Rachel Simon
There was a drone of cars nearby, just on the other side of the building. What was the saying? Something about throwing stones? The point is, it was close by. From the street of blurring cars, go down an alley that was reduced
to a width of about three feet between two buildings: one with a basement full of crack whores, and the other with boarded up orifices and a faded sign out front reading “Apothecary.” At the end of the alley, go left, then right. There, behind an empty vending machine, is the perfect hidey-hole. Perfect for a little boy, who stood there, with a blue-raspberry sucker in his mouth, staining his tongue.
The little boy stood with his head angled slightly downwards, so his eyes rested on a man that was in his hidey-hole. Usually the sound of the cars echoed down the alley, like a harsh whisper. But it wasn’t any louder than a thought to the boy at that moment, who could only hear his own repeating thought, Should I tell an adult?
The man sat with his arms by his legs, palms up. His head was tilted to one side, and his eyelids showed only a sliver of his eyes. Could someone sleep with their eyes open like that? The boy supposed so. His Mama said she sleeps with her eyes wide open, so if he pulled anything, she would know.
With caution, the boy crouched down and looked into the man’s eyes. What if he waved his hand in front of his face, like he saw on TV? He gave a little wiggle of his hand in front of the man’s face, and quickly withdrew it against his chest. The man did not respond.
The little boy pulled the dissolving sucker from his mouth, which hung open for a moment, his fruity breath flowing past his lips. He wanted to say something, but Mama told him never to talk to strangers. In his mind, an invisible zipper went across his lips, now pursed and sticky from the sugary treat. He looked around for a moment, hoping that somehow an adult would wander into the narrow alley, take the correct turns, and find him. And adult would know what to do. Mama always does.
He looked back at the man, this time noticing his arm. The man had something tied around his arm, right above his elbow. Was he trying to remind himself of something? Usually when the boy needed to remind himself or his Mama of something, he tied things around his fingers. But maybe the man needed to remember something really important. Next to the man’s arm, something that attracted the boy’s attention even more: a glass tube with a shiny metal thing sticking out of the end. It looked like the thing the doctor used to give shots. Was the man reminding himself to get a shot? Shots hurt. But the doctor always gives suckers after, so that the shot doesn’t hurt as much.
The boy’s hand was still curled around the stick of his sucker, and he looked at it. It was more than halfway gone. He hoped there was still enough for the man.