Not from here

   She hadn’t come inside. She had been startled, and looked inside, pale face, marked by that kind of medicine, some of the girls do that to be white, and bronzed hair, but then she’d run on. One glance and I’d had some idea about her, don’t ask me how I do that, it doesn’t always work. She’d had some element of uncertainty, a tentative need. She wasn’t hard like the people around here, unworn by the elements. I was going to say perfunctory education too, but that might be stretching my powers. It was just an impression.
   And that was just minutes ago.
  “The water did this?”
   Like they’re going to tell me. Crouching man shrugs. Picks at a powdery rock by his feet. “And you know her,” I point at the skinny man. The other man laughs. What am I getting from these men now? All skinny man does is hug himself. “Too cold,” he says. “I’m going first.”
  “Hold your goddamned ground!”
  “It is my ground, gate guard.”
   But he stays.
   I turn on the others. “Well?”
  “Who has to listen to you, foreigner?”
   So that’s what I’m getting. And these other two are fascinated.
   And I don’t see this, but they tell me later that she lifted a knee just then. Could have been the water moving.
   I did hear her cough though.

To Speak

   Here it comes. The skinny guy hovers there just behind where I sit. He slaps me on the shoulder. “Hey. Why are you even here,” he says. “You’re not from here.”
   I make like he’s not there. Burn slow. And then turn it off so I can go back to eating.
   Then it’s two taps at my shoulder, backhand.
   Grabbing his wrist goes wrong. I turned in my seat and reached across myself. That was going to be easier than trying some kind of pansy shove from up close. But my seat goes out from under me. I still get his wrist, but I’m yanking him down with me and we collide. Something makes a resounding and painful clonk on my head, right where my forehead meets my crown. I grunt, he yelps, and his other hand comes up past my face, scratching. Then I realise I landed and it hurts and I’ve caught the table behind me with the back of my head. We’re on the greasy floor together.
   Then we’re both on our knees together, face to face, hands clasped straight down between us, his on mine, mne on his, trying to keep them out of the fight. And even as I’m in over my depth – fat friend approaching, cook moving in – I see this fucker has gone a little wide eyed and I maybe can just end this here. I lean into him, clonk him on the forehead with my own, and he doesn’t push back while I’m getting up. He has blood in his mouth.
   I make myself loud. “No,” I say – pitching the word both as an answer and as a command. He’s set himself to chuckling and his hands have gone limp in mine. “Not from here,” I say.
   He spits.
   I curse and shove him backwards up against his own table. “No, not from here.”
   My hand at my forehead comes away bloodied. This shithead has spit blood in my face too.
  “How about you?”