He kept walking until he came to a more business area of the city. There were a few stores open this early...a coffee shop, a diner, a convenience store...but Ghost kept walking. He had no idea where he was or where he was going, but just let his feet take him somewhere else. He felt dirty, dishevelled, and hungry...and so alone. Some early risers were beginning to make their way here and there along the sidewalks. Some looked his way, but hurried on. No one said anything to him. He wondered why people were so unfriendly here. It wasn't like home in Missing Mile, where everyone knew him and would say 'hey' when they saw him. He was so tired, and so lonely. At last he had to stop to rest a bit. He collapsed on some steps in a doorway to what looked like an empty storefront.
He rummaged through his backpack. Maybe he'd buy something to eat somewhere. He needed to think of what to do next, and it was impossible on an empty stomach. He looked at the meager things he'd brought with him. There were his notebooks and markers, a flannel shirt the mountain couple had given him, a good luck rock he'd found back home years ago, which he thought had a formation on it that looked like Jesus...but, Steve had said it was just some old petrified dirt that got stuck on there, and when he'd spit on it, the dirt would not come off...and the Jesus was still there, all these years later. There was a dried up rose he'd picked from the side of the road in the mountains, where they grew wild and free...but, he did not find the money he'd been given.
He looked frantically again...no money. That guy must have taken it. Sighing, he stuffed everything back, and just sat there staring into space. He couldn't even cry anymore.
"That's pretty bad," he thought, "too sad to cry, too sad to cry..." he started to hum a new tune. He figured that would make a good song.
Just then, a guy came bursting out of the door Ghost was sitting in front of. He almost knocked Ghost off the steps. "Oh, sorry dude," he exclaimed, "I'm running late." He peered closer at Ghost. "What'cha doin' sittin' on my doorstep, anyway?"
Ghost shrugged and said, "Jus' settin'."
The guy started laughing, a rich, deep laugh, "Oh, man! Everybody said I sounded funny with my Jamaican accent when I got here, but you look and sound like you just fell off the turnip truck, dude!"
Ghost could hardly follow what the guy said, he talked kind of fast, and he did have a strange accent Ghost had never heard before.
"Well, if you're hungry, c'mon with me, man...the soup kitchen is already open, and we need to get there before they run out of breakfast."
Ghost nodded and followed. A couple of blocks down, they entered a building where they were serving plates of food. Ghost hung back, telling the guy he had no money.
"It's ok, man, they give it for free to whoever needs to eat."
They both got their plates and sat to talk a bit. As they were finishing their meal, the guy said, "If you need a place to crash later, just open the door where you were earlier. There's just a bunch of transients that come and go there, no questions asked. I'll see ya later, if ya stick around."
Ghost could think better now, and he figured he'd take the guy up on the crash pad tonight. He wandered around, looking into store windows, watching people come and go on the sidewalks. Finding a bench in front of a store, he sat down to rest.
"Now what? " he wondered. "Guess I need to get a job, huh?" he said to himself.
The thought was foreign to him. He'd never actually had a job before. All he'd ever done was sing with Steve. "How do you get a job singing out here? That's all I know how to do. Well, this is L.A., lots of bands play here. Maybe some band needs a singer."
He looked around. He noticed flyers tacked to some of the light poles on the street, so went over to take a look. Some were for bands playing at different places around the area. In the litter barrel next to a pole, he found a discarded newspaper. He took it. Flipping the pages that were left, he was happy to see the jobs section was still intact. As luck would have it, there were even ads for singers wanted. There were phone numbers, addresses, and times to interview, he supposed, but couldn't make heads or tails of it. Stuffing the paper into his backpack, he planned on asking the guy he'd met, about the ads, later tonight.
When he entered the abandoned building later on, Ghost was surprised to see so many people there. Interesting looking people. There were a few families, their kids running around playing, a few guys and girls hanging around the edges of the large first floor of the room, talking, some were asleep on the floor..they all looked kind of like the hobos that traveled the rails back home. Homeless people, he figured.
"Well, shit," he said to himself, "guess this is right where I belong, then. I have no job, no money, dirty looking and smelling like leftover possom on the road, nowhere to go, down on my luck"...all the familiar cliches. He could have gone on, but got too depressed thinking about it. He took a deep breath to clear his brain, then nearly choked, as he got a whiff of himself, again. "God, I need a bath," he muttered.
The Rasta man came in the door, spied Ghost, and came over. After talking a bit, Ghost pulled out the newspaper and asked the guy if he could help him figure out where to go for the singer wanted jobs. The man looked at Ghost funny - like, can't he read? - but, went ahead and told him where one of the places was. It wasn't far...a coffee shop up the street. The band was interviewing the next morning at 10 a.m. Ghost nodded, but was thinking, "How am I supposed to know when 10 a.m. is?" but, was too embarrassed to ask that. They guy also mentioned that a convenience store close by didn't mind people coming in and freshening up in the restroom, just as long as they left it tidy.
Ghost smiled and said, "Yeah, no band would hire a crap smelling singer."
The guy laughed his rich, low laugh, and said, "Dude, I didn't wanna say anything, but...whew!"
As people began to settle in for the night, Ghost lay and looked at the ceiling way above him. There were flickers of red and green neon on the walls, from some all night strip joints and bars close by. He didn't sleep very well, though. The floor was hard, and it was kind of noisy with snoring, sleep talking, a kid crying...but, he must have joined them at some point, because suddenly he woke, and it was getting light outside. Most were still asleep, so he quietly gathered his backpack and slipped out the door. He made his way over to the little corner store and into the small bathroom.
One look at himself in the mirror was all it took to start washing, as best he could, with paper towels and disinfecting soap. Then, feeling better about himself, he pulled on the extra flannel shirt. He couldn't do anything about his old jeans, though. He left, making his way to the soup kitchen again. After eating, he tried to find the coffee shop where the band was interviewing. He didn't know if it was close to 10 a.m. or not, so he figured he'd just sit there and wait.
After walking past the place a couple of times, he finally found it and opened the door. The coffee bar smell was intoxicating, and he wished he had some. He did not see anyone interviewing, so he asked the barista.
"Oh, Maxy should be here anytime...you can wait over there," she said, as she pointed to a small alcove. "Want some coffee?" she smiled.
Ghost looked at the floor, "Um...I don't have any money."
"That's ok," she laughed, "first one's on the house."
Ghost felt things were looking up finally, as he sipped the hot drink, and let the steam surround his face. He closed his eyes, relaxing into an almost Zen-like state, as he let his mind go wherever it wanted - up and down intricate paths that led to the past, the future, the whys and what ifs - winding their way into some sort of spaciness only he could conjure up.
Next installment coming soon!
Peace, Love, & Writing!