Evan bought a map of the city.
He had never considered the city from a bat’s perspective, from the air.
He looked at the sinuous thoroughfares following the river’s curve, straight streets jutting out like bones from a herring’s spine.
The parks were shown as patches of green, the sloping letters naming each.
In the night, they would be black.
Evan closed his eyes and lay on the floor, the map spread beneath him, arms wide.
He was a bat, soaring over the city, random in his flight.
He would need something for the gasoline, perhaps a white milk jug.
From above me I heard a sound like somebody killing a dog. After a minute I realized it was singing. I walked up the shattered stairs to investigate.
In the corner of the rubble-filled room, an old man lay on a grimy sleeping bag surrounded by empty bean cans. He was bony and filthy with long greasy hair, his grizzled beard a tangle, hairs nearest his mouth stained with food and wine and tobacco. He fixed me with his blue eyes, bright beneath bushy brows.
“You ain’t staying here,” he snarled. “But I’d take a cigarette if you got one.”
Things got so bad on the farm that I run off. I figured they wouldn’t waste much time looking for me, but it would be good to get as far away as I could.
I lit out to Frenchman’s Bend. The trains always slow down before crossing the bridge, so I knew I could hop a freight easy enough.
When I got to Jefferson City, my belly was growling. I realized I didn’t have a red cent. I spied a diner and went around the back. I could maybe sweep the floors for food. If not, I had my knife.
“Thirty bucks says you don’t,” Ike bawled at me.
I knew what was coming.
Once Ike started betting on something, he couldn’t leave it alone.
He would keep raising the amount of the wager until it became an improbable sum, just within the realm of what he could possibly pay.
Ike never welched on a bet, a point of immense pride.
He once bet Jeps he wouldn’t get into a fifty gallon drum and roll down Cemetery Hill into Route 80.
Jeps waited until Ike got to five hundred bucks, then done it.
Ike paid up, though it took him months.
“What the hell are your doing?”
“What’s it look like? I’m getting my bone on. Amsterdam, bra!”
“It doesn’t work like that. You can’t just spark up a joint on the street. You need to be in a licensed coffeehouse. See?” I pointed to a no smoking sign.
He walked over to the sign and studied it, turned around, the joint in his mouth. “Dude, take my picture! Instagram!” He squatted down in front of the sign and thrust double fuck-you fingers in the air. “Don’t be a fuckin’ pussy! USA! USA!”
I wondered how quickly I could ditch him.