Old Crazy was a fixture of Liberty Park, a landmark as recognizable and immutable as the mermaid fountain in the square.
“They’re watching,” he’d say with faraway eyes and a discordant tone of immediacy.
"Look at his green dress!" Ava says, shoving the coloring book toward her grandma.
"Her green dress," Mary says, inspecting the leaves of a raspberry plant with knobby fingers.
I shoot my mother a look.
We’re thirteen years old and about to smoke pot for the first time. We’re at my house because the woods in my backyard stretch for acres, uninterrupted. The same woods where we learned how to build a campfire in Cub Scouts all those years ago.
My brother and I grew up in the river. Like tadpoles or insect larvae, we spent our youth maturing in the fetid water. We collected things that floated and things that sank. We collected bottle caps, rubber tires, shiny glass, and rusty old cans. We collected scabs and rashes more than once, and we cleaned each other’s wounds.
“Look Pete, no one’s forcing you to come. If you’re so scared you can just go home.”
We both know I can’t. The coat of arms is too bulky for one person to carry and this is the first time we’ve ever been invited anywhere. Who knows when it’ll happen again.
“Axiom,” they called him. They’d been on assignment together for three months and she’d never seen his face—never would. Never should, anyway. But suppose next time she were to linger on the park bench, flicking through a newspaper until the stranger came along to collect what she’d left him?