Sam was a small man even among regular folk. Out here, tonight, he felt like a bug. Still though, he was happy to step out of the darkness of the tree-lined avenue into the open square where the buzzing lights cast a monochrome silver tableau before him.
He was relieved for a moment to see what had to be a man in the far corner of the square, leaning one-legged against an old wooden telephone pole smoking. His other leg was crooked back behind him, foot on the pole, affecting the rakish, relaxed look of a model in an old cigarette ad.
Sam’s fingers weren’t sticking together anymore. The blood that was left had dried and would have to be washed off if there was water or scraped it there wasn’t. He shuffled toward the tall man, one shoe on, one missing, hesitating only when he realized how large the fellow really was. Up close, he looked less relaxed and more gaunt, like an anxious scarecrow.
For a moment Sam wondered if it really was it a man he was seeing before him or an apparition leaning against the pole. Standing before him he had to crane his neck back to see his face.
“Excuse me”, Sam said, looking up. “I’ve had a fuck of a night. Can I bum a cigarette?”
The head above him swiveled his way then pitched downward carefully, cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. “I don’t smoke”, he said in a flat guttural voice that betrayed no accent. A streetlight glinted in his dark eyes-the light glancing off the dead one like a skipped stone-the other flaring hot for an instant, then fading.
Sam backed into a shadow away from his gaze but the head had swiveled away.
“I wanted to see if he’d give you one.”
He turned and noticed the girl against the wall. She was even smaller than he was-but not a child. Just a girl in bare feet and torn back dress. Nothing special-plain. In fact, in the light, she looked like a pencil sketch of what a plain girl should look like.
“He said he doesn’t smoke.”
“I know him. He doesn’t.”
He looked back once more at the cloud circling around the pole. She took his hand to lead him down an alley out of the openness of the square. At her touch he felt himself thickening.
“I’ve had a fuck of a night”, he said letting himself be led.
“I know. Come on.”
The apparition didn’t turn to watch them go. They mattered not a whit to him. He smoked in peace, scanning the sleeping world above their heads.