by Tony Noland
Every time he spit, the taste was moldy paper, plaster dust and bits of old glue. Blood snaked down his arm from the gash, but grime and grit thickened and slowed it, made it divert across his forearm in its course toward his wrist like a million-year-old river staggering down the slope of a see-sawing continent.
Anyway, not enough of it got to his hands to make his grip get slippery, at least, no worse than what the sweat was doing. The duct tape around the handle of the hammer was about as old as he was. The long, heavy crowbar was bare metal, rough enough that it cut him as he swung it, even through the calluses.
He spat again, paused to wipe a chunk of something from his eye, the good one.
The bar made its low, musical cough as he tore out another section of the wall. Not sheetrock. Cheap-ass thin stuff was behind sheetrock, or, god forbid, plastic. No, this was good old plaster and lath, a hundred, maybe a hundred and fifty years old. Smooth, with a dozen or more different layers of wallpaper, silken shreds of emerald, sapphire, gold, rose, ivory, all in patterns of flowers, vines, pineapples for Christ's sake, intricate diamonds, more flowers. The layers made the wall come down in easy chunks.
And there among the mouse turds and sawdust ran the copper. Thick old pipes and heavy wiring, many times more robust that they needed to be, than the efficient newer places had.
Fiber optic cable was worthless, but this? With a find like this, he could eat for a week.
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