He sobered up. He picked up his oak box, took the frayed leash and set out on his way. As he walked down the street he caught glances by the passers by with looks of pity. Just the day before he had a means of living, his little friend would dance about in his little costume as he would turn the crank of his music box. People would find amusement in the dancing and the music and hand the little dancer a dollar or some change. But that was all over. He was now just an old man with a music box. Who now would keep him alive and drunk with their spare change? Perhaps out of sadness they would toss a quarter or a dime at his feet.
He hated that look on their faces as he drifted by. If he had means of trimming his beard or cutting his hair, and a shower, maybe then they would look at him as just an old man. Because of his life he was looked down upon and socially quarantined.
He stopped a few people to beg for money. A few harsh words like “Get a job” or “Take a shower” and a few silver coins was all he got. He couldn’t fuel his addiction with those words so the coins had to do. He longed so much for the companionship of his little dancing friend but he was nowhere to be found. He picked up the occasional cigarette butt and lit it desperately for a chance of luck. A young man, made his day by handing him half a pack of Camels.
“I’m trying to quit anyways. So, I figured you could use them more than me.” The young man said in an attempt to justify he good deed. He would never know how much the old man appreciated the gesture. If he was a religious man he would have surely thanked the gods for that young man.
He grinded his music box on a corner as he leaned against a fire hydrant. The music played the same way as it always had. With the same twenty notes that seemed to weep in the air with its slow depressing tone. It had been a long since he was sick of the music that came from the box. He was now numb to it as he was numb to many things. He grinded away with the same song in the same tone, earning him about $2.38 he figured. A cop came and told him to move along. The cop tried to give him some lecture about laws, etc. He knew the laws about busking, he just didn’t care. He took his change and left.
He went to a diner and was ordered to leave as soon as his foot entered the door. He wasn’t surprised. It happened a lot with the way he looked and smelled. He tried another and another until he was finally allowed to buy a cup of coffee and a bagel. After he ate his meager meal, paid and left. He looked at his remaining money and counted out the $.30. At least he had a cup of coffee and a bagel he thought. As he sat outside the diner he lit a cigarette and thought about his next move, to conclusion to which, he had no idea.
Part of him wanted desperately to search for his old friend but he knew it would be a foolish attempt. Another part of him wanted to give up and succumb to the elements. In truth, he was too weathered to do either. All his body would allow him to do was continue to survive. From his seat by the diner he finally stirred. He stood up and looked up and down the street, as people walked by him casting that looked he hated so much. It didn’t matter which way he went because he had no place to go, so he went right because he wanted a change of scenery. If he had gone left he would have retraced his steps, there was nothing back there the first time around so what would make this time any different? He walked for sometime taking no note of his surroundings; he just walked for the sake of walking. Maybe there would be a good place to make some money or another feeble soul with a flask to share. He didn’t know so he searched as a gamble.
Upon a street corner he sat with his music box and began to play. He cranked the wheel and looked for mercy. His cup sat at his feet, empty. As ten minutes went by $.23 sat in his cup. Still he continued. The music crank stayed in rotation, earning him little more than his $.23. His mind wandered away from him, carrying his thoughts to his past life and his friends long since gone. He missed his little friend more than ever as he pictured the way his friend would dance away to the same song day after day. He never seemed to grow tired of that song or dancing for that matter. A flash of green brought him back to reality. A young beautiful woman smiled at him as she placed a green bill in his cup. She loved that song she proclaimed. Apparently her mother used to have a music box with the same lonely tune. God bless you, he wanted to say to her. He returned her smile with a pathetic one of his own. After she left he counted the money in his cup, $20.76 he totaled. Twenty of that was from the beautiful woman. He knew it was wrong but he left his spot in search of the closest liquor store.
He walked out of the liquor store with a heavy bag in his hand. He was happy to have the means to forget himself. He sat in a park and began to drink.
The first bottle was gone and cast aside, shattering in the confines of its paper bag.
The second one gone, as was he.
The alcohol had taken it’s toll and he slept next to death but never succumbed to it.
He woke to the tune of his music box as his little friend turned the handle. For the first time he embraced the music. He looked at his friend and smiled.