Jazz Gang: In Sickness and In Health

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This flash fiction piece was written for Sunday Scribblings. Although it is set in the same world as Steal Tomorrow it is part of a new series of stories centered around new characters. The "Extras" section of the sidebar has updated to reflect this. If you enjoyed this story, drop by Sunday Scribblings for more fun!


They pulled the covers up to his chin. When they saw he was still shivering, Cee pulled a comforter from her own bed and Tim helped her tuck it around Mario's feverish body.

"He's just going to push it off in a few minutes," Tim observed.

Cee shrugged and wiped Mario's face with a decorative hand towel she had found in the bathroom of the abandoned apartment.

"At least it isn't Telo." Tim pulled up a chair and sat down with a sigh. That Mario didn't show the symptoms of the pandemic virus that had killed all the adults was cold comfort when some other illness might carry him off due to lack of medical care. "We need proper meds."

Cee pointed to the bottle of vitamins they had found.

Tim shook his head. "That'll help, but he probably needs antibiotics." He threw up his hands in frustration. "How are any of us supposed to survive when we've got no fresh food, no clean water, and no medicine?"

It was a rhetorical question, of course. Telo was a retrovirus and they were all infected. Even if they survived the current chaos, the normal division of their cells would trigger the deadly virus as they reached adulthood.

An early death from some mundane bug that could've once been easily cured was another matter, though. What was worse was that it was Mario who was sick - Mario, the leader of their little jazz trio. His saxophone music brought a glimmer of happiness and normality back into the lives of the pandemic survivors and his crazy optimism had reminded Tim that life, however short, could still be worth living.

Tim looked again at Mario, his hair wet with sweat even as he shivered under the extra blankets. Then his gaze wandered to Cee, the mute flutist. Tim had always been ambivalent about the gawky little girl but today her wide eyes and frightened expression annoyed him more than usual. "What are you staring at? Can't you do something useful, or at least talk?" Getting only the expected silence in answer, he added, "Go away. You're getting on my nerves."

For the rest of the day, Tim watched over Mario, removing covers when he claimed to be too hot and piling them back on when he began shivering again. He made Mario take vitamins every few hours, washed down with the last of their clean water. When Mario's shirt soaked through with sweat, Tim rifled through the closet and found him a clean one.

Shadows lengthened and Tim brought their solar lantern in from where it had been charging on the apartment balcony. He mopped Mario's forehead and helped him sit so he could drink a little water. It occurred to him that he hadn't seen Cee for several hours, but when he searched the apartment they were squatting in, she was nowhere to be found.

Where had she gone? The city was rife with gangs, feral dogs, and other post-pandemic dangers. It was no place for a girl, especially one who couldn't speak her needs or scream for help. The thought that he might've sent her into danger was sobering and with this added worry on his mind, Tim spent a sleepless night by Mario's side. Every sound from the front room made him jump, but it was never Cee, only the ordinary creakings of the old brownstone.

Tim finally dozed off at dawn and was woken a little later by new sounds - the creaking of bed springs, Mario's murmurings, and another sound he couldn't place. Tim opened his eyes to find Cee, dirty and with inexplicably wet hair, pressing pills through the foil backing of a card. "What is that?"

Cee handed him the card and began feeding Mario pills.

"Zithromax," Tim read. A slow smile spread across his face. Where in hell had she found these? Most of the remaining drugs in the city were controlled by powerful gangs who weren't in the business of giving things away for charity. The only way Cee could've gotten antibiotics from them would've been by theft or barter, and she had nothing to barter with except...Tim gazed at her thin body and frowned. She wouldn't have gone that far would she?

However she had gotten the antibiotics, it had been at enormous risk and sacrifice. Tim got to his feet and came around to the other side of the bed as Cee was lowering Mario back onto his pillows.

"Hey." He touched her shoulder.

Cee gazed up at him with defiant eyes.

He clasped her in his arms and was surprised at how good it felt to hold her. Cee's body molded itself to his and her head fit neatly under his chin, as if she had been designed just for him. Cautiously, Tim stroked her hair and all ambivalence about this strange silent girl vanished. "You're the best."

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Old Egg said...

What a movingly beautiful piece this is to read. I wonder whether you inhabit this world in your dreams to produce such writing.

Gwen said...

This is quite enthralling and would make a good film. I could easily imagine the characters...

WrightStuff said...

Made me shiver too...

Jae Rose said...

An immersive world..the hunt for magic potions..maybe it is one of life's fundametal stories..you write it beautifully..Jae

Alice Audrey said...

She's got me impressed.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

@Alice: You have to watch out for those quiet ones. ;-)

Dee Martin said...

such a small thing - antibiotics...this is wonderful - it says so much in an economy or words.