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This story arc has been published as a novel!

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---

Daylight Is Too Shallow

The YPCA powers-that-be decided that it was too risky, given his little episode, to have Ira on the overnight shift, so they let him take one of the six hour daytime shifts.

Ira already missed the late evening winding-down of the Y activities, the people spilling slowly into the street. He was fond of the still, dark hours in the middle of the night. He couldn't sleep much anyway, and it gave him something to do. He liked the young people who came in during the wee hours, even when they were drunk, or had clearly been fighting, or were just desperate. He enjoyed being a slow, calm voice of kindness in a world, in a city, that could be very unkind.

The glass doors flashing in the wan afternoon sunlight distracted him and made his head ache. More traffic passed by his desk, more conversation echoed in the halls, more noises resounded from classrooms and offices. Children went screaming past, uncontrolled and unchastised by their parents. He never saw or talked to the dorm dwellers, because loud matrons in louder clothing always seemed to be between him and them as they went past. He couldn't read because people who didn't actually see him kept asking him pointless questions. And always, the doors went flash, flicker, flash.

"Hey," a voice at his elbow said through the tumult.

He turned and blinked wearily at Tin Lizzie. She smiled lopsidedly, her freckles standing out in the weird afternoon light, and held a steaming paper cup out to him. "You looked a little... well, you know, so I thought maybe you'd like some tea."

Ira smiled, taking the cup from her with both his hands. "Thank you. Thank you very much."

She smiled again and shifted awkwardly. "Are you feeling all right?"

He nodded. "Just not used to all the bustle, I guess."

"Oh," she said. "You usually work nights?"

"Not any more," he said, not a little ruefully.

"Oh. Oh, geez," she said, covering her mouth with sudden enlightenment. "Is that my fault?"

"You?" He peered at her. "No, no, not at all your fault. I'm old. Can't expect everything to work right. Not my brain, not my body. They don't want to take chances."

Her mouth twisted up at the corner. "Thanks. Is there anything else I can bring you?"

Ira watched her face for a moment. "No, thank you. The tea will hit the spot."

She nodded. "Well, I'll just, um, go, then. See ya." She gave him a little wave and nearly ran away.

He sighed, told someone where to find the rest rooms, and aimlessly picked up the cup and took a sip.

Then paused and stared at the cup.

It tasted like it had two loaded spoons of sugar in it and enough creamer to turn it quite light brown. Just the way he used to take it more than 10 years ago.

He put the cup down, told another person where to find the rest room, and tried to do his crossword.

A little while later, a young blonde girl in a lavender sweatsuit stood in front of his desk until he noticed her. He looked up with a pleasant smile on his face.

"I say, Ira," she said, "they've got you on a bad shift, haven't they?"

Ira focused more carefully on her and recognized the English accent and general outline of her. "Hello, Molly," he said. "What brings you to the Y?"

"Got to keep in shape, don't I?" the Equestrian said. "I may be permanently thirteen, but there's nothin' sayin' I have to be a slim thirteen. Gotta work on it."

"Chocolates put the weight on, you know," he said. "I assume you're still fond of them?"

"There's got to be a point to being a legal adult with the metabolism of a hummingbird," she said.

Ira smiled at her irresistable grin. He was terribly fond of Molly. They were of an age, except that when he was a skinny black-haired nebbish preparing for his bar mitzvah, she'd been galloping over the battlefields of Europe, searching for her father and his lost unit. They'd hit it off several years later at a big post-war superhero ball, when Ira stepped out for only the third time in his new costume. They'd even tried dating, once, when they were 19, but Ira had been too uncomfortable and awkward (and felt creepy, truth be told), so she'd broken it off.

"You look good, Molly," Ira said. "I wish I felt twice your age."

"Poor kid," Molly said with real feeling. "How're the eyes?"

"Still there," Ira said. "Still blurry."

"You ever talked to any of the people with useful magic about it?" Molly said.

"You have useful magic," Ira said. "But no, I haven't. Where's the horseboy?"

"Oh, he hates it in here," Molly said. "Says he can't put up with so much human sweat. But speaking of him, he wanted me to tell you something."

"What's that?"

"It's about your daughter-in-law," she said. "We saw her in town a few days ago."

At that moment, one or two of the classrooms opened their doors and school-aged children and their parents spilled out into the hall, chattering loudly. One of the classes had been karate or something like it, because several of the boys were still loudly sparring and yelling. Parents and children converged on the information desk to ask Ira questions. Mostly about where the rest rooms were.

Molly was displaced abruptly by the rudeness tsunami. Ira, immediately distracted, waved goodbye, even as she was shouting, "No, wait, this is important!"

Something in her voice caught his attention. He called, hoping she'd hear, "Monday lunch at Flo's?"

Molly waved, turned, and elbowed her way through the mob to the doors, leaving a wake of yelps and sore body parts behind her. She had the sharpest elbows Ira knew of.

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