The rain was finally slowing down. Waking up to it battering on the thin metal roof had stolen Jeff’s enthusiasm for the day. Rolling thunder boomed overhead while he drifted in and out of a reluctant slumber. Head down on his blue lizard pillow and bundled under a tangle of blankets, the smell of wet dirt drifts into his nose.
“Jeff, rise and shine bundlebug!” Cracking and hoarse, the female voice he recognizes as his adopted mom, Mush.
“Tom has a special surprise for you since we couldn’t take the train to the coast, but if you don’t get up he might just give it to me!”
Jeff sits up in time to taste the sulfur through his nose, Mush is bent over her mini gas stove, fiddling with the gas valve while delicately maintaining the match flame.
Blue flames erupt under the little pot, the friend of the family Mush carries with her everywhere she goes.
Yawning and rubbing his eyes, the bright noon overcast shines in through the open metal grate that serves as their front door. Home was a sheetmetal shack built out of an industrial air duct, a rusted looking wart on the side of a long abandoned factory. It wasn’t much, but it was home.
“You picked a great time to get up, Tom’s back soon and it stopped raining!”
Jeff beams with a smile, wrapped up in his blanket, he half stumbles half hops over to the open grate. Just as he sticks his head out, the clouds part just enough for a golden sun ray to light up the entire street. Broken and uneven, the black asphalt reflects an orange hue of morning’s glow, shuttered shacks and pollution hued puddles gather but retreat ever so slightly at the site of a happy child.
In the distance, a figure limps along while carrying a large pack.
“Tom!” Jeff screams.
A tug on his shoulder and Jeff turns his head, Mush’s hand moves to her lips and she makes a zipping motion.
“Not too loud, noise invites visitors, and those aren’t good.”
Jeff nods. Vague memories of unhappy people and places run through his mind, his happiest times always come from days spent with Mush and Tom, never in the company of others.
Jeff climbs up the grate door and swings his legs out to sit on the ledge. Briefly blinded by the sun, Jeff makes a visor with his hand just in time to see Tom wave in the distance.