The noisy crowd at Main and First was already seeping into the street by the time Marjha and Buzz arrived. A driver rolled down his window and asked Buzz what all the excitement was about.
"The highway collapse," Buzz said absently.
"Yeah, yeah. It's all over the news. Traffic's going to be tangled for months they said."
He shook his head and bent down to speak with the driver. "Not that. The judge that was killed."
"A judge? Radio didn't say anything about a judge."
Marjha handed him one of the extra flysheets she was carrying. "It's in the Sidewalk Spectator."
The man scanned the page for a few seconds and peered up at them. "Six people were killed? How come that's not on the news either?"
Before she had a chance to answer, a fortyish woman in a bright green newsboy cap tapped her on the shoulder and slipped her hand into the strap binding the stack of flysheets. "Thanks. I'm going to need as many as you can get me." When Marjha gave her a puzzled look, she fingered her vendor badge and added, "Oh, sorry. I'm Betsy. Can you give me a hand here? I'm swamped."
Marjha released her grip on the bundle and turned back towards the driver.
When Betsy noticed that he had a copy of the flysheet, she said, "That one's free, sir, but you owe me the purchase of the next issue. I know when you go past, and I'll be watching for you." As the man drove off, she stepped closer to them. "Here's the deal," she said. "See this crowd here? They're my regulars. If we can get them fired up about this, they'll spread the word for us. I've told them that you two were on the way, and that if they stayed on the corner with me, I'd interview you for them. Think you're up to it?"
"Interview--?" Buzz mouthed distastefully.
She frowned and turned to Marjha. "It's on you, then. How do you want to do this? I could ask you--."
"No, wait," she said. "Give me a chance. I think I can get Buzz to open up."
He started to back away but lost his footing when he discovered he'd overshot the curb. He yelped at his sudden loss of balance, but Marjha reached out and grabbed his flailing hand, pulling him to safety. When she realized that the chatter had stopped, she quickly turned to the crowd. "Now that we have your attention," she said, "I'd like you to meet Buzz. I was visiting with him under the highway when it collapsed."
Betsy grinned, and urged her regulars to gather around.
While Buzz silently pleaded with her to stop, Marjha sketched out the scene for her listeners, so they'd get a sense of what the world was like from that vantage point. "In a way," she said after a pause, "being under that river of traffic was kind of soothing. After a while, the noise felt akin to the crash of waves on a rocky shore. Distant. Almost as if the shadow of the highway offered sanctuary to Buzz and the scattering of people I could see off in the distance. But then""