10-25-12 The prompt: A poem from Robert Zimmerman’s From Where I Stand
I started. I hadn’t seen the man in the shadows of the doorway. It was a dark and wet evening, chilly as late fall can be. There was a hint of snow in the air, a feeling more than anything, that thin scent of winter anticipated. I had my shoulders hunched, head down into the collar of my long coat, intent on getting home. It was easy to miss the odd vagrant or two.
“You talking to me?, I asked.
“Yeah. Can you help out a fella down on his luck? I ain’t eaten in a couple of days, and there doesn’t seem to be a Mission around these parts.”
I was tempted to walk on, but I had been in his shoes just a year or two ago. The war had hit me hard, and the demobilization was an abrupt shock. Others had gone back to school on the Bill, but I tried to go back to the factory. That lasted for just a couple of weeks, until the memories and visions started coming back. I pulled through.
“Would a square meal help? There’s a diner the next block over. It’s clean, and warm. I’ll spring for supper, and you can get a bit drier.” I felt flush next to my new friend, even though I knew it would be a little tight after a meal out. I knew what he was going through, and it would help me as much as him.
“Sure. That’ll be swell. Name’s Jimmy. What’s yours?” He swung into step beside me as we headed off.
“Robert John Alouicios Halligan. After the nuns. Sister Alouicious thought it would make a very nice Confirmation name. I think I was suckered.” I laughed a bit at the memory, and my step lightened a bit as we walked. Jimmy was an enthusiastic guest, and began to regale me with stories of the street and the rail yard. We turned the corner, and saw the diner ahead with its dingy light spilling out onto the sidewalk and a halo around it from the mist. We picked up steam at the thought of a warm place to sit.
I waved Jimmy ahead of me as I opened the door. The cook looked up with a frown when he saw my companion, then a bit of confusion as I followed. It turned to resignation as we sat in a booth.
The waitress slid off one of the stools, came over with her pad flipped open, and said “What’ll yiz have?” in a slurry kind of way.
I looked up and smiled at her. “Coffee, and two Blue Plate Specials, please.”
She turned to grab a couple of sturdy mugs, and shouted out “Hey Ernie, two blue plates!”
Ernie poked his head out the window, and apparently hadn’t gotten over the surlies. He scowled as though we didn’t rate a Blue Plate Special, pulled back into the kitchen and started to clatter things around.
“So, Jimmy, what’s the plan?
He looked sheepishly at me. “No plan, Bob. I’m just living.”
I knew exactly where he was.