The last bottle of Sweet Tokay was gone hours ago and the morning was cold

this day would be no different than uncounted days that came before.
It was too early to start panhandling
but the Union Gospel Mission was open for breakfast with compliance prayers.

Listening to prayers was small price to pay for oatmeal and hot coffee
and perhaps a shower and some clean clothes if he got there early enough
searching around in empty pockets for a cigarette butt he found a dime,

the day was off to a good start but he really needed a smoke.
pushing his cardboard-box-lean-to off to the side
he got up and ran his fingers through his hair trying to get it out of his eyes.
there weren’t any mirrors or a sink under the railroad trestle.

he hid his duffle bag behind some pilings and began walking up the bank 
when he got to the top of he could see the Steel Bridge.
then memory took over and he saw his parents’ house beyond the bridge
his mom was standing at the stove cooking breakfast, scrambled eggs, bacon, toast

his dad hiding behind morning paper, smoke curling up and over the sports section
occasionally a hand would reach out to grab his coffee or orange juice.
next to the newspaper he saw an empty place at the table, his place
He shook off the images and turned up the street towards the mission.

submitted for publication

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