Caliban stood up as he patted himself down, a frown appeared on his face as he searched his various pockets. He knew he still had some cigarettes left in the packet he'd bought before he left work. Aha he thought as he located the errant packet, he palmed open the lid before tapping the pack against his hand. Then took one of the cigarettes and transferred it to his mouth as he put the packet away. After another short pat down of all his pockets he found one of his many lighters.
He scrunched over as he cupped his hands to his face to light the cigarette, pinched his fingers as he drew the nicotine down deep into his lungs and then exhaled with a contented sigh. He looked to his left and then right just in case any cars were coming before he crossed over the street to the park. Almost like magic the very act of lighting a cigarette drew forth as if from the very ether itself, one of the itinerant tribesmen that liked to congregate in the parks around town.
Here we go, he thought to himself bracing for the humbug to begin.
“Hey mate you got a smoke” came the almost ritualistic creole drawl that was so common in this city that it had transcended by becoming a meme to some as well as a way of life to others.
“Sorry this is my last one.” Caliban replied by rote as he took another drag of his cigarette. “Can you spare me some change?” Cal just silently shook his head as he turned away and continued walking up the incline through the mall on his way towards the bus interchange.
“Ahh fuck you too” the man slurred. “Fucking dog,” he cursed before he disappeared back over to where the others were encamped. The cops would mostly likely come along and move them on soon, it was that time of night. Gods knew where they went, from first hand experience he knew that the police vigorously patrolled all of the parks and the esplanades, solely for this reason.
Once Cal was far enough away he just shook his head and put the man out of his mind. Just another day in paradise, he mused to himself. As he continued trundling along down the street, quietly smoking his cigarette the presence of some of the buildings reached out and stoked his sense of wonder. The remnants of the old town hall, a shell of stonework buttressed to stop it from collapsing. The might that the Federal and supreme courts projected.
Caliban chuckled to himself, he was a sucker for a good bit of pomp and awe. Reaching the end of the street he looked down to check his watch. “Hmm, I still have some time left”, he thought. Crossing over the road but not before looking both ways to see if it was clear. He dumped his now finished cigarette onto the ground and ground his heel on top of it before walking onto the sky bridge to the viewing platform that projected right over the edge of the water.
He took out another cigarette and lit it as he looked up to the heavens and sucked down the smoke. Cal searched to see if he could find the rare stellar alignment that was supposed to be starting tonight, it was only going to last in various stages over the next few days as the moon joined up with five of the other planets. The ultimate alignment however was set for some time later tonight maybe early tomorrow morning, he wasn’t quite sure exactly when.
It took a little while for him to locate, even using the moon as a reference point but all of a sudden he saw it, six tiny twinkling lights all strung out in a line and now he couldn’t unsee it. From just above the horizon they stretched across the sky and Cal could have stayed like that for quite a while, looking up and reveling in the once in a life time event. Until he heard a slight cough and rumble of a large diesel bus engine from down the road towards the bus interchange.
“Ahh shit, it’s early.” he hissed as he dropped his cigarette and took off, bounding into a loping run as he raced back down the bridge and used the pole to fling himself around the corner without loosing any speed in an attempt to get to the last bus for the night before it left. Caliban rounded the final the corner, his face an ugly expression as he saw the bus was pulled up against the curb with not a single person in sight waiting for it or getting on.
The internal passenger light went out and he heard the hiss of the door just as he reached the rear of the bus as its engine revved up from idle only to growl as the bus took off.
Cal slowed back down and came to a halt, bending over to try and ease the wheeze as he sucked down the cold night’s air, his lungs trying to cope with the sudden and unreasonable exertion he had placed on his body. He stumbled to his left and sunk into the bench seating as he huffed and puffed while trying to get his breathing back under control.
“NO NO NO NO…….GOD FUCK IT ALL.” He cursed, his curses starting off as a quite wheeze which increased in volume and invectiveness until he finished on a scream at the bus that had pulled out into the night and left him behind. However the thought that still, that run was not bad for a fat bastard…… he congratulated himself, then chuckled at the absurdity as he staggered to his feet, using the wall of the bus shelter to help pull himself up as well.
“What the ever loving shit am I going to do now,” he muttered to himself darkly. That was the last bus for the night and there was no way he had the money for a taxi to get home. It didn’t seem to matter how much he earnt, won or stole, he could never make it last for more than a few days.
“Think I could pull a swift one over the cabbie?” he mused to himself as he tried to think about how he could avoid the inevitable walk home. Claim to have lost my wallet or that something must have hit my account and that pay is due in tomorrow to scam a free ride? No, that’s a bit too dicey. What if I get the wrong one? I know a few of them keep a trolley pole under the seat as a few people try to roll them every now and again.
Yeah I might be mates with a couple of them, but still the wrong bastard would tune me up good and proper. I’m barely scraping through money wise, but I don’t want to add a beating to it and end up unable to work or worse get arrested.
It took him about a half an hour to both work through and discard all his available options, but eventually he realized he was just going to have to walk home. He didn’t know the exact way, but he figured he could just follow the road signs until he got somewhere close and familiar.
Well, I have no choice, I know people can walk 25 miles in a day at an even pace, so it’s just a matter of time, he naively thought as he set off. He walked down out of the main part of the city and over the bridge leading to the highway. What he hadn’t considered was that walking that far was something that you had to work up to and certainly not something that an overweight smoker could just do like it was nothing.
Within what felt like no time at all, he started to feel a somewhat familiar itch in his thighs and ache in his feet as he reached the part of the highway that led through the mangrove reserve to the other part of the city. To conserve his stamina and to try and prevent chafing he stopped often along the way, mostly at bus stops but occasionally just on the footpath while feeling sorry for himself.