Crouched in the alley, eyes to the sky, she looks like she’s talking to God. And maybe she is. But her pants are shoved to her ankles and she squints, pulling hard on a knotted braid that hangs in her face. It’s a cold San Francisco night and passersby look down Jack Kerouac Alley as they leave Italian restaurants gripping Styrofoam boxes. Some turn away in disgust, some squeeze their partner’s arm, and some don’t give her a second thought.
The alley is a skinny vein between City Lights and Vesuvio, two buildings that ooze history from the cracks in their foundation: Kerouac, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg. But she’s read none of them. And she doesn’t care for the bright mural that splashes the alley walls. And she’s slept there for weeks, but has not once read the painted poetry that shouts at her from the wall opposite her sleeping bag.
And though she still crouches, the moon throwing shadows, a man leaves the safe confines of the sidewalk and moves toward her. He has seen her there often. Tonight he brings breadsticks. But as he approaches and the light and shadows shift to reveal her fully, he jumps, gasps and retreats. She lunges at him and yells something only she can understand. And as the man tosses the bag of breadsticks in her direction, she arches her back and howls. A long, low, guttural howl and her breath, white against the cold dark night, flows out of her mouth like poetry.
Eric Scot Tryon is a writer from San Francisco. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Glimmer Train, Ninth Letter, Willow Springs, Pithead Chapel, Los Angeles Review, Pidgeonholes, Sonora Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, Monkeybicycle, and elsewhere. Eric is also the Founding Editor of Flash Frog. Find more information at www.ericscottryon.com or on Twitter @EricScotTryon.
Lead image: “SanFran06” (via Flickr user deirdren)