(Previous: “The Stranger”)
“Got another cigarette?”
Johnny Aqualung was new, though not to homelessness – that was clear from his skin. Nay, I simply hadn’t seen him before. The fidgety seagull at Aqualung’s side suggested that he hadn’t moved for a while, and didn’t seem to mind his babbling. Echoes of barking Sea Lions range throughout the Harbor, and a river of tourists kept a bubble between themselves and the bums as they splashed up and down Old Fisherman’s Wharf.
“Yeah sure,” I reached into my left-jacket pocket, and pulled out the resident pack of Spirits. Without a word, Mr. Aqualung slowly clutched his free cigarette, and brought it to his lips at last. To my surprise, he produced his own lighter, and was even capable of lighting it himself. Need-a-Lung would have to wait for another day. Johnny hid the lighter in one of his four jackets, and went right back to mumbling to himself. Something about airplanes and cell phones.
Just another day on the Wharf. The people, the trash, and the pigeons and gulls flowed up one way and down the other. The barkers in suit-and-tie cried out from the thresholds of restaurants as they always did. Happy hour was all day, again. Familiar faces nodded towards one another, and local voices spoke a little louder than all the others who had never been to Monterey Bay.
I bobbed and weaved through ambling bodies as I checked the time. Perhaps I might smoke one more cigarette before my shift.
Around the corner, under the giant clock, and down the stairs found me stepping aboard the M.V. Pacifica, and captain Danny “The Tank” Frank smiled through his big red beard as I stepped inside the wheelhouse.
Today, I had one hell of a story for him.
(Next: “Polar Arches”)