Hoppy Pug

January 3, 2009
By Abby Marco, Havertown, PA

The moon winked at me as I slinked through the sleeping streets of Baltimore, the black of night engulfing me like a titanic wave in the Atlantic. Silence. Silence. Suddenly, and quietly at first, a noise resembling that of a furtive slither was distinguishable from somewhere in front of me; A person? Dropping water? A snake? As if answering my unspoken inquiries, the sound revealed itself, and from the alleyway to my left, a snakelike object poked out. Only, it wasn’t a snake...

The heavy, russet rope dragged on the ground behind Hoppy Pug as he hobbled his old body around the corner of the alley’s mouth, the rope’s top half tied about his waist as support for his clothing. Or, rather, the shreds that remained of his clothing, for Hoppy sported ancient tattered rags, shabby from years of use. Noticing me for the first time as I anxiously pushed myself against the brick house to his right, Hoppy winked a bloodshot eye in my direction, and an amused smirk split across his crumpled face, one not at all unlike a slice of holey Swiss cheese.

“Ain’t you used to me by now, boy? You know ‘bout my midnight strolls each evenin’ ‘fore I head on back to that old house. Where’s you been lately?”

Rather than answering him with words that could cut through the night’s hush like a freshly sharpened knife, I extended my hand towards Hoppy’s own large, rough one, while the man’s other hand tipped his scruffy old top hat at me in greeting. Instinctively, my eyes slide from his hat down to his “shirt” pocket, where I knew I could catch a twinkle of precious gold. Hoppy followed my gaze, and that same toothy smile broke out upon his face.

“You wanna hear mah treasure, tonight, boy?” Hoppy invited, his voice low and gravelly, almost like a growl, but far too friendly. I nodded my head greedily, and the old man’s hand slipped into the pocket, coming out with the wonderful harmonica. He brought the treasure up to his cracked, new-eraser pink lips, and a heavenly tune wavered out into the still night. My ears perked up as to capture each note of the faultless blues melody, and I found myself watching as his unkempt salt-and-pepper beard bobbed up then back down as his jaws worked. Ray Charles, Howlin’ Wolf, Herbie Hancock, and even ones I couldn’t recognize; it was an endless string of marvel.

Sometime between gaping hypnotically at the aged, neglected face, and slipping away into sullen blues serenity, I nodded off, completely at ease with the world. And by the time I awoke, he was gone, and the sun had chased the moon out of the sky; all that remained of Hoppy’s midnight private show was that frayed old hat, resting beside me on the cement, and the sweet, sweet memories of a truly unique man.

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