The air steams with his breath. The odor of urine and burnt polymers greets him as he slips through a gash in the parking lot fence and shuffles down the riverbank to the first span. The belly of the bridge is tattooed with graffiti and swallow droppings. Every crack and defect is subverted by moss or weeds. A number of homeless people congregate on the lee side of the nearest pillars, some standing, others laying directly in the dirt, all faceless until they light a cigarette, illuminating their hollow, hollow eyes. His eyes adjust, detecting three people to his left, a large man, a smaller man and a woman, all sitting around a warped plywood remnant placed on a mound of rock. The lumber scrap is butted against the bridge’s craw, supported between the riverbank and the cement superstructure.
“Well, you gonna get up and say hi or something?” he asks the larger man. “You look like the goddam Fremont Troll sitting under there.” His words echo off the tarnished cement.
“I … err.” The large man clears his throat. “I suppose.” He rises and brushes off his trousers while ducking to avoid the granular surface of the arch. His shaved head shines, even in the dim light of the bridge’s underside. Each step he takes is solidly placed, as if the flesh of his foot is welded to the ground, not out of caution for the grade of the slope, but because Big Jake naturally tramps that way.
They meet a few feet from the makeshift table. Both falter for a moment in that odd, awkward space between a handshake and a hug. Big Jake finally extends his mammoth paw for their mutual rescue. “Heard you might be coming. How’d you find me kid?”
“Not hard. I just asked where the best game in town was. Oh, and where I could find a street goliath with a crack across his head like Valles Marineris.”
Look for next month’s excerpt on the 26th.