Memories

A short story in sadness.


As the sun slowly rose into the clear blue sky its rays fell upon the shadows and banished them for another day. The air immediately started to warm and by now the city was in full swing, offices opening as the people made their way from the breakfast diners, the car parks and the bus stops to their work. it seemed like everyone in the entire city was on the move.

Chete just sat back in his box and watched people passing his alley. He had woken late and had, therefore, missed breakfast. All the best pickings would be gone by now. Chete ran his eyes around the walls and the dumpsters making sure everything was as he left it last night. It was. Hardly anyone came here anymore. after the murder of that cop where some punk took his head of with a machete, just a few feet from where Chete now sat. That's how Quinton L Barton had come to be called Chete by the rest of the street community as he was the only one who would ever go there now. This never worried Chete, well how many other bums had their own alley and one with a view too. Straight across the street was the impressive front to one of the largest hotels in New York.

Chete liked to just sit and watch the people that came and went marvelling at their finery and admiring the, way they walked and talked if he was lucky he would catch a whiff of a sweet perfume or the odour of a rich cigar, but best of all these people ate well and wasted lots so after the main meals he was usually assured a good feed himself if he could beat the other vagrants in the area to the bins and then not get caught by one of the hotel employees.

Today seemed like it was going to be a good day, it was the first day of summer and that meant it wouldn't be so cold at night and that the days would be sun filled from now on. Chete liked to feel the warm sun. He slowly rubbed a small patch on his cheek that the sun had warmed and he felt a great relief to know that he was alive on this new day. His thoughts turned back to when he was young and he had gone on picnics with his family on days such as this. They'd pack lunch, load the car and drive out of the city to the country where they would stay all day playing in the fields. running in the woods and splashing in the streams. Then as the night swept across the fields and the shadows in the forest lengthened and the stream became a dark, swirling current they would climb wearily back into the trusty old Buick and fall quietly asleep as their father drove them all safely back to their home, their place, their apartment in the city the city, the cold unfeeling mass of cement walls and steel constructions.

Chete's mind stopped wandering just in time for him to spot the patrol car and duck quickly and quietly back into his home, his place, his box and hide from the penetrating gaze of the officers of the law who only harassed him for what seemed to be a cruel sort of pleasure for some of them. After they had driven past he thought that he had probably get a move on if he wanted to get the morning papers for his bed. Chete always amazed even himself at how many papers he got, he told himself it was luck, others said it was experience. You can't live thirty years on the streets and not learn something. Anyway he got them that was all that mattered, but either way he'd still better get a move on. With the old leg giving him the usual trouble Chete heaved himself up from his used newspaper bed and hobbled slowly out into the full light of the day. He didn't even have to think about it any more the path was so familiar that his feet just automatically followed it while he waved and smiled to friends, and watched the world go by, but something seemed different today, he could see everything clearly and the colours seemed to be so full and real to him, a little spring came into his step as he moved along towards the office blocks. Then Chete put a proud look on his face and held his head high, something he'd not done for as long as he could remember.

There weren't so many papers today, and despite his hurry Chete was late for the second time that day, but strangely he didn't seem worried in the least. Chete leaned against the bin and looked across at the park, soon he could spend evenings in the park, playing chess with the Baron and Dutch or even just watching the young people play, that really warmed his heart he loved the way youngsters played and laughed and even when they fought he smiled to himself. It reminded him so much of himself and the friends he had when he was younger. Then he had a thought that was not new to his tired old mind but was one that he liked to keep having, he thought of returning to the fields and the woods and the streams where he had gone as a child all those years ago, this time he thought I'll do it. Chete started off towards the bus station, he'd been saving a little money in case of emergency, but this seemed a good enough reason to use it, so he would.

The bus station was a building not to unfamiliar to Chete as he had used it to sleep in some of the early winters of '63 and the blizzards of '18 and on a few other occasions when he felt the need for a roof over his head. Today it was as busy as he had ever seen, thronging masses of people pushing to get on busses and a mob over by the takeaway bar, there was also a long line at the ticket windows, so reluctantly he joined the nearest queue and shuffled forwards with the rest of the automatic travellers moving like robots. He could smell the strong coffee and the thick donuts, and the saliva started to fill his mouth so he had to keep swallowing, which only made it worse. Finally it was his turn and he moved up to the counter. "Ah, one to Hadens Hollow please."
The man stared at him, it was so noisy that he thought that the man had not heard him, so he repeated himself, "Yeah ok Mac I heard you I'm just don't know where it is that's all." Chete explained that it was to the west about 60 miles. "Oh you mean Hadensville, that'll be thirty four bucks old man."
Chete looked at the man in sheer amazement, thirty four dollars! "I've only got twenty eight fifty, I, I..." The man looked at him thoughtfully, then looking quickly around he handed the ticket over and said quietly, "That'll do bud, now move along eh?"
Chete moved off wondering about the price of a bus ticket and wondering more about why the man had called it Hadensville, so he wandered over to the large map on the wall and consulted the index. There Hadensville and after it in brackets Hadens Hollow, ah a name change huh oh well he looked at his ticket and saw he was on bus eighteen. Through the thick windows he could make out bus eighteen, people were getting on board and the driver was there, he hobbled as fast as he could outside and over to the bus, he looked up to the driver and asked, "Is this bus eighteen?"
"That's what it says on the front pal, you on here or what?"
"Ah yes." he replied as he stepped up onto the bus and handed over his ticket the driver stamped it and handed it back and then pointed to a seat down the back, "That's yours."
Chete took his seat much to the dismay of the man in the isle seat who had had his eye on the window seat, and now to have it taken by a tramp who looked like he should be jumping railcars instead of riding busses. Chete fixed his head facing out of the window and watched the buildings stream past as the bus moved off and towards the city limits, the buildings got smaller and smaller until there were just houses around, he just wished that the trip would be over and that he would be there, when suddenly the bus slowed, turned and stopped, Chete looked around this can't be it, the bus engine stopped, the man had given him the wrong ticket after all. Everyone else got off here and the driver called "Hey you, come on, this is the end of the line. You have to get off here."
Reluctantly Chete got up and moved down the isle, then he slowly descended the steps He stepped off onto asphalt, not grass or dirt, there were no fields and no trees. Chete turned back to the driver but the door was shut and the driver was gone. With a lump stuck in his throat Chete began to survey the scene, cement shopping malls, steel frames of new factories and warehouses, asphalt car parks, housing estates and neon signs. No streams, only muddy brown sewerage drains. Chete felt weak as he shuffled towards a signpost his leg hurting more now and his vision returning to its usual blurred state, the shadows were getting long and the night was closing in fast, Quinton felt like he wanted to go home, he got to the signpost, it read Hadensville and had underneath in brackets Hadens Hollow.

That's where they found him, lying by the signpost, the police took him as another John Doe, deceased. They filled out the usual report and submitted it to the coroner for addition to his report. No grave marker, no congregation of mourners to recognise his passing. Just gone.



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