BY THE TIME JOSH RETURNED TO THE UNDERPASS, pinpricks of light from flashlights and matches pocked the night. Voices of those living under the highway ebbed to a murmur; his mother’s voice had the same tenor, the same pitch. Josh crawled into the box. The blanket felt wet, as if mud had oozed through the cardboard. Nikko slept.
“I got us some food.” Josh pulled out the cookies and crumpled sandwich and arranged them on a smoothed-out napkin as if they were treasures.
Nikko moaned. His eyes fluttered open. Josh couldn’t remember the last time he saw the green of his friend’s eyes. Nikko winced when Josh touched his left arm.
“Eat,” Josh said.
Nikko reached for the cracker closest to him but his hand fell short. Josh picked up the cracker, placed it between Nikko’s lips. Nikko’s tongue worked, his throat contracted. Josh thought of Nikko as a little bird, getting small pieces fed to him by the mother robin.
After Nikko had eaten almost half the meager amount and curled back on his side, Josh ate. His throat caught on every bite and he could only imagine how hard it was for his friend to swallow. Josh considered asking the other homeless men for water, for anything to drink, but they had not trusted them, at least not Josh. He was not sure what arrangements Nikko made when he scouted for food and money. Nikko might not have had trouble trading his body for food or booze or drugs, but Josh would die first.
He patted together a nest from bags and the ragged blanket. Nikko’s breath trembled above him, a dusty cloud. He strapped on his backpack containing everything he had of value, which was not much, and zipped his jacket up to his throat. Josh curled tight around Nikko, an apostrophe. His friend’s heart slowly banged through his back and reverberated against Josh’s chest. It calmed Josh. He didn’t know what he would do if that heart never beat, he thought he might die without his friend, and Josh kissed the back of Nikko’s neck. This surprised Josh, for he had never kissed Nikko, even though they had slept most nights for the past weeks wrapped around each other.
A breeze blew through the open end of the box. Nikko shivered, and Josh pulled him closer. Nikko threw heat like a woodstove but still, Nikko shivered. He trembled until the full moon shone, a spotlight, and then, when Nikko grew still, Joshua slept.
Heading into the home stretch. To read last week's installment, head ==> HERE.
Very cool--this is my 600th post on this wee blog. And I passed my 5 year anniversary in August and did not even notice. Hmmmm... I feel a party brewing. As always, I thank you for reading. Peace...