“Go on, get out of here!” the shopkeeper cried. He lunged at the transient with a baseball bat. It was just a feint–he’d never have actually connected, not with liability insurance and cameras everywhere–but it was enough to send the interloper scrambling, their ratty clothes flopping in the December chill.

“Why did you do that?” his brother said, speaking in Farsi so that the customers wouldn’t hear. “If that poor thing wants to eat our dumpster food, why not let her?”

“It’s not the food, or the smell,” the shopkeeper replied. “She’s been stealing lightbulbs from the back, probably to hawk for a little extra crystal meth.”

His brother looked up at the dark socket above the dumpster. “Oh,” he said. “Even so, maybe there’s a better way than going after her like the Yankees.”

“If you can think of one, be my guest,” the shopkeeper sneered. “In the meantime, we’ve got customers to help and floors to sweep when those run out.”

“All right,” the shopkeeper’s brother said, with one last look into the cold darkness. “All right.”

A few blocks away, the transient stopped running under a viaduct where she often took shelter. Filthy, stained gloves rummaged in her found garments and produced the bulb she had taken from the store–an older model incandescent.

She pulled off one glove and cupped the bulb lightly between wrinkled fingers. It flickered and began to glow, eventually reaching its full brightness and warmth in her hands, unconnected to any grid.

Beneath the viaduct, in the cold and the wind, she laughed with childish delight through toothless gums.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!
Advertisements