Arthur's house has three floors and a basement. Five bedrooms, a backyard garden.
He'd lived alone for years now, since Hannah left. But with the crisis, he'd opened his house to friends. In some ways, there wasn't much of a choice.
Kate moved into Arthur's house; the apartment was too much, too expensive, and it wasn't safe to be alone there anymore. With her came a coworker who used to live out in West Chester with her parents; the girl hasn't seen her parents for two weeks now. They shared a bedroom on the third floor, along with Kate's two cats.
There were others, mostly friends who worked in the city and couldn't afford to go home anymore, couldn't go back out to the suburbs. Sarah, a paralegal, came with her husband and baby; Arthur'd never wanted a baby in his house--he wasn't good with children--but he couldn't say no. They took over what had been a second-floor "drawing room" in better days. His cousin John came, bringing an Irish wolfhound. "This is worse than the baby," Arthur sighed. But again, there wasn't a "no".
What Arthur couldn't do was convince his mother. She stayed in her rowhouse the Great Northeast; Arthur hoped she'd made friends with the Russian mafia. He called her every night, just to make sure she was still alive.
And there were others, drifting in and out. Friends from the zendo; artists; friends from his day job who needed a place to crash.
He liked his quiet life; he'd had enough excitement in Iraq. Now, there was no such thing.
The riots haven't touched Philly yet. Septa, in a move that shocked everyone, was still running. Full capacity, every trolley car, every subway car, every one of the dwindling buses. They promised they were working on a diesel-electric hybrid, but they'd been promising for at least seven years.
There's still time, he thought. If we can just keep things going, if we can just avoid--
A gunshot; it sounded at least a block away.
The riots may not come, but Philly was still Philly.
The mantel clock chimed; it was one a.m. In four hours, he had to get up. It almost didn't seem worth going in.