Then he angled back into the armpit of Redwood City. He found his alley and hunkered down.
Even when dozing he kept half an ear open. When somebody entered his alley he would start tonelessly humming and bobbing back-and-forth. Most of the people he entered his alley were the regulars.
In the morning he eased out to visit the atole cart for breakfast. On the way to his regular supplier he stopped by one of the porta-potties that Cali had put out to support the homeless population. Zev took care of business and washed up.
The woman who ran his favorite atole cart was as black as coffee and spoke with a Caribbean accent. "An doya be havin' a quote for me?" she asked.
"I do." he said:
"Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it:
That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.
Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."
"Oh!" she said. "Dat is a good one. Old Testament, no?"
Zev nodded his agreement. "Deuteronomy. Chapter six by Christian reckoning."
The woman gave him TWO extra shots of warm palm oil and then filled his twenty-four ounce bottle with warm, salted atole. She also filled his other bottle with potable water. The bottle of atole and the potable water cost him three, US nickels.
Then Zev went back to his alley without collecting any news or doing any additional scavenging.
Shortly before dusk about half the alley's regular sleepers had settled in. That is when three "toughs" came through. Unlike the regulars, the toughs were not quiet.
Zev was in his "short bus" mode with his eyes open to tiny slits. He was sitting on the ground, rocking back-and-forth with his hands tucked beneath his thighs.
The three toughs stopped in front of him.
The loudest of the three, presumable the leader, said "I am going to get my rocks off. Watch this." and then he unzipped his pants fly and whipped out his tally-whacker.
The tough clearly expected Zev to fellate him.
The tough straddled Zev's rocking body with his legs and thrust his pride-and-joy into Zev's face.
The tough screamed as the 3/8" wide, sharpened tip of the eight inch long screwdriver entered his right buttock. The tip had been honed to scalpel-like sharpness and easily penetrated the fabric, skin, fat and muscle and then gouged deeply into the fossa iliaca, the wide wings near the top of the bully's pelvis.
Zev did not take half-way measures when defending himself.
Zev yanked the shank of the screwdriver out as quickly as he struck. He did not want the shit-head running off with his only means of self defense. He was just a prepared to continue with stabbing the tough in "sewing machine" mode if things continued going south. The screwdriver's cutting face was narrow and did not destroy a great deal of tissue even though it drove in deeply.
Multiple strikes were not necessary as the three former toughs exited the alleyway at high speed with the former leader struggling to get his right leg to function.
As the sobbing sounds faded, one of the tired, invisible old men who sacked out near Zev said, "I was wondering what you were going to do. I couldn't see you just 'takin it'. They won't be back and they sure as hell aren't going to admit where the puke got stabbed...at least not to the cops. They will make up a better story, first."
Even in the lowest strata of society, a man's measure is constantly taken and refined. Zev's neighbors had never believed Zev's short-bus act, not for a second. But acting that way was Zev's business. If any of Zev's neighbors had equivocated about welcoming Zev in the alleyway, those uncertainties had evaporated. Zev had defended their alley and word would get around: Toughs, go elsewhere. Every denizen of the alley could now sleep more safely.
Zev wasted a tiny amount of his precious potable water to clean the shaft of the screwdriver. The tip was sharp enough to accidentally give him a cut if he was not careful. He surely did not want to get hepatitis or HIV or anything else the bully might have been carrying.
And then Zev went back into his half-dozing mode.