He wasn’t especially old, he only looked like it. A long white beard veiled his weathered face, while his breathe clearly displayed his intoxication. A red tattered vest cloaked his stained white shirt. Sitting on an oak music box he spoke to his companion, while his partner’s gaze wandered to each new sound of the city night.
“I could have *hic* done more with my *hic* life. Fuck! I was meant to do more! I could have been president or even *hic* emperor of the world!” the man slurred.
His partner explored the length of his rope.
“Now look at me! A slave to my next meal and *hic* my next drink.” He raises his bottle to toast his desolation.
His small and only friend bit at his restraints, ignorant to his friends words. His head turned each direction while the man failed to grasp his attention. Quizzically he explored the street, picking up bottle caps and cigarette butts tasting each one only to throw them away. A car drives by, then another.
“You and this box is all I *hic* have. You wouldn’t leave me would you?” He gave his friend a small piece of his meager meal.
“Maybe it’s a good thing you can’t talk *hic* ‘cause if you could you’d probably tell me how crazy *hic* I am.”
His little friend responded only to the offering of food. After which he continued to explore his surroundings. The sounds of the passing cars and the lights of the scattered campfires distracted him from the man’s ranting.
“I’ve always wanted to see Europe. My dad was from *hic* Germany, that bastard.” He spit on the ground as the words left his mouth in disgust.
“I want to go someplace *hic* warm. It’s too fucking cold here! At least in the south I could sleep outside without worrying about freezing to death. Fuck this place. Tomorrow we’ll leave. I don’t know where we’ll go but it’ll be fucking warm! That’s for *hic* damn sure!”
His little friend perked up as if he understood. He climbed on the man and sat on his lap as the man sat in the lap of the oak music box. He was tired. The man was tired too. He tried to sleep but soon became restless in the autumn cold. He stirred again this time not to explore but to find a comfortable position. He yawned frequently out of exhaustion. His fur filthy from the city and the streets, it looked as if he had not showered once in his lifetime.
“We should be living the high life, I’m talking steaks, single malt *hic* scotch, women, the works. They say life moves fast but I guess that’s only if you jump on board. I guess *hic* I missed it. It just kind of went by without me.”
The man’s friend sat wide-eyed daydreaming of sleep while the cold and the man kept him awake. By the glow of the streetlight he could see his tattered vest that matched the man’s. Often he would claw at it as if it was his rope. His master would hit him for that.
“Fucking quit it! I don’t want to have to keep making you new ones!”
He raised his hand, bringing it down with an open palm on his friend. His little companion jumped and hissed. There was now two empty bottles in brown paper bags on the cracked gray pavement. One more for the night. The man sang now with a wonderful sadness in the night. He raised his head in the air and settled in on the wall behind him. The crack of his beard parted with every gasping word. He threw one of the empty bottles in brown paper bags across the street. It fell short on the curb and shattered inside the brown paper bag. The man’s singing grew louder. Other similar broken bottles in brown paper bags showed that this was not their first night in that spot. The man stirred from the oak music box, in an attempt to lift himself up he fell on his side and rolled over on his stomach. His frail arms lifted his frail body into the city lights. He tried to stand in one place, like a soldier at attention. This was short lived. He began to stumble left and right while he sang. After another song and an encore he laid down next to his friend.
“You know I never *hic* gave you a name. I’ve always called you my little friend or something like that. Eh, maybe tomorrow you’ll have a name.”
His little friend was sitting upright studying the city night. From left to right his gaze strayed like the city was a book and he was trying to read it all in one night.
The man was now snoring. In between deep gasps the smell of the bottles in brown paper bags poured out of his mouth into the night. With every breathe his mustache lifted and fell. His friend was still awake as he seemingly gained more energy by reading the city. Once more he chewed on his rope, while the other end of it remained attached to the man’s wrist. After several minutes he was free but his vest was still on. He looked around with his new found freedom and with little hesitation he ran. Down the alley under streetlight after streetlight until not even them could illuminate him. He was gone. The man now lay alone.
The early light of the morning substituted the yellow glow of the city lights and woke the man as it had before. He tugged at the rope to wake his friend, but found its frayed end. He sat up and looked up and down the street. No tracks and no signs showed the way to his friend. The moment of realization was prominent on his expression. From shock to sadness it changed. The last bottle went through his lips, and his last sober words left his mouth.
“Well, I guess that’s *hic* that.)