He sits on that stone wall near the green downtown, oblivious to the rush of the city around him. Next to him, a stack of old books, dog eared and stained – volumes of poetry, adventure, philosophy and love – his wealth of knowledge. His dirty grey beard trembles as he mouths the words, passages he knows by heart. He licks his thumb and turns the page with great care, each page precious, each word a treasure. Every truth exists between the title and the end.
Exactly at five he takes his companions and places them in a tattered bag with the few other things he calls his own. Clutching his belongings to his chest, he makes his way down Water Street to a place with better light.
The Shop Keeper
She arrives every Thursday at exactly eleven forty-five. He watches and waits until he can see her through the window, then busies himself behind the counter until he hears the door chime.
He greets her as always with a shy smile and immediately gets down to business, for he can find no other words. They look at her wares, fine handbags made with colourful fabrics, and discuss the quality of her work. He can see her in each one of her creations, in the materials she chooses, in the perfect stitching.
She takes her payment and lingers expectantly, until he says goodbye.
He keeps his eyes on the door until she is out of sight, and begins again to count the hours until next Thursday.
He stands alone in the shelter of a closed up shop on Water Street. His fingers, calloused with the practice of his passion, move skillfully over worn strings. In the heat of summer and in winter's biting cold, he plays.
They rush past without seeing, vision focused until there is none. He sings about them as they pass - honest words, pure voice - but they do not hear. They are occupied with significant things; the evening meal, catching the bus, picking up the dry cleaning.
Occasionally one will stop, listen to his song, nod or tap a foot to his tune. He appreciates this more than the coins thrown absently into his battered guitar case.
A Penny Saved
She wipes the tables of coffee circles and spilled sugar, collecting the pennies and nickels left there for her service. Through the window she sees the students walking to and from campus, serious and focused.
Sometimes they come in and sit in groups, talking about parties and papers over their café macchiatos. Others sit alone, sipping from large mugs of cider or flavoured lattes, hunched over thick books, and she imagines the wealth contained within those pages. They all leave their coins upon ring patterned tables, and with their heads filled with theories and formulas and ambitions they rush off for the next class.
Only 628,418 more pennies until she can join them.
Another Jack and seven gets him one step closer to destitution as he sits there in the shadows that seek out guys like him. This smoke-filled, last-stop booze joint caught him in his tumble down through towns he doesn’t recall and women that never stuck. Days travelling from gig to gig, him and his guitar lookin’ for a good time and an audience, are fresh in his mind amid a haze of other things – the “good ol’ days”.
Round the bottom of Jack number four he gets to wondering what ever happened to that guitar.
The bartender looks his way and he knows he's been mumbling out loud. He throws back the last of his drink and makes his way home, stumbling out the door into tomorrow to go home and dream about yesterday.
A Baker's Dozen
She pulls the last of the croissants from the oven, two racks of twelve plus one – a baker’s dozen. The heat in the kitchen is stifling today, and the work harder than usual, but she hums as she kneads and rolls the dough for baguettes and pastries.
She once dreamed of having her own little patisserie somewhere in France, living a quiet life, delighting villagers with her treats. Instead she met a man with shining green eyes and settled here on another shore.
She smiles and wipes her forehead with the back of her hand. She still has a quiet life, a good life, and built a business doing what she loves.
She washes her hands, removes her apron, and puts the two extra croissants into a small box. The sun is rising over the Narrows when she steps out onto the street and locks the bakery door. It is a beautiful morning, full of promise. She and her love will have breakfast together - fresh croissants and coffee - and she can finally tell him that she has one more bun in the oven.
Just a Job
He parks his cab at the curb and looks up at darkened windows.
One hour into his shift and already it has been a long night. Twenty minutes for the first fare, not a word and no tip. Then a young couple arguing and a guy pissed off with his wife. Financial troubles, marital woes, medical ailments – he hears it all.
At a buck twenty per kilometer he is the cheapest shrink in town.
The street is empty, still. The sound of his horn cuts through the silence then evaporates. He wonders if it made a sound at all. Nothing moves, nothing changes.
In the ten minutes it took him to get here they had already changed their plans.
Another minute and then he pulls away from the curb. The windows are still dark, the street still empty. He tries to shake off the feeling of rejection.
After all, it’s only a job.