The young woman looked briefly at the sky, or at least up at where the sky had earlier been.  She was contemplating how darkness never fell; it was merely uncovered by evening.  Over the years, the hours from dusk till dawn had always felt potentially ominous for her, like a Freudian slip in a parlor full of minorities.

At that moment, however, the years were behind her.  She had left them packed neatly in the luggage tucked under her rented bed.  The night, instead, had begun to invisibly beam with auspicious sentiment.  The setting was wonderfully soothing, like hot water poisoned with cocoa.  This bothered her even more, in a way.

A Hobo rustled on a bench.

The young woman was not startled.  She knew the figure was there.  She had been fixated on it from behind the cover of a willow tree ten yards from the entrance to the underpass.

She purposefully categorized the figure as a Hobo.  Not a homeless man.  Better to keep things abstract, to whatever extent possible.  A Hobo was not a character, but a caricature.  Not a person, but a persona.  Not a man, but remnants.

She sat down beside the Hobo.

She sat down beside the Hobo and the feeling of superficial eccentricity was sadly fulfilling.  She was an interloper and a phony, that much was obvious.  As such, she hoped that the Hobo would not wake; she would hate whatever she might say.  The Hobo's dog, presumably, awoke with nostrils twitching at the scent of her burning cherry cigar.

She had rarely smoked, if ever, and never a cigar.  Not before walking into the park that night, at least.  But nostalgia has a way with things, and it was having its way with her, on that night, at least.  The canine's eyes provided an unexpected source of overwhelming guilt.  Innocence no longer evoked optimism for the young woman, only a welling of tears instead.

She wished for a pillow.

She wished for a pillow to slide gingerly under the Hobo's wool-capped skull.  She suspected, nevertheless, that if she had had a morsel of food, she would have snuck it to the dog.

To see him so close, the Hobo.  To see him at all, for that matter.  To be close to him, if only by way of proximity.  Even to touch him, if her nerves so mustered.  None of it felt real.

Booze, she recalled.  She had considered replacing sobriety with temerity an hour prior at the hotel bar.  But no, she had realized, alcohol was never the answer, not for her.  It was neither appropriate nor her style.  And, whatever the case, events of consequence must be endured with inhibitions intact to remain consequential.  She believed that dearly.

She stood to leave.

She stood to leave but could not, not before gently placing her hand on the Hobo's exposed ankle.  His skin was frigid and grainy.  It felt like the rusted pole of a Stop sign on an old country road.

Her jaws clenched and her nostrils flared.  She inhaled thrice deeply, and forced her head to look down.  She forced her head to look down with eyes open.  The accumulating tears blurred her sight like repressed memories.  With a final gasp in search of fortitude, she blinked her eyes clear, feeling the tingle and itch of each stream as they cut individual courses down the skin on her cheeks.

The Hobo looked unfamiliar, like a stranger should, even inhuman almost.  She could not match the face with recollection.  She could not connect the scent to the cigar.  But that was to be expected, for her.  And that was all the more reason to cry.

A momentary wave of cognizant dysfunction.  That's all that it was.  That's all that she had required.  Perspective has its own place with things, and, at that moment, the young woman was finding her way back to it.

She strolled down the park trail, leaving the bench, and all resting upon it, to succumb to her shadow.  It was snowing and cold, but there was no wind.  That made all the difference for her, when there was no wind.

She had emerged from the underpass without conflict, internal or otherwise, but not before placing ten Euros in the Hobo's breast pocket.  She wrapped the currency in a note.

"Buy some new socks, and if you have change leftover, buy something to eat for the dog.  I love you, Dad."   

Jeffrey Carl Jefferis is the more athletic son of Carl and Kathy.  His first work was recently published in Word Catalyst.


I tend not to think much when I write.  That's why I enjoy it, I suppose.  But sometimes, perhaps, I find myself sitting on a bench in the snow, a few bits of tipsy, reflecting on who might come searching for me.  [At this point, I feel I should point out that I do not have a daughter, I hope.]  In any case, "searching" seems the primary focus of many - what am I looking for and where do I find it? - while, just maybe, "reflecting" is being entirely under appreciated.



Copyright 2009