He picks up a portion of the pavement,
and holds it in the palm of his hand,
seeing how the street light reflects off of it.
Sitting down heavily, he takes a bite,
relishing the taste, chewing slowly.
The sidewalk tastes like pita,
but a tad crunchier,
and a bit sweeter.
He stretches, feeling his long arms part the sky,
then takes a sip of the cold night air
to wash his meal down.
He then stands up.
He won’t sleep here.
Instead, he curls up in his favorite place,
a particularly comfortable block of Irving Street.
He makes an indent in the concrete,
just enough to sleep in.
His body feels too big for the indent,
but it’s not,
and he doesn’t want to impugn the street’s hospitality.
He falls asleep quickly,
Upon waking, he realizes that he has outstayed his welcome.
Or rather, the street tells him this.
The concrete has grown up around his arms and legs,
and prevents him from standing.
He apologizes politely,
and the sidewalk retracts its grip.
Is there anywhere you recommend I go? he asks.
I hear that Scott is quiet. the street replies.
Before going to Scott street,
he decides to breakfast at the park.
He picks a cluster of dandelions,
and grabs a few round stones,
and fills his mug to the brim with grass and soil.
He also has a piece of fresh bark,
a treat which the trees only grant rarely.
While he eats, he talks to the park.
Good morning, he says, how are you?
I’m very well, thanks. I’ve just been watered.
Oh really? he says after a long sip of dirt. That’s very nice.
It nods, or it would, if it could.
They exchange pleasantries, and he pushes himself off of the ground, and leaves the park.
He arrives on Scott Street in midmorning.
There is one other person on the street,
a woman that looks about thirty.
He nods to her, and smiles.
She nods back.
She doesn’t try to talk to him,
and he is thankful.
When she has passed, he sits down.
The street notices him.
I heard you were coming.
He nods. I’m looking for somewhere to live.
The street thinks for a second.
He can feel it breathing under him.
Its breaths are long and slow.
The street finally answers.
What can you give me?
I can fix any injuries you have, he said.
Do you have anything else?
He upends his pockets.
There is a roll of tape in his left pocket
and a flat, smooth, disk of stone in the right.
This is all good, says the street,
but I will have to think.
He nods, and stands up.
He walks down the rest of the street.
He knows that this is just a formality,
that soon this will be his home.
He looks for a place to spend the night.
As Irving had said,
the street is quiet.
He drinks it in,
feeling it wrap around his arms and legs.
Eventually, he finds a comfortable spot.
The concrete is smooth,
and already slightly indented.
He makes sure to remember the place.
He sits down, and the street acknowledges him shortly.
You may stay.
Thank you, he says.
You have two months here, it replies.
The street gives him lunch,
as a gift to cement their contract.
It is a piece of concrete, two pinecones, and a couple of apples.
The street has other things to do,
so he eats on his own.
As he is finishing the apples,
someone walks up and sits next to him.
It’s an older man, carrying a sack of clothes and beer.
“Hey,” says the man, “how’s it going?”
He nods at the man.
“Don’t talk, huh?”
He nods again.
“That’s alright. You sleepin’ here?”
He nods for a third time, then gives a strained smile and hands the man an apple.
“Thanks. I’ll leave you be.”
The interaction is thoroughly unpleasant.
After lunch, he decides to go have a chat with the old tree on Gladys.
The street is quiet, which suits him perfectly.
How are you? he says.
Could be better, says the tree.
It sighs. Nothing really. I just haven’t been watered for a while.
I’ve got just the thing, he says.
He draws a half-full plastic bottle of water from his coat.
Thanks so much, says the tree.
He pours it on its roots.
I have to go now, he says, but it was a pleasure talking with you.
He needs to do three things.
The first, and easiest, is to restock.
He starts by simply walking around the park.
First, he finds a heart shaped piece of glass,
then a squarish purple rock,
then half a ham sandwich.
He puts these things in his pocket, then goes to the street.
There, he only finds one thing:
a keychain with four keys on it.
He tucks this away where he keeps his most valuable possessions.
The second thing is to buy paper.
On entering the store, he wants to run out.
His skin crawls.
There are too many people.
He feels their speech like needles all over his body.
Grabbing a pack of white paper, he goes to check out.
The cashier is a young woman, in her twenties.
He hands her the paper, then the money.
“Have a great day,” she says.
He walks out as fast as he can.
The third thing is to write.
He takes a pen out, and begins.
He writes at least twenty pages,
addresses it TO ELSEWHERE,
and holds it to the wind.
For a second it’s there, then it’s not.
Satisfied, he tucks the rest of the paper away.
Upon waking, he sees that he’s received a response.
He smiles, reads it, and tucks it away too.
It fits quite well with the keychain and his pen.
This pleases him immensely.
by Huck Shelf