Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Lost in a Swirl

Chuck was lost in a swirl of his own thoughts just as Alice came up to him at the bus stop.

"What are you thinking" she asked, her voice a brassy rasp. She placed the plastic bag she'd been carrying on the bench where Chuck sat, where it met the warped and over- painted wood with a wet , crackling rush of air.

"Oh, ya startled me" said Chuck. He rubbed the back of his neck and looked up at Alice, squinting to see her face. If he still had the glasses that got run over by the city bus a month ago, he wouldn't have to strain his eyes to see the droops and sags in her face, the
lines that looked like ravines seen from planes on implausibly clear days. He could tell she was smiling. When she frowned her face seemed darker, more a smear or stain in a cloth than the cheery cloud she usually seemed in his blurry world.

"Whatcha thinking" she asked again.

"Thinking about going downtown and getting me a few bucks for a pint of blood and then
getting a room at the Sattler to get out of the cold, ya know? They're gonna tear that thing down and put some condos or offices or some such nonsense, and I thought it'd be nice to spend a night in a room with a roof and windows that close and all, for old times sake."

He fell quiet, and after some minutes Alice spoke up.

"Mind if I tag along?"

"Nah. Let's get going then."

Chuck stood up and pushed the shopping cart he'd filled with everything he had and both of them moved up the main street, mindful of traffic, quiet as shadows as they moved toward the high rises, the tall buildings just over there, the towers of commerce.