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The Sojourn

Don Edgemon


It was a fresh cold wind that blew through the city, a wind that came from the origin of wind and it picked up and swirled the litter as it passed through the halls and gutters of Main Street. It was an early Sunday morning and the wind felt good on Eddy's face.

Eddy stood calmly at the street corner and looked over the downtown scene. There were a few pre-dawn industrialists out, the trash collectors, the prostitutes, the paperboys, but the city was absent of its noonday roar and most of the people you saw at this hour kept no schedule except the night. They were people who seemed quick and clever and moved like foxes in a hunter's vacant camp. They were people you wouldn't see in the afternoon light. They were people who chose to run through trappings of a different nature away from the insidious workplace dealings of the day and most were courteous and confidential victims of their own sordid lives.

Eddy crossed the street to the open newsstand and ordered a cup of coffee from a toothless clerk who smiled.

"My name's Cadillac," he told Eddy as he poured Eddy's coffee.

Cadillac Jack, Eddy thought.

"You take anything in it," Cadillac asked.

"No, I'll take it black," Eddy said.

"Yeah, that's me too," said Cadillac, "black, I mean, no sense ruining a good cup of coffee. Most boys your age don't drink coffee," Cadillac said. "They try to buy beer sometimes but I don't let them. I can tell you're a good boy though, I could get some beer for you if you wanted."

Eddy smiled and said, "That's okay, just the coffee," and quickly handed Cadillac one of his dollars.

Cadillac made the change and flashed Eddy his black hole smile as he handed back the coins.

Eddy slid the coins into his pocket and turned toward the street.

"You come back now," Cadillac said. "Next cup's on the house; you come back," he repeated as he watched the way Eddy walked toward the door.

At the door Eddy turned and thanked him, then stepped out onto the empty sidewalk. Eddy briefly looked around then strolled to the centerline of the avenue and stopped. He felt the cold brisk wind fresh and strong against his skin, the steam from his cardboard cup of coffee rising into the cool morning air. Eddy noticed how standing in the center of the street the wind was stronger than when one was near the walls of a building, almost strong enough to blow a person toward one side or the other.

Standing in the middle of the street Eddy thought of all the times and places he'd ever been and the way the memory and meaning of them condensed into a single wordless feeling. Suddenly he looked up toward the dark, starless sky and knew he had nothing to hide and he felt good about the coming dawn and where the morning's rising sun might lead him. As he looked back down he thought to himself, I've come a long way, then continued under his own power across the street.

At the curb he raised the cup of coffee to his lips. Cadillac's coffee was stale and bitter. A clock in the window of a closed shop showed five o'clock. Five a.m. on a cool, clear California morning, Eddy thought, as he poured Cadillac's coffee into the gutter. He looked at the morning city scene around him then said out loud, expecting the sound of his voice to echo off the concrete walls, "I've got a long way to go." The sound of his words found some quiet place to die without any return to him however, and Eddy threw the empty cardboard cup into the trash.

A city bus from nowhere, alone and empty, roared past him in a sweet smelling puff of burnt diesel and a different type of breeze gently brushed over him. Eddy looked around and noticed the prostitutes and the other scurrying shadows of normalcy were gone. The sun would be rising soon.

Eddy carefully fingered the folded fifty dollar bill he had stashed in the tube of his sock then continued quickly up the street turning West at the first available corner.