Thursday, February 28, 2008

A few sunny afternoons ago I took a walk down to my favorite dock, intending to watch the city's reflection in the lake and read a book, and found the old man who also hangs out there on sunny afternoons sitting on a bench. He looks homeless but he doesn't smell homeless, and we get along in the effortless way I can only ever manage with relative strangers.

"Hello, little girl, how are you?"
"I'm lousy!" It felt good to announce it without needing to explain.
"Me too!" He grinned at me, reached into a pocket in his shirt, and pulled out a colorful pack of cards. "Want to play Go Fish?"
It turned out that I wanted nothing more than to play Go Fish. We've done this a few times now, and each time he chatters away, unconcerned with whether or not I'm listening, and this is always satisfying.

For a while I wasn't really listening to him, focused on the call and response of the game, but eventually I realize that he's telling a story about a friend who fell asleep on a steep hill overlooking the freeway. In his sleep his friend rolled over and kept rolling all the way down to the freeway, where he slid feet first on to the street and in front of a passing car, which ran over his legs and kept going.

He smiled pleasantly the whole time he told the story, and whether it is true or not is hard to say. I lost that game, though. We played two more rounds of Go Fish before I left to read on my balcony, wondering about the fate of the man with no legs.

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