October 20, 2012

"Orange" - Excerpt from Unfinished Story

Got this idea while walking past a certain bus stop at night.  Over a year later, I got another idea and it fit so well with the main character in this piece, I knew exactly where to go. Here's this.
    Dark, cold and orange.
    These were never explicitly thought, but understood. Basic and essential. Understood to Hank, as home.
    Hank sat on his bench. During the day, it belonged to the city, for people waiting for the bus. But at night, it was Hank’s. The man spent what change he was able to beg for on a small plastic bottle. As he drank, he spilled half of it on his faded, decades old, army fatigues. Whether the uniform was his originally or someone else’s, he couldn’t remember, nor did he care to. He wasn’t even sure if he was a vet, let alone in the Vietnam War, like he told people. He wasn’t sure of much anymore. Just that this was his bench, on the corner of his street, in his dark, cold, orange home.
    He was dozing off, leaning more and more into his plastic bag, holding his clothes and doubling as a pillow. Cigarette smoke and the sound of people startled him awake. He barely saw the group of people pass in front of him when he started to speak. Half in a drunk stupor, half reflexive, he mumbled loudly at their backs.
    “scoosme! Doohaf change?”
    They ignored him, or didn’t hear him, already crossing the street, leaving him standing uneasily, still trying to work his mouth to get their attention. He stopped after awhile. He sat back down and closed his eyes. A nearby neon light buzzed and whined, a few cars drove by. He opened his eyes, sensing a presence.
    Sure enough, a young man approached. The man was dressed in black: black jeans, a black leather jacket over a black hooded sweater, hood covering his head. But Hank noticed none of this. Again out of reflex, Hank asked, “Canyouhelpme?”
    The young man, not dismissive in anyway, replied dryly yet almost compassionately and without pity, “I can help you.”
    “I need change for a cigarette.” Hank’s words were practically forced out of him, slurred and wheezy. His gaze never focused on the man, but rather just behind him, to his right.
    “I can give you a cigarette.”  He seemed intent on helping this drunk old man. With cold calm; a sense of professionalism. The man stood distinguished, yet unassuming. He looked Hank dead in the eye. He pulled out a pack from his pocket and popped one out. Hank took it and the man even lit it for him. He did not take one for himself.
    Almost without interest and, again, with dry compassion, the man asked, “What’s your name?”
    “Mynamesshank” he said, slurring every syllable. “whatsyurrs?”
    The young man did not reply.
    Hank, feeling the nicotine’s effect, noticed the young man’s face, the look in his eyes. In a rare moment of clarity, Hank asked “Whado you want? whatdoyou doin hur?” Fear unintentionally seeped into the last question. The man took his time to answer.
    “What I want doesn't matter...” at this point the man stood up and Hank noticed his height for the first time. “I was sent here to kill you.”
Image credit: "too long at the bus stop" CC BY-NC-SA kungfudemoness on deviantart.com, remixed by me