John A. Heldt – Author of – The mine
Joel thought about mattresses as he walked north on the Ave.
He thought of the queen-sized box spring he had in his apartment, the waterbed he had had growing up, and the king-sized memory foam special in his parents’ bedroom. He even thought about flimsy bunk-bed pads, the kind Saint Xavier’s Mission had but could not offer when it told him there was no more room in the inn.
The pampered youngest son of Frank and Cynthia Smith could not remember the last time fatigue and hunger had gripped him like this. He gained new respect for those who spent each day walking the streets.
Joel also thought about the blonde. Who was she? And why had she stared at him? Was Joel Smith, world traveler, gold card member, and former all-state linebacker, now an object of pity? He did not think so. He saw empathy in those incredible eyes, not contempt. Still, he wondered.
As Joel proceeded down the busy arterial, he passed a few familiar sights. Some things had not visibly changed in fifty-nine years, such as two brownstone apartment buildings, a Mission Revival grade school in the Heights, and three taverns with colorful names. He stood before one, the Mad Dog, and considered his options.
The Mad Dog did not have memory foam mattresses for weary time travelers. But it did have a long sidewalk bench. Joel sat down on one end and extended his legs toward the other. He pondered walking to a nearby park but decided to stay put. The bench was hard but relatively comfortable. If necessary, he could make it his bed for the night.
He closed his eyes and thought of pleasant things: his mother’s Cacciatore, the hot tub at home, Jana in a string bikini, Maui, and the blonde. He could still picture her face.
Miss Denmark has nothing on you.