Car exhausts pushed black smoke from their containment while the swirling winds pushed pop cans over the hardened ground. Young children ran through the streets in ecstasy not realizing the commiserations that were to come to them in their older days. Harry Nichols pulled his empty cart across the scarred cement that was Davis Street. He wore three layers and a coat to cover it. His socks torn and so were the plastic bags that canvassed his shoes. His hair matted in a way that resembled seaweed washed up on a vacant beach. To Harry it was just another dreary Tuesday. He knew that garbage day was upon him and he had to collect as much as he could before it was gone. Harry made his best efforts to fill his cart with useless tools that ordinary people didn’t need. Harry would find use for them. He always did.
As the sun began to set, Harry was ending his search and returning back to his cave as he liked to call it. The cave was a couple of old T.V. boxes, mostly 42 inches, stacked in a way that provided shelter. He pulled a blue tarp from beneath his home and settled it over his cart. Rain was coming that night. Harry retreated inside his box and slept easily.
When Harry woke he was startled by a look he hadn’t seen in years. A young boy was staring into his eyes. The boy carried the look of sympathy as he gazed upon the scruffy man. Harry returned the stare and was bewildered. Not only was the boy staring at him in this empathetic way but the boy was also not frightened by his wild appearance. Harry slowly rose from his blanket of newspapers and naughty magazines. He quickly aroused from his bemusement and yelled at the kid to leave him alone. The child obeyed and ran for his life. Harry continued his journey for useless junk that day.
The next day when Harry woke the boy had returned. Harry, still bewildered at the situation, decided to ask the boy why he was here. The boy simply answered that he was on his way to school and with that he left. This appearance continued to happen over the next several days. The young boy began bringing food mostly apples and granola bars. They would sit and enjoy a meal together. A word was hardly spoken and the boy would leave without a goodbye.
Saturday came, long past garbage day; it was Harry’s day of rest. The boy was there which was strange because he didn’t have school on Saturdays. Harry asked the boy why he was here. The boy simply shrugged his shoulders and continued to eat a shiny green apple. He didn’t delve any further. When Harry told the boy he was going to the park for the day, the boy’s eyes gleamed with joy. Harry was a little uneasy with having a companion on his trip but he couldn’t say no. He actually came to enjoy the company and they began talking with ease. They told stories of their lives. Harry did mostly; the boy just listened and pranced through the grassy lawns.
Harry and the young boy became good friends. The boy didn’t leave after breakfast anymore. He hung around with Harry most of the day helping him find beloved treasures. Harry didn’t take notice at first but he soon realized. He asked the boy why he wasn’t going to school anymore. The boy became sad. He said that he never went to school, that he was like Harry too. Harry also became sad. They sat close at a fire they had built together and held a silence. They returned to the cave where the boy would start to live. He brought all his possessions that he owned, which wasn’t much. The boy became like a son to Harry. He felt something he hadn’t felt in a long time.
A few weeks later the boy became sick. He had a terrible cough and his skin was gaunt white. Harry wasn’t sure on what the problem was. He thought the boy just had a cold and that it would eventually go away. It never went away, Harry had done his best to care for him and he tried to get him some help but the damage had already been done. The boy died soon after from pneumonia.
Harry emptied his cart and placed the boy inside. He was heavily wrapped in blankets. He pulled his cart through town, across Davis Street and into the park. He buried the child while tears cleansed his face. When he finished he lay next to the grave and wept throughout the night. He slept and dreamt occasionally. He dreamt of the boy and he dreamt of garbage day.