By , Elk Grove, CA

The homeless man with the scruffy yellow bristles on his chin and a memory of hair left on his head always sat on the same bench every night. Before he was homeless he had a tendency to sit there leisurely and people watch. Now it was a necessity. He claim the bench as a mattress of sorts. Hard and wooden. Better than the ground. Better yet than an actual bed, he told himself. He had yet to stumble upon a justification. Linda, the small town where he didn't live but did dwell, had a small homeless population. There was him, and the toothless woman. She hung out near a park. He thought they were about the same age, but he had only had one conversation with her. Very short. Brief. "I'm Kevin." He had said. She was Maya. "Are you a local?" He asked her, and when she shook her hair no, he retreated. Back to the bench. Chez Kevin. It faced an ice cream parlor. Also some empty rental offices. Kevin's eyes drooped, glued to the bench with some inertia from the days quest. The quest was to get drunk. It failed. But the effort it had taken to walk around and beg, or to search the vending machines in the park for coin made the sky turn grey quicker. The world was blurrily sleepy, so when he got to the bench he resolved not to get back up. The disappointment of sobriety coupled with the tiresome nature of his day made his head hurt. He was trying to sleep, but sleep wouldn't come, instead dangled above his head like in the State Farm commercial with Gary Busey. People were talking. The voices he heard were not in his own head. Silhouettes adorned the front of the ice cream parlor, two boys it appeared. They walked into lighting, and by this time Kevin had rolled over to watch them. What else to do; He couldn't sleep with their chatter. The blond, taller figure stumbled into the light revealing feminine facial features, and the shorter brunette was just a skinny kid. He was certainly a boy, however skinny. They were standing arms akimbo, an old word Kevin learned when he was a librarian. He could not clearly make out their conversation. The boy reached for the girl's hand. The girl nodded in the homeless man's direction. Kevin quickly shut his eyes. For some reason, it's easier to hear when eyes are closed. The boy said, "Here." And he handed the girl something jingly. Kevin glanced over. The thing reflected a small gold twinkle in the girl's hand. The boy was staring at her like a kindergartner waiting for a gold star. His arms were behind him, postured to appear taller. The girl leaned in, and down a bit because of the height difference. As the silhouettes combined, Kevin closed his eyes again. He wasn't afraid they were looking at him, he knew they were too busy. But this was a personal moment. A bit too perverse to watch, keeping him up or not. Kevin instead thought of his wife. She was a librarian too. Why had she left him again? Maybe it's because he was much always getting drunk. Two steps of unsynchronized footsteps recede down the street. He was so much better at getting drunk when he had a wife. But that was when drinking was pointless. Now, it had a purpose: to help him forget his wife. Kevin fell asleep. Eventually.

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