JOSH DIDN’T WANT TO LEAVE NIKKO UNDER THE HIGHWAY, but he was hungry. He took off his coat and wrapped it around Nikko, who seemed to be asleep, and crawled out from the cardboard box. The spring Nikko had promised weeks ago had not arrived. The coldest April in history, the newspaper proclaimed. The weather forecast called for snow, but the sky remained cloudless.
The fire pits tamped down, boxes and blankets neatly folded, it was too early to settle in for the night. The sun slid behind the overpass, a dripping fiery yolk, and the stream that threaded through the make-shift camp turned into a golden mirror so bright Josh had to turn away. Nikko’s forehead looked smooth for the first time in days. Josh knew he shot up, probably when he left in the morning to go to St. Joe’s for the free breakfast. He didn’t want to know what Nikko traded for his smack, he knew they didn’t have any money left. He swallowed the anger, no, the hurt, at Nikko selling the guitar for two nights worth of high. As Josh stood over his friend, he wanted to kick him, scream at him to stop being so goddamn selfish.Josh scrambled up the embankment. This morning a man at St. Joe’s mentioned a restaurant on Newbury Street put out boxes of uneaten food in the alley. Late afternoon, leftovers from the lunch rush. Josh thought he knew the place, the restaurant beside the posh café that served herb-infused lattes. He had seen the sign propped on the sidewalk, “Try our caramel and sage latte,” and his mouth had watered.
By the time he reached the alley, shadows stretched long, the dumpsters and cars filled-in silhouettes. Something scurried against the stone wall of a building. Josh flinched. A rat. He relaxed; he was no longer afraid of rodents, he had eaten them.
He found the back door to the restaurant. Cartons and bags lay strewn in the alley, already picked over. Josh found a half-sandwich of turkey or chicken, a bruised pear, broken cookies of some sort. He shoved a piece in his mouth; it tasted of some exotic yet familiar spice. Cardamom, he realized, and he almost cried remembering the bread his mother made every New Year’s day. Pulla, plump with raisins. Swedish food for good luck in the year. He tried to remember why he was so angry with his parents, something to do with the church and the way they whispered all the time around him. He remembered they had forbidden him to hang with Nikko and Gemma, but now that seemed like such a small sacrifice for a full belly.
The 16th installment of THE RUNAWAY. You can find last week's story HERE. Thank you for reading--much appreciated. Peace...