Take a break. Sip some coffee. Have you recently met a stranger who with a scrap of curse, prophecy or weird clothes changed your day?
The man fished in his pocket and drew out a plastic bag filled with cherries. His crusty voice trailed off into a blissful champ as he jammed a handful of mellow berries into his mouth.
Is it my fate too? A worry lurked at the back of Yan’s mind. Dead, aloof, without home.
though. Death has its worth and discipline. Mind you, for some it could be a call to life.”
“What are you doing here?” Yan looked nervously sideways at the French cafe, sensing the possibility of a real catastrophe. This morning of all mornings! There would be hell to pay if Madame thought Yan was somehow involved.
He played with the idea of chucking this man off the street to somewhere where his kind belonged, but the word belong seemed so empty and mortifying. A shelter? A rehab center? Or straight to a grave?
“Am I missing out on a party?” The bar door juddered in its frame, and Mico poked his unshaven head out. He dragged whispers of smoke down deep, trickling it back out through his nostrils, and sighed. “By mercy of this rotten place, spare a cigarette, old man! What a night I had, what a night! But I’ll be better… Maybe tomorrow. You must know the feeling, right? You look like hell yourself.” Mico stretched out a shaky hand, reaching for a cigarette.
Yan stared at the old man, unblinking, sensing something mighty strange about him. His musty throw, probably a trophy from Zara Home, was torn and greasy in many places, as though he’d slumped along some dirty walls. His haggard face, rough plaster, bore an imprint of too many sorrows that clung to him from the past.
The old man spat cherry pits on the pavement. His voice rang stale and clear. “Death is grossly overrated, boy,” he reported knowledgeably. “Not as bad as they say
The man darted uneasy eyes at the old buildings, frowning earnestly over his thoughts. He grinned at last, his rotten-toothed mouth full of cherries. “I lifed hea, lon’ time ago, I don’t efen ’emembeh. ’Hought it woult ee nice tu come back.”
The old man snorted, amused. “Here, another moron craving the collapse. Ha! Think the future would be nothing like the past?” His barb was a shout against his hard-bitten frame.
The man hunted through his pocket and squeezed a rumpled cigarette between his gapped teeth. The bitter smoke curled around the street, scratching Yan’s throat, sliding silver tendrils into the open windows of Norumbega.
The man grinned wickedly as though he could hear his thoughts. “Duh! Had a devil of a fight with life, young boy!” There was a brief laugh, sharp with bitterness and fatigue. The man picked his nose obnoxiously, as if old age left shame only for the young.
A hobo? Yan thought as the man smacked his bare feet against the pavement to shuck off the sand. The man glared back at him. His dead eyes, bleached almost white by the sun, set off a shiver in Yan’s bones. Is he even...alive?
“The king of Hell died, not knowing the sound of happiness. A catastrophe! A dead dullard he was, the king…”