The sun is going down and the shadows growing long. Birds screech and dive into the water, frantic with the last light. Henry wonders if the birds know that the sun will be back or if the end of each day is for them like dying all over again. A gull surfaces, a slick and shiny thing thrashing in its mouth. The fish slips out, swims away, and the gull watches it go, wonders about going after it. But it is pointless and the bird beats its wings and takes to the air again. Fog moves in from the ocean, turning everything gray and cold.

Jesus he is thirsty. The bay—wide and deep, full of hope and fertilizer—laps at his feet. Water water everywhere. Henry licks his lips and tries not to think about it. A cargo ship loaded with colorful containers stacked like Legos tugs slowly towards Oakland. He likes watching these boats, rides the train down to the bay every day to watch them. He finds them soothing. They always seem relieved to be on the calm bay, to be cradled by land again. Once, he cannot remember when, he walked across that golden bridge and over to the headlands. It was a very long walk from the park, but there was nothing else to do. He stood on one of those old gun placements, all concrete and graffiti and made obsolete by bigger guns, and watched the Pacific tear away at everything it touched.

Coming here was a mistake. But what is done is done and cannot be undone. The blackbirds gather and watch him, wondering if he will give them food, or if maybe he will become food. He has a joint in his pocket he wants to smoke but is holding out. The money and weed will run out one day.

Henry wonders about Pay. He never thought much about Pay before when they lived next to each other, but he thinks of him all the time now. The poor bastard. All he wanted to do was go home. And why did they have to keep pushing him like that? After they rushed into his room and shot him and saved him at the hospital, they tried and convicted him on some bullshit and sent him to a confinement facility up near Seattle. Henry thought this was unfair. But Henry is learning there’s no such thing as fair. Especially in the Army, an unfeeling and uncaring thing with rules all its own. And when you try to bend those rules it breaks you.

Fuck it. Henry pulls the joint out and lights it, takes a deep drag, coughs it out. The money and weed will run out one day. But not today.

The cargo ship ties up to the dock, a last puff of black smoke. The joint burns his fingers. Henry swears and throws it into the water. A gull paddles up and nudges it with its beak and looks at Henry. The sun is fading finally to only a dark memory. He pulls on his jacket and walks to the train stop. He likes the trains. Slower than the buses but cheaper. He is right on time and a train comes gliding up. Its six doors open and he gets on through the back one where nobody is there to collect his fare. He sits on a hard seat and watches the city turn on its lights.

The train goes by the ballpark and gets crowded. People in black and orange and blue and white push on until there isn’t a space left. Henry watches them and remembers going to Cubs games as a kid. Once a year him and his dad would drive up to Chicago and eat hot dogs and sing with Harry Caray and watch the Cubs lose. He found it hard to believe anyone could live in Chicago. All those cars, all those buildings, all those people. He would take his glove to these games. But they were always in the cheap seats and out of foul ball range.

Up front, a fight breaks out. Yelling and pushing and punching and screaming. Blood turns an orange shirt red. The train moves on, its operator unfazed, and Henry is happy. The train goes underground and Henry looks at his reflection in the window. His beard is thick, his hair dirty. The girl sitting next to him would rather be sitting next to somebody else. He doesn’t blame her. He would rather be somebody else. Even if it was the guy with the bleeding mouth and swollen eye. A short girl is wiping up his blood with her sleeve and holding her other arm tightly around him, her eyes are serious and she whispers softly to him.

The train stops, the doors open, it empties like a lung exhaling. The doors close, it moves on, out of breath. Henry closes his eyes. He can feel the world spinning away from under him.

And he sleeps.

2 Responses

  1. Bob, you bastard.

    This is great. I missed Henry, I guess. Good to see him still wandering and observing.

    jkid - April 22nd, 2011 at 8:54 am
  2. i really like this!

    Rachel Ann Sutcliffe - April 28th, 2011 at 6:27 pm