Friday, April 27, 2018

Bedtime Story

Bedtime Story
Bobby Derie

The night was too warm for the three-season tent, and they rolled their sleeping bags out beneath the stars and the moon and the streetlights. They could have stayed at the shelter after supper, but old Garm was wary, so they ate and moved on. Through the park with the studded benches you couldn't sleep on, through the alley that looked like a dead end unless you followed it all the way to the end, where it turned sharply left where two buildings didn't quite meet, just wide enough for a shopping cart, and that led into the little cul-de-sac where they stayed for the night.

They weren't the only ones who knew about it. Garm had done a sweep before he left Katya and Anya in, picking up the used needles and rusty beer cans with gloved fingers, to toss into the dumpster in the main alley. Laid down fresh-shredded paper and a layer of cardboard over that, just in case, and they unrolled their sleeping bags over that.

There was a single door in the cul-de-sac, though they had never seen it open, and a little bulb burned in an iron cage above it. Garm would sit there, beneath the light, and read betimes at night. Old paperbacks, salvaged here and there. He had a secret library of them, hidden in stashes all around, in clear zip-lock bags that kept them dry and safe.

And when Katya and Anya begged, he would smile - the lines of the face stretching deep as the corners of his mouth moved up - and in that rich, broken voice that told of whiskey and cigarettes and long years of rough living, he would read aloud to them, quietly, as the night came on and deepened. Sometimes his voice was little more than a croaking whisper against the wail of cars or the dull rotors of a helicopter, and they had to strain to catch the words as they struggled against sleep.

"Know, O Prince..." he began, and before he finished, Katya and Anya dreamed of an age undreamed of.


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