Sûrah LXII
THE CONGREGATION
"But when they spy some merchandise or pastime they break away to it and leave thee standing."

62
REGROUPED

Like sheep averse to shepherding, Zahra's roommates seldom flock, their sundry lifestyles only similar with respect to their diversity. To find all of them at home, converging at noon, no less—unplanned—is to acknowledge Fate has played a (coincidental) hand.

Judy's route:

Having dragged herself to work with menstrual cramps akin to labor, she has "retailed" with a smile more like a rictus, then succumbed, confided her lower-tract infirmity to HR, been excused, caught the bus, bemoaning when, IF EVER AGAIN, she might be comfortable standing upright, wondering how she will negotiate two long blocks that lie ahead, and why, in God's name, she has forced herself to function; bed, sweet bed, where she can grunt and groan and double up and vomit, if she needs to, is the only goal her misery entertains.

Greer's route:

Haphazard, symptomatic of his off-and-on insomnia, he has wandered first the flat, confirming Amy's AWOL status, then the neighborhood, shop by shuttered shop, awaiting dawn and COFFEE for the insight it might furnish as regards his hair-shirt jealousy, why the rash of Amy's disaffection has suddenly reappeared when it was over, finished, ancient history; why this bitter relapse, with his agitated heart and groin undignified, so absurd (?); his footsteps plodding with an automatic cadence past control, the way a walking-toy is drawn to table's edge by a weighted string, until it halts, suspends its progress at the 'precipice'—in this case 'stoop'—his tour returning him, still peeved, from whence he began.

Duke's route:

The shortest, straight from bunk to head to kitchen, his construction job postponed for lack of plumbing skills—"No, sweat"—no money either, hence his balking at the scheme to finance Zahra; if a ticket must be bought, the funds will NOT be raised from him; besides which, buying off the problem seems a 'lizardly' solution (Pistol's offer notwithstanding); all agreed to stay the course, and though the inconvenience rankles worse upon being unemployed—thus free to write new tunes, to practice finally, to score some decent gigs—the thought of shipping Zahra off like hazardous waste is too expedient, too hardhearted, hence it fails to win Duke's sanction.

Pistol's route:

Calisthenics RAF-style flexed his sleep-deficient muscles (still unused to working swing shift, he had risen HOURS too soon) the repetitions steadfast, strenuous: sets of push-ups, sit-ups, squats, and (least considerate) jumping-jacks (whose shocks approximated earthquakes, 6 to 8 on the Richter scale; insult added to injury as he then yodeled in the shower, snapped his towel at phantom ninja, pilfered food stocks, slammed all doors, and proved, in every other aspect, an abrasive sort of menace: highly covetous of his skateboard, late with bills, likewise with rent, yet indispensable in the realm of practicality, Pistol irks, albeit offsets faults by making feasible contributions—except at present; pressuring Zahra putting him 'atop' one roommate's shit-list.

Amy's route:

On Judy's teeter-tottering heels and green-eyed Greer's ill-tempered circuit, Amy bursts in like a whirling dervish bristling discontent, fresh from her conversation with Zahra, trading guilt for indignation, spurred by inklings of conspiracy—Duke's and Pistol's gross betrayal—whereby her comrade, her confessor, at the mercy of their whim, was being ousted, hand-delivered to the enemy, onto death; were they so gutless or just short on memory? Both, no doubt. Despicable! When the chips were down, how dare they turn their backs and shrug!