(Original Fiction by Hamilton Gryphon)
He shoulders his world, takes Phred in hand and walks the two miles to supper. Phred is reassuring and supportive. He rests his palm on the cool, silver head. His fingers lightly circle the beak and neck. Phred is a new friend but not altogether so. They met three years ago after his (not Phred’s) heart surgery. They have been inseparable ever since. Phred is his best friend. Though he has never said, he imagines Phred feels the same way.
They reach the Soup Kitchen and go inside. He gets his tray and drink and walks to the back. He sits at the end of an empty table: Phred by his side.
“Dear Lord,” he whispers. “Thank you for the people who fixed this food. Thank you for their caring.”
The food is hot. It is good; turkey, gravy, green beans, and hard bread. He eats in silence. No one sits near; just the two of them as usual and by choice. He glances at the too very many ragged and desperate people around them. It is not, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” Not anymore. They are now all and one alike.
He is broken. The world has won. Pain is constant. Heartbreak and despair: 100%
Phred helps him stand. They return the tray.
“Where to now, Phred? We don’t have to go home but we can’t stay here.” A smile teases the corner of his lips.
He wishes for a home. He wished for a small warm room, clean sheets and a made bed. He wishes for a small table on which to write. He wishes for hot soup and salty crackers, lovingly made. He doesn’t blame Jack. He would have done the same thing. He wishes for someone to love who loves and cares for him. Please Lord—someone.
“Well Phred, there is no such place in this world for me, but I know someplace just as good or better. I can’t take you with me though, bro. I have to go all by myself. It’ll be soon, very soon.”
He stops at the top of a railroad bridge and looks down on the trash-littered tracks.
“I love you, Phred. You are the only thing I have of value in this evil, fucking world. But it’s time for me to go home, boy. Way past time.
He pats the beautiful silver head and smiles.
“And just whatever in the world will you do without me to take care of you, ‘Ol Son? I wonder.”
They turn together: perfectly synchronized.
“What do you say we see if we can find someplace to sleep?”
Side by side they walk down the bridge and into the buzzing town.