were.’
‘I don’t want to be who I was.’
‘Do you know your birthday?’
‘Yes, I’m six, as of a month ago, the twelfth.’
‘Okay, we’re going to change the date a little, it’s not that big a deal, we don’t do birthdays around here, but we need a date for the certificate. It will list a made up mother and father unknown.’
‘Okay,’ she doesn’t know from legalities, takes Zero’s word for it.
‘And the fun part is, you get a new name, any name you want. You don’t have to decide tonight, in the next day or so.’
She smiles, ‘Did you pick Zero?’
‘Yes, CC picked CC, Fin is sort for Infinity, Zoe picked Zoe, the twins had no relatives and came from Russia, they changed to Natasha and Nikita. I named Commandant.’
‘What about the other name?’
‘I don’t have a last name, neither do Zoe or CC, Fin is Infinity One, she thought it was funny since I’m Zero. You can pick any last name you want as well. Like I said, think it over.’
‘I don’t have to, I want to be Alice.’
Zero looks at me.
‘We read Alice in Wonderland, then she watched the movie.’
‘Can I be Alice Wonderland?’
‘Perfect, Commandant will arrange it, Alice Wonderland, you could also have a middle initial, Alice N Wonderland.’
‘That’s what I want, Alice N Wonderland,’ if she smiles any wider she’s going to need more face.
‘Will I have to go to school?’
‘None of us did, we learn basics online, then study whatever interests us. I’ll help you with subjects, Natasha too, she’s really smart.’
‘Bedtime for young ladies, and the other young ladies as well.’
Alice, ‘Where do I sleep?’
CC, ‘Tonight, with me.’
The newly minted race girls hike upstairs to their respective rooms. Zero hangs downstairs.
‘I haven’t had my vitamin bath for a week, are you up to it?’
I smile, ‘What do you think?’
She smiles, ‘That you’ll give me whatever I want.’
‘We have a winner.’
Scrunched together post-delight, on my side with her back to me, I hear her breath soften, her body goes slack in sleep. I kiss her ear gently, scent of me on her cheek. I don’t know if sperm has a beneficial effect on skin, Zero is convinced it does. Considering her flawless everything, she might be right.

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