This Year's Luck

A sharp pain in his side woke Himmelfarb and when he opened his eyes he was back on the Upper West Side, the sun behind the buildings now, falling further toward the Hudson. A block or so away, an ambulance shouldered its way through the intersection of 72nd and Broadway, blatting its horn in combination with its siren to clear the cars and pedestrians.

Where was Ronnie? Himmelfarb had sent him back to Gray's for two more dogs and another papaya juice. Not so much kraut this time, he had called to the shambling figure already several paces down the sidewalk. I hate a soggy bun!

That was an hour ago. Probably the kid was hanging around outside one of the clothing stores, mooning over the mannequins. Nothing to worry about. Himmelfarb closed his eyes and tried not to worry. He didn't need the extra hot dog anyway. They should be saving their money. And so on.

It was one of those rare September days, still warm but clear, a breeze off the Atlantic easing the heat and stink from the pavement. It made him feel expansive, hopeful even, to sit there on the bench, nestled in the whir of the great city. But the turn in the weather was also a reminder that fall was upon them, with winter at its heels. Himmelfarb, he told himself, it's past time to start making winter arrangements for you and your half-wit charge.

Their luck was beginning to ebb. Ronnie's seizures were becoming more frequent and his own diabetes was getting worse. They were lucky last year with the house in Rhinebeck but the neighbors were wise to them now, and his sister's children had unloaded her place in Sheepshead Bay within a week of the funeral. The funeral that he wasn't invited to. If they didn't catch a break soon, they would find themselves at the mercy of the religious nuts and the bureaucrats, of whom none were to be trusted.

Casting his nets about the five boroughs and beyond, Himmelfarb heard the approach of two chatty private school girls in plaid skirts and blue blazers. Slipping heavy bookbags from their shoulders, they prepared to bivouac at the next bench down. He smiled and lifted his weather-beaten hat to the girl facing him. She looked through him and kept talking.

Seriously, it's gonna be the old man.

The ambulance siren rose again and the pain shot back, this time in Himmelfarb's ribs.

The other girl said, That's what they want you to think.

Image above: Leaves on an empty bench by talented flickr user Ed Yourdon, used under a Creative Commons license.