The story of the friendship between a homeless man and a lost little girl, both suffering from the trauma of life's cruel trails.
Manhattan winter is always brutally cold even if no snow falls. The puddles that used to splash working men in their faces when taxis zoomed on by where frozen, and cracked like glass by passing tires. Noses where red and pigeons stayed put with their feathers frosted at the tips. The homeless outside would beg, and cry, then beg; comforting themselves by thanking God there was no snow that stayed on the ground for long. They were positive they were the lucky ones, unlike the rest of the world who had to push their way through the winter white. The December air was exceedingly cold the morning Abigail Worth woke to find that a package was waiting for her on the small white table in her kitchen, and her young and bright eyed mother opened her scuffed, brown apartment door to a couple of dandy and posh military officers. The youngest looked only to be 19, with hair of golden rod and grey eyes; almost like her husband’s, but with not quite the same chin. He held a folded flag in his right arm, and his friend next to him carried the package that would be for Abigail; he was wrinkled, bald, and without a cap but with a cleaner and blacker uniform. It took them about three to four minutes to tell Mrs. Worth what had happened, at least as calmly as humanly possible. And now Ms. Worth didn’t cry at first, but took the package with a hand all a quiver and a wild look in her eye; she wanted to plainly kidnap and kill God, and the officer’s explained that they would be there to support her, and so will the nation.
Abigail asked her mother a half hour later, who was quietly washing some silverware and clenching her jaw what the package was. “It’s for you, love. “ She managed to keep her voice faint but as clean as the first flakes of snow in a Connecticut field. Abby walked to it, with her slippers brushing the blue tiles on the floor. It was soft and a little crushed, stamped many times, and wrapped in string and brown paper. She could barely get herself to sit, and slipped off the wicker dinning chair twice due to its height. “It’s funny, the post office usually takes care of packages a lot better. “ She lied, angrily tossing her dish rag into the silver chrome sink with a splash.
“Ooh, Mommy it’s from Iraq! “ Abigail paused as she read the beaten label, kicking her dangling feet against the old beaten chair. Her heart was pounding, and it always had every time she read the single letter “I“, hoping it would lead somewhere.
“Then… it must be from your Father. “ She still stood looking at the dish rag in the sink.
Her little hands rapidly tore apart the paper, which was easy because of all the roughness it went through. Beneath was wrapped in more paper, green tissue paper, with odd and exotic swirly and dotted golden designs. Noticeably whatever was under there needed to be extra protected. Abigail became excited on how wrapped up it was, guessing it was something extra special from Daddy. The paper was gone then, and little Abby lifted a white, blue eyed teddy bear into her arms. His fur was soft and he smelled of sand and jet fuel. The smile obviously re-sewn from a frown poked at her heart the most. About to cry, she hugged the little bear tight, who was waiting so long to meet her. She wanted to take a picture for Daddy to see her with it.
The train tunnels under Grand Central where warm in the winter, and excruciating in the summer. That was where Ripley slept in during the cold season. Sometimes he rested in between the concrete walls and blocks, flooded with sometimes orange light and sometimes pure brown and black darkness. Sometimes he slept on the platform when no trains where coming in an area of track. His part time home was filled newspapers and with caked trash and the sonorous toot clacking and whistling of sleek trains. People saw him sometimes, and mistook him for a large animal sleeping under a blanket. When they did see him, they knew no matter how old the train got or even if it unexpectedly burst into flames, it would always be in better shape than Ripley was. His little wire haired dog kept having close calls with speeding trains. Little, scruffy, and mischievous Harvey, who ate dead mice and trash scattered across abandoned tracks about. Ripley ate no better...he lived no better and was treated like a dog sometimes when the drunk, teenage passengers where bored and had rocks or anything else to play with. He shifted his red and fading eyes to Harvey every morning and knew he was his only friend, despite his long and horsey teeth, his large nose, blackish hair, and dark mauve circles around his eyes.
He slept the same morning on the platform, under his jacket with Harvey cradled in one of his frail arms. The underground was lighten amber and the arrivals of trains wasn’t booming yet, and the clack of pipes and haunting moans and hisses from trains where the only noises that could be heard, and drowned the music that used to be in his dreams out. He wished he could go back to sleep when a silver train with a blue painted stripe noisily pulled up, cause there were so many things left to dream about. The train hissed faintly, the screeching of the brakes masked it. Ripley stayed where he was, but he hoped no one would think he was a pile of trash and step on his head like the Tuesday before; a big hot-shot lawyer was making an important cell call and needed to meet his client quick.
The doors slid open and gave a flash for the deaf and a beep for the blind, not many people exited through that car. But quite a few people tripped on their way out in the other ones that Ripley couldn’t see. A small gang of teenagers were practically falling all over themselves, and had a strong scent of pot and house wine. They were mostly young men, early twenties, just like Ripley, only he didn’t have a beautiful and laughing Irish woman on his arm. The tallest in a backwards ghetto-trucker hat stumbled over him, and then turned. Ripley didn’t shift his aching eyes, but Harvey dug himself out from under the jacket to see the wasted clique. The man in the ghetto hat chuckled to his friends, whispering for them to “here’s some shit I thought of“. He struggled to take his leather wallet out of his tight pocket, and almost falls backwards with a hiccup when he finally gets it. He took out a perfect, crisp 5 dollar bill smudged with blue ink and waved it in front of poor Ripley’s weathering face. He brushed it away at first, until his eyes were open and he saw relief from a days old stomach ache offering itself to him. He smacked his hands together trying to frantically grab it, but it was swiftly taken away from him as. The gang laughed at his expense, and Ripley shook his head while staring at the bill, that bill that could get him something warm and clean to eat. The young man’s face was red with amusement as he waved it again, and pulled it away quickly having him practically chase after it. His friends behind him as the homeless and starving young man hopelessly grasped at the air and dived for the small amount of money. Harvey stood back with shy and worried eyes. “Come on, “they teased. “Come on, don’t you want it? Come here boy! “A man holding a bottle of whiskey finally burst out laughing and almost falling over. “For cryin’ out loud. “ Ripley’s husky and cracking voice pleaded very quietly as he continued to grab at the 5 dollar bill, because he knew no one would hear or care anyway. “Have a heart for me.”
Harvey began to bounce and bark as a train with a red streak slowly made its way toward the other side of the platform, right when the tall man lost his grip of the bill, it swayed in the train-made breeze. “Ooh…whoopsie-daisy.” The man in the ghetto hat hiccupped at the bill slipped, and his friends hit his back and laughed at him for being “such a silly idiot.” Ripley dove for it. It gently glided down to the tracks like a feather on a windy day, but was shredded by train’s wheels before it even touched the ground.
Abigail took a walk with her mother and her new bear down a very Christmas themed street, crowded with many people in ski jackets, and every corner had a Salvation Army bell ringing loud, with either a cotton beard hung-over Santa Clause, or a disgruntled bundled up fella named Tony. Abigail’s mother began to look to the streets at the largest and fastest moving vehicles, especially the busses “Did you name your bear, yet? “ Mother asked Abby. She was keeping it warm inside her coat. “I don’t know, what would Daddy name him? “ An image of helicopters landing, and one crashing in the desert flashed in Mother’s head. Nothing has changed. She tried to say. “Something ridiculous, probably. “ She awkwardly laughed to herself and on she laughed even a few seconds she had said it, uneasily wiping a hand on her forehead, but in her heart she cried. She didn’t want to think about her husband ever again, but the image of him all handsome and strong in uniform was too clear, and too much like yesterday.
Her and Abby walked a few blocks, and stopped only once to stare at the giant Christmas tree, perched high above the ice rink and golden dancer at Rockefeller Center, and speckled with many vivid and twinkling lights. She held up her bear higher, as if he could see it. “Mommy, you haven’t given me my allowance in a month. “ She remembered suddenly, turning her little dark haired head to her mother. Knowing it was a mistake to take your full wallet out in the middle of a New York street, she pulled it out in a quiver again and sort of hid it slightly in her sleeve. She pulled two fives out of her wallet and quickly handed them to Abigail. “Don’t lose them, okay? “ She said as Abby tucked the bills into her coat pocket. She pulled her along the streets to the post office, just for the sake of hope for checks or invitations to banquets through the mail, some kind of distraction. She had a wonderful though that a new Vanity Fair had shown up in the mail, and she could hide from her daughter for hours without crying or thinking. Abigail never really received any letters anymore, from Daddy mostly, she noticed. Yet she was certain he was alright from the Iraqi bear he sent. Mother opened a little mail box in the wall, lettered three decades ago, a few numbers where on it that Abby never memorized. The box was filled with a few envelopes, mostly magazines and bills, but there was one very small envelope in printed in a pastel pink. Abby was quite exited what Daddy had to say, because she knew that he knew pink was her favorite, and probably mailed some fancy middle eastern money for her to pin in her diary. Mother’s eyes lit up, seeing the return address was from her mother, living like an animal on a farm in Texas; but her mouth stayed still as her spiny fingers opened the envelope. She began to read,With deepest sympathy…Mother scratched her nose. Her face turned quizzical, pretending she didn’t know what this was for, and she looked down towards little Abby, who was staring up at her with eyes as bright as any five year olds would be. Her mouth read her mother’s sorry words silently. “What does it say, Mommy? “ Abby pulled at her sleeve, but her mother ignored her as she kept reading the letter. “Mom? “ Then her mother slowly lifted her head from the paper, her eyes begging to glisten with the tears she had saved all morning, and tried to keep telling herself that nothing had happened. She let out a quaky gasp as she dropped the card to the floor, and her hands started clenching the loose yellow-beige cuffs on her coat. “Mommy, are you alright? “ Mother struggled to hold back her tears, trying so terribly not to collapse on the floor, bawling. She slowly glared down at her daughter again, so innocent and happy, and broke down. It was almost as if she was shouting. Abigail’s little heart raced and her stomach flipped from a sudden surge of unbearable anxiety. “Mom, stop yelling, it’s scary.” She didn’t answer and people around the post office stared at her with judging and concerned expressions. “I can’t live without him…stay here Abigail! “ Where the last words from her mama she heard as she bolted out the door, leaving all regard for her daughter, sense, or sanity in the post office with Abby. “Mommy, wait for me! “ Abby shouted as she tried terribly hard to run after her. A few people flowed her, one man and quite a few young and old women telling Mother if they could help, what was wrong, and to come back for her kid.
“Wait! Mommy! “Mother kept running, as if trying to get away from her. Abby thought it must have been true when she ran into the street into traffic; she was slightly bumped by some taxi cars and a van. Then when Abby saw that her mother was running wildly into the things she was taught could kill her in pre-school, she began to shout hysterically and flail about in a panic; but the adults who had followed her, and the adults on the street held her back and shouted with her to get out of the road. Added to the terrifying choir of noise were the angry horns of passing vehicles. Mother seemed to be dodging herself at every car, but every car dodged her, and she became furious. “You son of a bitch, God! Let me die too!” Her words echoed and even people stopped from strolling on the sidewalks, called to her to stop, called for someone to help, called the authorities, or gossiped on the side. “She’s a lunatic. “ One elderly man said. “She tryin’ ta kill ‘erself or somethin’? “ Said another. “Mommy! Mommy! Stop it! Please Mommy! “Abigail screamed at the top of her exasperated lungs. “Come back, there’s a bus coming! Its coming, Mommy! “Abigail didn’t understand why she was trying to get hit by the passing cars, but that bus did come soon enough, and Mother loved the second it did.
Ripley followed the large crowd of people coming into the station, keeping Harvey close to his heel. He squinted at the dim yellow light of the furnished and shining train station. It seemed empty when he arrived, but the crowed he was swept in slowly moved in on it, and their voices became noises canceling out each other creating a loud mumble that could not be understood, growing stronger and stronger until every conversation was the same. He had been up there many times before, and had been kicked out just as many. He made his way to a few waste baskets in the corners, and garbage cans with wheels. He rummaged through them every time the coast was clear, looking for something to eat. Harvey helped too by stuffing his nose deep in the rubbish, though he didn’t wait until no one could see. All they found where plastic items, and rags, nothing that was even close to edible.I bet I look terribleRipley thought as many high class men and women strolled by him, whispering to one another about how disgraceful and disgusting he was. He heard a thousand times from everyone, but he was irritated that he needed to hear it all the time.
Abigail cried until her stomach hurt and ran away from the sight, with her teddy bear tight in her arms. She was deathly afraid that the bus might turn around and head for her next. Her eyes blurred the colorful lights around her, and seemed to move past her at the speed of sound. The people walking the other way only added to the fearful and intense image, as more and more people pushed against the direction she was running to see the grizzly scene; more traffic piled up and stopped in the streets, gradually congesting the roads so the ambulance and police couldn’t break through, no matter how loud they wrung or how hard they tried. She never did know what the card said.
Ripley sat down at a wooden bench in the main room of the picturesque train station. He studied the painted constellations on the ceiling while languidly stroking Harvey’s hardening and wire like hair. He wondered why there was no Scorpio painted on the emerald ceiling.
Abigail stopped running on the steps of Grand Central. As she skidded to a stop, she inadvertently scared some pigeons. They scattered in all directions as they flew into the dark gray sky and the yellow and orange glow of windows. She collapsed on the front step of the station and cried like her mother did only moments ago.Where am I gonna go without Mommy?She worried and held her bear tight. Then slowly Abby’s head lifted from the stuffed animal. She just stared at it for a while, its shiny blue button eyes, and its smile sewn especially for her from Daddy. She cried harder into the bears sandy fur. And she thought how strange it is that looking at darling or happy sights when you are upset make you feel worse. Maybe because of the heart’s painful desire to feel like smiling again.
Ripley eyed a few women in their fifties with a bottle of water and some hot bread they picked up from a quick lunch stand.I’m close enough to just go grab it.He was placidly considering it, gently tapping his slender and blistered fingers against his leg. Although he knew the risk of being caught by the security guards and maybe even getting beaten to death if he got cocky and tried to steal their belongings, too. But he let his better judgment speak that time, and stood up and walked towards the door with Harvey, away from the two women. He looked back and embraced the knotted feeling in his stomach, taunting him and fueling his fear of eventually being too nauseous to eat.
Abby tried to stop crying and new that Daddy and Mother always needed to be strong in public, with as much dignity as Daddy in his uniform, and enough talent to keep a smile on her face at all times, said Mother, like everything was fine. So she to forget the fact she was all alone, and had no one to protect her, at least to keep it out of her mind, and to be like Mother and keep the hurt for later, when she was alone. Yet all she wanted was someone to guide her home as she walked up the steps into the station.
It was warm, and open. She glimpsed at the flag hanging over the wondering heads of people trying to catch their train, and Abby wiped another escaping tear and sniffed as she looked at it. She looked again at the red white and blue and became weak in the knees, and wondered if Daddy could see it in Iraq. Mother’s crying began to echo. She desperately tried to keep herself from tearing powerfully when she remembered the card and the wonderful package full of love and care he had sent her.
She walked forward slowly, wiping more escaping tear drops off her cheek with the bear’s ear. Then Abby saw an extraordinarily tall but withering man in a worn and long dark green jacket and a red hat, with a funny wiry dog at his side, suddenly walking towards her, but not to her.
Ripley unbuttoned his coat, although he knew how cold the outside was going to be. He walked slower when he saw a little girl holding a white teddy bear coming his way, with her hair dark and her eyes moist with tears. Harvey with his wet nose pointed high in the air saw her, and the inquiring animal trotted towards her.
Abby froze and swallowed when the wire haired dog suddenly darted toward her, afraid that it would snarl and attack, but the frail and playful dog only sniffed her and wagged its tail wildly, moving the rest of his behind. “Damn it, Harvey. “ Ripley grumbled and paced towards them. Abigail gawked straight into his wandering, blood shot eyes when he bent down; she heard his knee crack as he did. If one second was changed where a man behind them missed bumping into a hurrying woman with a lot on her plate that day, making her drop the heavy books she was carrying back to a train to Golden’s Bridge, Ripley would have never looked up out of surprise to see Abby’s young face, and Abigail would have never seen the great detail in the ashen irises of his eyes. She loved how his nose was so long and boney, and how it suited his face well. How big his hands were although they were connected to brittle stick-arms, with his wrist bones bulging out of his skin. She was interested on how the circles under his eyes where almost as dark as his shortly cut, pitch black hair. Her face stayed the same, but she had found at least the essence of a human being that could maybe comfort her. Ripley never knew a little girl’s eyes could be so brown, and how clean her clothes and face were. He wondered how expensive the shiny black shoes tightly buttoned and clasped to her feet with lacey stockings were. All and all, he just saw her as another rich man’s daughter, until he realized she was all alone, and had an abandoned look on her face, just like him. He stood back up without even saying “hello“ or “sorry“; he just pulled Harvey back as if we were trying to get him away from a dead bird on the road. She was out of his mind as soon as he went. Abigail however, was enchanted about how he towered over her, and saw him as the gentle giant in the last story book her Daddy ever read to her, ones with lots of little black and white drawings that could have looked like him, but really didn’t. She couldn’t help but follow him.
Ripley shuddered when he came outside as a gust of frigid wind attacked him; he then struggled to quickly button his coat again. He walked smoothly but slowly into the lanes of damp concrete, wet from the snow that never had a chance at life. Heartbroken Abigail followed him out, and prayed to God she found a friend. Her shoes tapped in sync with his, splashing a little bit of water here and there, wetting her stockings and freezing the skin on her legs, or so it felt. A few times he picked up his pace after realizing the little twerp was following him for candy, he thought, and twisted his neck around from time to time and said “Go home, kid.“ Abby didn’t acknowledge him, she kept trying to follow him to wherever he intended to go, and they both weren’t sure where. “Kid, go home. Jeez…“ He wheezed again.
“But I don’t know where my house is.” Small tears were forming in her eyes again when she remembered the tree in front of her apartment, and how her Daddy said it was really the cities’ hand waving “hello“to her when they first moved in. “No one’s home.” She remembered. “Like I care, come on kid,” His all American Jewish-Brooklyn accent seemed especially thick with phlegm and grit that day. “Go home now-“He paused and quickly bent down to pick up a quarter laying face up on the wet side walk, conveniently almost next to a cheap burger stand. He left Abby standing with her heart cracking even deeper, but her face stayed the same. “What can I get with this? “ He asked with a bright and hopeful smile, feeling like his stomach ache was already going away, as he held up the lonesome quarter in his hand. Harvey barked behind him with joy. The man grilling and accidentally blackening hot dogs chuckled, “Are you joking? “ He caught a quick glimpse of Ripley’s horse grin, with his yellowing teeth, one of them golden, and quickly turned away feeling squeamish. “You poor shmuck.” He chuckled.
Ripley’s smile faded and he looked at the silver coin, and sneered, then sighed as he walked away gradually from the stand, Abigail and Harvey watching him, a glimmer in all of their eye’s dying, and a young man gossiping a lady who had just got herself run over to the hotdog man. “And to think… “He whispered and shook his head and walked towards a moderately dry bench. “Useless piece of crap. “He mumbled while flipping the little quarter behind him. He sat down with Harvey scratching at his leg, and Ripley decided to brace himself for a few more days of suffering. They had both forgotten the little girl holding a white bear who desperately wanted a friend to soothe her. They didn’t know she had a fresh ten dollars in her pocket.
“Here“She stood in front of starving Ripley with a warm, steaming, and charred hot dog and an intolerably cold bottle of Canada Dry, making her hands wet and red and stinging from mixing with the new winter air. She was disappointed she only had six dollars left in her pocket, but she looked on the bright side because she used the quarter Ripley had thrown behind him to pay for the rest, so she possibly saved a little for more purchases in this big city of hers.
Ripley stared with wide eyes at the cheap meal, but he saw it as a feast. He grabbed it from her like a frightened animal, and gave a well sized piece of the bun to Harvey. He gobbled it up in almost seconds, stuffing it like a pig, and drank almost half of the ginger ale bottle. He sat in amazement for a while of what a perfect meal it was, even ginger ale to calm his gut. Abigail watched him slowly wipe his mouth with his sleeve, and began to walk away, like he wanted, she thought. She walked leisurely, facing being alone, and not knowing what to do, but she paused when Ripley’s hoarse voice chocked out. “Where do you think you’re goin’? “ He paced to her and placed a giant, now loving hand on her shoulder, Harvey nudged her bear.
They sat on the steps of the Metropolitan, and watched the canary colored taxis roll by, ignoring calls or picking someone up who was freezing to death. The world went by before them as the sky grew a dark, navy blue, and all the city’s lights where gleaming vibrantly. The light pollution leaked into the air until it got dark enough for the sky to become a dark red, the golden windows jewelling the atmosphere.
Ripley spoke to her often as Abigail stroked sleeping Harvey. She never told him about her parents, but Ripley did about his. He told how they were very wealthy, and how they wouldn’t let him work. He ran away from home and tried to get every decent job in town, but he was denied every single time he tried to apply, because of the sound his lungs used to make every time he inhaled, and all according to the grapevine he wasn’t a pretty sight to look at. They said it made them quiver and sick to their stomach.
He met a homeless woman in the underground of Grand Central, whom everyone called ugly. In his dreary eyes, with his whites a stinging red, she was a beautiful and lonely lady who he could imagine in a white dress. “What was her name? “ Abby stopped petting Harvey for only a moment. “She didn’t have one, I don’t think. “ Ripley said, exhaling and watching the mist from his breath rise and disband in the air. “If she did have one, it would have to suit her smile. “ He said that they became friends quickly, and he started to live with her in the dark abyss of the train station. He grew to love her... that was when Ripley stopped telling the story. “What happened then? “ Abby tugged gently on the giant man’s sleeve. “I...“his voice grew softer and quieter. “…I don’t know…” He sat silently with unease, looking about all the people under the city lights, as if she could be anywhere now, and could pop up in the crowd at any time.
They walked along the nighttime streets when the sun had completely hid from Manhattan. Harvey lead them into the wealthier part of town, close to Time Square and eventually into it, where lights of all colors were moving and glowing powerfully, showing the city that never sleeps how it’ll stay up and party as long as it still stood. Small crowds of people walked in slow strides, singing “Joy to the world“ and “Holy night“ all at once, making the “joyous“ Christmas songs just noise among all the other commotion. “Why do all these songs have to be about Jesus all the time? What about Chanukah songs or Kwanza or somethin’? “Ripley stood on the curb for a minute with Abigail, watching snowflakes tinted by the lights melt when they hit the ground.
“They just are, I guess. “ Abby brushed some of the snow of the bear’s ear. “A lot of people like it. “
“Hmph. “He snuffed while emptying some of the dirt and old Wrigley’s wrappers out of his pockets. “Do they? “ That question echoed in her head, and she started to wonder if she was really fond of it herself. Ripley looked down at her, and was slightly bothered by the silence. “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you,“He sang gracelessly and a little quietly to himself, his voice using many redundant vibratos. He had the deepest voice when he sang, the strangest and grittiest that Abby had ever heard. “I’ll be so blue just thinking about you, “He kicked some small pebbles into the road.
“That’s so sad, though. “ Abby furrowed her brow.
“But it’s pretty, see? “ He smiled when Abby quietly agreed with a soft “yah. “ He continued to sing. “Decorations of red on a green Christmas treecome on, kid. “ He shook her shoulder slightly, knowing she knew the words as well as she knew her name. “Won’t mean a thing...if...you’re...not here?” She took a breath before almost every word, and couldn’t remember how the rest of the damned thing went. Pleased, he bent down to her level while involuntarily cracking his back, and they sang together for a second while he bent down to her. “You’ll be doing alright with your Christmas of white, but I’ll have a blue, blue Christmas.“ He rose and started to walk again, slowly, letting Abby catch up to him. He still sang as he walked, and Abby couldn’t help so much as to hum with him. She secretly loved it, after all her father did sing it to her before he was shipped to the dessert lands. One of those days was the last she saw snow fall and stick to the ground.
She then saw the undergrounds of Grand Central as they really were. Past the platforms, the beautiful, chrome colored trains, and the golden granite steps beyond them, and she found a deserted and dark waste land. The dim lights gradually faded into the tunnels, and she was afraid to walk forward, and thought she had a good chance of getting swallowed by the obscurity, or whatever lurked in there. But Harvey trotted without fear all over the working tracks and the abandoned ones, or better said as sniffing around his home. Abigail stood motionless as Harvey started circling around her, still at a frisky trot. “Don’t know ’bout you, but I’m gonna sleep. “ Ripley’s voice made an echo in the tunnels. Abby turned her neck and saw him getting comfortable in between one of the concrete arches. Abby didn’t want to sleep in concrete and dirt that night. And she began to look around her again as a sudden wave of nausea and worry swept over her; she wanted to go home, she was trapped, but she had to be strong for daddy and Mommy. “We’re sleeping here? “
“Yes, kid. “
“Why do I have to? “ She focused on the feeling in her gut and heart and tried to fight it, all the more making it worse and worrying about the worry. Ripley nestled himself more as Harvey settled himself by his side, under his arm. “You got someplace better? “ He snapped but not too harshly, not wanting to sleep on the platform again to avoid all those rich-bitch teens, teasing the little people.
Then Abigail said nothing, and scowled at the dirty concrete she would have to rest against, pretending everything was still alright.
Ripley slept, and Abigail squatted silently crying into her bear for hours, scared, sick, distressed, and tired. She thought she had heard the sounds of Mother screaming with the whining of the bus breaks as a sudden red streaked train came hissing and clacking by, scaring the living daylights out of her, and making her insides feel even shoddier. She jumped, tossing her bear on top of Harvey’s back by mishap. The train roared by with a series of moans hidden in the rest of its song that made Ripley’s eyes slowly fluttered open. Abby was still squatting with a quivering hand to her lips. He tilted his head. “You know, if you don’t wanna sleep in the dust, you could sleep on top of me of Harvey if you want. “
Abigail paused and turned her head to him with a few tears escaping. She felt them, warm and moistening her face as the mucus built up in her red button nose. She tried to wipe it, but her anxiousness become too much for her; her sleeve was there, and she hid her face in there and began to bawl, letting her legs sink to kneeling. Her back hunched, and lead her face to the dirty floor, and she cried to her Mommy, but only the first letters managed to come out. Ripley, as much as he wanted to sleep and let the little runt cry, he took no hesitation of gently put a stiff hand on her back, and gently move it back and forth. Familiar feelings began to whisper inside of him suddenly, and the ignorant teenage run-away still inside him began to cry a little too.
“I don’t feel so good.” Abby managed to sob her words, and Ripley kneeled and leaned forward a tad, placing his hand back. “Aw… kid.” He sighed, as Harvey came to sniff her hair and sit next to the terrified and mourning little girl. “It’s never easy the first night.” Abigail continued to cry for a long time, or at least to them. What could have been an hour to Ripley was a mere fifteen minutes before Abby could finally sit up with airy, shaky weeps. It made Ripley smile a smidge. “And you know what kid?” She lifted her red and wet face to him. “You’ll be alright, I know no matter what you’ll be alright. Keep tellin’ yourself that, ok?” Abby sniffed up all the mucus she could before nodding, but as an untrue gesture of understanding, getting a tail in her face as Harvey hurried back to his master when he leaned back against the concrete again. And Ripley began to pet his mangy and crusty fur when he got settled. “Why don’t you come here, kid? You’ll feel better.”
She hurried to him without hesitation, and lay on top of him like she used to do with her mother. “You’re not very heavy. “ He chuckled, wrapping his jacket around her, trying to deal with her snuffling and turning when she wanted her face out in the open air. Abby stayed silent as she thought of her parents, how warm Ripley was, like her mother, and how his clothes smelled like tobacco, sweat, and a bit of garbage, what she smelled on lonely streets that her father would guide her through when she was too afraid to lead. For a minute, lying still in his arms, she thought she had found them, and laid her head back to just let her tears stream as they pleased, and she thought she needn’t worry about wiping. He didn’t notice. She made no noise while she continue cry, but sort of tried to make it a bit relaxing to let the sadness fall out as much as it may. And finally when her eyelids became heavy and her stomach still, she counted the garbage and whatnot across the tracks and tried to read the graffiti on the tunnel wall until she fell fast asleep.
She had no breakfast for the first time in her life, and Ripley just didn’t feel like going out to look. Until later they walked endlessly again in the suburban town. All day they did, they had nothing else to do; they had nowhere else to go, sitting from time to time and asked for change. They stopped to stare at the beautiful, unique, and smoothly curved Guggenheim museum, filled with all sorts of great artworks and treasures, and odd mini colored pencils in their gift shop; Abigail’s favorite. Ripley pulled her onward; he found no point in staring if they couldn’t really see it for themselves.
They walked in the seediest part of town eventually, aimlessly ending up in there. It was filled with more homeless, abandoned and scratched up apartments, and trash. The only thing more common than those things were gentlemen’s clubs and prostitutes greeting them at every corner. For what little clothes they wore, they were very colorful and feathery; some wore hoop earrings and gobs of sparkling eye shadow and lip gloss; a face Abigail appreciated, and knew she wasn’t the only girl who loved to play with Mommy’s cosmetics. They stopped them all over the place, telling them their “best offers”, and Ripley tried to hurry away before they got the chance to advertise, for the little girl’s sake. The only acknowledgement Ripley gave was a small kiss on the cheek to a woman who was ghastly beyond description, and was mad enough not to notice. Some old clothes lines hung out from the buildings on that part of town. Many windows where dirty and boarded, but even in the most run down and abandoned buildings a dark shadow of a person still lingered inside of them, but they were slowly dying shadow now.
The Empire State building never looked so beautiful that day, even when the clouds had the same shade of light grey. The windows shined unnaturally, and looked over its kingdom, proud and bold for the world to see.
Ground Zero was nothing less than haunting, with the area blocked by a chain-linked fence, a wall of names, many of them faceless, and the two massive empty squares in the ground. It was almost as if the screams could still be heard, being carried by the wind and fluttering away into the light snow flakes. “They fell before I was born, I think. “ Abigail scratched her leg with her heal, and leaned her bear’s face into her shoulder. But Ripley seemed to be afraid of the space if someone were to glance at him, for he was nine feet away from the fence, looking up at the sky and around him. “Yeah. “ Ripley coughed and wheezed while saying it. “You’re lucky; everyone was pretty scared then. “
“How many people got hurt? “
Ripley remembered six years back, when he was sixteen and that cloud of dust came hurdling towards everyone in the city, and he had no were to go.“Hurt? “Ripley turned from her slightly and shook his head. “What do you mean by hurt? People died kid. “ A big and frightened man ran as fast as he ran away from the falling chaos didn’t see him and knocked him over to the ground, two more men stepped on his back, then head as he hopelessly tried to crawl away from the beast that enveloped him none the less. Ripley gingerly rubbed his neck and then glanced at Abby, who took his stern tone too seriously. She didn’t look at him. “Be happy, “he wheezed as he inhaled. “That you weren’t caught up in it.” She began to look up like the poor homeless man had, and imagined how tall the towers would be. With his joints snapping, like an old man’s, he bent down and at on the curb, turning his back on the site, and lowering his head.
They had found him like the others, covered from head to toe in dust, and Ripley re-called his terrifying battle to breathe.
He found Abby walking to sit next to him with her little white bear in her arms as he sat and thought; after a few minutes when nothing was spoken, rested her head on his shoulder.
For days then much longer it was the same thing, walking endlessly on the streets, reminiscing from different places, and sometimes Abby buying food for them with the remaining money she had. She gave a lot of it to Ripley, who was coughing more and more every day from the cold seeping into his scarred and fragile lungs. His voice was becoming even rougher. It was like rubbing sand paper against the ear every time he spoke. He was not bothered by it, except that he couldn’t sing as they walked anymore, the once deep and bizarre notes just wouldn’t come out like they would. Sometimes Abby did it for him, and knew exactly what song he wanted to hear every time. And after a while, Abby began to wither a bit, had some patches of dirt on her face of her very own, and looked around from time to time and acknowledged that Ripley was right, everything would be okay, and rested her grief on her friend whenever she wanted. Harvey and Ripley were quick to comfort.
She sang Let It Be for a while when they snuck into the skating rink under the giant Christmas tree. They had no skates, or graceful ability to glide on ice, but they tried to enjoy themselves as much as they could. They were both tinted by the small lights on the tree from above, and a bit of gold reflected onto their backs from the Rockefeller Center statue. Abby had to help Ripley move, he was falling and fidgeting all over the place, he eventually tried holding on to her hands. Many people skated past them with ease and their noses high in the air, riding actual blades and some talent to use them; they even glared and laughed to themselves about how pathetic they were. But they didn’t care, they spun, clinging to each other and laughed, their breath turning to steam. Ripley, feeling his lungs collapse more within every day, forgot that all has an end looking down at the little girl who showed the first bit of compassion to him in a number of years on in the cold and unforgiving concrete wild. He smiled every second with her then.
Abigail forgot at that moment what had happened to her, how much her stomach ached and worried, and felt like she knew Ripley ever since she was born. Every time she looked in his bloodshot eyes, she knew she didn’t need to go back home, she was already there, on the streets. They chuckled as they tried to spin a bit together in the rink, with mutual feelings of what would be minor amusement for the rest of the world, were so much more than that for the both of them. Harvey was guarding the bear and waiting for them when they decided to go someplace warm. Ripley leaned slightly with his hand on her shoulder to keep his balance, still smiling. They went back out and sat down at one of the concrete wall edges outside of Rockefeller Center. Abigail, with her bear in her arms again, sat beside him after Ripley lifted her up, resting on his arm. She liked being against him, his long jacket and all. “You know what? “She said.
“Hmm? “ Ripley looked down towards her, with a tired but happy look on his face.
“I love you, Ripley. “ She smiled and put herself under his arm, nuzzling her little face on her side. She heard him slowly gasp. “Abigail, you do, do ya? “ He hopped off the wall’s edge face her, looking in surprise, his eyes beginning to glisten. “Yeah. “She wrapped her arms around his neck, leaving her bear to sit. Ripley sighed. “You know, last time I said ’I love you’ was to the woman I was talking about a while ago. Remember that, kid? “He gently picked up her arms and placed them at her sides. “Well, I did. “He sniffed. “And hated me just for saying that, she ran off from me kid cause I’m such a sleaze.” he paused, glancing at the people who glanced at him, and then placed a distressed hand over his face. “That was before the towers fell you know…” He paused again, remembering some more as he did, and sighing to himself, then looking Abby directly in the eye. “I didn’t know where she was… don’t you disappear from me now, you hear?” He began to almost whisper. For the first time in her life, she understood what had happened, and pieced together in her head what Ripley did, and felt his pain of being left on the streets, alone again. “I do, Ripley. “ She responded, and stared at him with the twinkle that was there when she looked upon her father so long ago. He swallowed while staring at that twinkle, and let a tear escape from his own eye. He wrapped his arms around the little girl. “Love you too, kid. “ He said as he stared out into the blissful space.
Abby felt the last dollar bill she had in her pocket crinkle, the last of Mommy. She parted herself from Ripley’s arms. “You want my last dollar? “ She pet Harvey as she walked by and then picked up her bear. “Naw. “ Ripley stood up with a dull smile. “I’m already the richest guy in town. “
They weren’t let into of Grand Central that night by a few officers with chips on their shoulders who finally noticed Ripley’s repulsive condition and his dog’s grimy and matted hair. Abby was smart enough to stay a bit behind, so they wouldn’t notice a little homeless girl and try to take her back to human conditions.
It was blistering cold that night, and they had nowhere else to go but alley beside building a block or two down, and each other’s arms. It was a frustrating night; Ripley tried again and again to keep Harvey from running off. He eventually made him stay. Abigail had real trouble keeping warm, as did he. They had to wrap each other in different positions, and combine each other’s jackets, sometimes they huddled up next to Harvey, but he wouldn’t have any of that. Her bear shifted, too, until it reached about to the edge of the sidewalk, almost. But Ripley and Abigail stayed glued together, not knowing what would become of each other, and if they would remain with each other forever. Finally, they got into a position they wanted, involving Ripley leaning against the building, cradling Abigail in his weak arms. “Warm enough? “ Ripley asked. Abby didn’t answer, but had been so comfortable and exhausted she had already drifted off. He smiled and gazed at the other building’s wall, then at the window lights out in the winter’s wind and the walking and restless beside them. “Love you, kid, and g’night. “
Abigail was awoken at dawn but the sound of obnoxious, intoxicated laughter and complaints from those who heard them. She slowly opened her eyes; the tips of her eyelashes a little frosted, and saw her precious bear had disappeared. Her heart pounded and she escaped from the embrace of Ripley, who began wheezing as he woke up and fell back asleep. She rose and walked along the side walk about three buildings down, and saw a group of rambunctious, rebellious, teenagers, a little younger than Ripley. The gang held and was dancing with a dirty white teddy bear, chortling their heads off; the tallest man had a cigarette lighter in his hand along with a pack of Marlboros. What seemed to be the center of attention was a young man with a ghetto-trucker hat, and a beautiful laughing Irish woman on his arm. They laughed about absolutely nothing, and drank a large bottle of Jack Daniel’s wrapped in a paper bag. Abby cautiously approached them, “That’s my bear. “ She murmured and they turned to see her. The sleepy fellow in the ghetto hat smirked and looked at the bear, thinking the re-sewn smile was stupid and for babies, and would look better with a look like he would “get shit done”.
“Hang on, gotta fix it for ya. “ He hiccupped as he pulled the treads out, making them snap between his fingers, his friends laughing and calling him a retard as he stumbled sideways into a dumpster and a few abandoned and dismantled pipes. Horrified, Abby charged at him and tried to snatch her Daddy’s gift back. “Stop it! Don’t! Stooop!” She grabbed at the young woman’s coat, who could barely even see straight as it was, laughing her lungs off as her boyfriend danced drunk with the silly little toy. “Julliard, you horses ass!” Another man stumbled after him, impressing the lovely lady, as he grabbed at the arms, but the boy in the ghetto hat pulled back and fell against the pipes once again; the arms ripped off and fell to the bitter and lonely ground. “Stop! “ Abby squealed and started to cry like she never had before. When the gang finally realized they were getting a jolly out of it, they continued to mutilate her bear. Airy stuffing flew and landed in puddles of the melted snow, and the beautiful blue eyes rolled into the street and got caught in reckless bus and taxi wheels. They cackled like idiots, as finally Abby looked away and cried, making an awful noise with her lungs, beginning to have the feeling of vomiting, and screaming for Daddy all the while. And then for Mommy, and she began to flail herself at the boys but they pushed her away. She stumbled backwards and the other teenagers laughed and isolated her, the vicious roar of the unforgiving city drowning out her new cries, her cries for Ripley. And she threw herself to the ground in distress when she did.
The bear, once new and with a loving, homemade face, was now just a hollow, filthy piece of cloth, thrown into a puddle to rot with the trash around it. Abby ran to the remains, and cried over it as another boy in a grey, silver buttoned coat, grabbed the edge of her torn jacket with spinney, cold fingers. “Ohhaww we made the…” he spat a quick chuckle. “…baby cry!” He said with an “aww” from the lovely Irish girl. All the while, the boy in the ghetto-trucker hat tried his best to stand on his two feet again to go toward her, but a sudden blow to his jaw from an angry fist didn’t give him the chance. She stood up and spun to see Ripley leaning on the building’s wall, with a look of pure rage in his eyes as he glared intensely on the man he hit. “Hey, it’s the shmuck who wanted Julli’s dough so bad. “ The silver man helped his friend up, and giggled looking at the proverbial once pathetic sight, with a wire-haired dog cowering at his side. He lost his mind when the Irish woman began to smile again. “Wanna ’nother, bloke? “She said.
Ripley charged, and beat the two men silly, not having the heart to hit any woman. They hopelessly tried to fight back, trying to strangle Ripley or snap his neck, but he threw them against the hard, cold walls surrounding them. Abby watched and stood back with Harvey in fear that she might get caught in the violence. “Ripley! “ She tried to shout over the punched and groans of pain. “Leave them alone! “ She wiped away her tears, and then began to shout his name again, but no matter how hard she tried, he was deaf with anger. Ripley gave one more tremendous hit to the boy in the ghetto hat’s jaw, and quickly bent down to look in Abby’s eyes, frantic and struggling to even wheeze. “You alright, kid? “ He lifted up the wet cloth of the bear with adrenaline still in his hands, shaking but still try to be gentle, and gave it to horrified, trembling Abigail. “No. “She said with a lump in her throat, and shaking her head in disbelief. “No, no…”
Ripley brushed back her now tattered hair from her yes, and gently kissed her on the forehead, trying with little hyperkinetic movement in his neck as possible. “Come on, you’re gonna be alright. “ He said softly. “Remember what I said? No matter what, sooner or later, you’ll always be alright, ok kid?” Abby never got to respond, for he didn’t notice the angry adolescent in his silver coat sneaking behind him with one of the piped Julliard had fallen on. A look of intoxicated but real fear and surprise flooded his face as he suddenly struck the back of Ripley’s head, and Julliard and his lady gasped. Harvey, scared and confused, ran blindly out into the street, dodging all the honking vehicles that came his way, but he still never came back. Ripley fell over to the ground after a surprised wobble, and out of the heat of the moment he hit Riley again, and again, and one last time, cussing while he did. At that moment his friends were seemingly poking their heads into sobriety again, and telling their pal to cool it. Until they could pull the pipe away from him, they didn’t run away. But when they did, they did in a panic, kicking Abigail’s side by mistake as they tripped over themselves to flee. But still Abigail could only kneel in shock in front of cold and motionless Ripley, despite the jab to her gut. The shadows from the grey and black buildings covered him as he lied there, all still. His head was tilted to the side that was facing her, his face now had terrible purple bruises, the biggest where a part of his scull had caved. One forlorn little drop of blood trickled out of his mouth, containing his long old horse teeth, which used to smile so, and laugh with personality and grit, and a puff of warm breath disappearing into the air.
Abigail felt as if she was going to vomit over and over again, looking upon Ripley, sprawled on top of the remains of her teddy bear. She inched closer with her mouth gaping open, and lifted his battered head onto her lap. “Ripley? “ Her voice quivered. “Ripley, you’re okay, right? “ Ripley was silent, and didn’t wheeze, nor did he get up to hold her, re-assure her, nor play with her and Harvey who was long gone. “Come on. “ She tried to hold back her tears. “Let’s go to the skating rink, come on. “ Abby gently shook his head a bit in her arms, praying that he would wake up. She shook, and couldn’t even imagine how much pain he was in. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw Ripley’s eyes had already closed. “Are you tired Ripley? “ She whimpered. “Are you gonna go to sleep? “ Ripley still laid there, not a movement, not a breath, not a smile escaped. Abby kneeled for a long time before dragging his body and her bear deeper into the alleyway amongst some garbage bags, soft and sturdy for him to get up and lay in, she thought. And thought on how he was free from worry, and remembering anything at all, be she hoped that remembering her wasn’t too much to ask. As she tucked and re-situated him, buttoning his long and handsome green coat, she gave him a sorrowful kiss goodbye, and an unconscious thanking for being all she had lost; for a little while.
Abby left him, and walked into the crowded and unfamiliar street, were all those strangers would later find a rotten smell beside an apartment, and find a once wonderful man. She was at the point where she couldn’t shed anymore tears. Her heart only ached, knowing that Mama would never get out of the ambulance, that Daddy would never come home, Harvey would never come back, she would never see her bear again, and Ripley would never wake up. Her anxiety and sadness had drained, and she thought about her future down this wild and hostel concrete jungle, where no more arms were left to hold her. You’ll be ok.
Abigail walked with no place to go, with a heart so exhausted that she could feel it go numb, and hating God. She walked all the way to where the powerful and pompous Intrepid had rested when the day was finally dark, and the bottom of the boat shining with the reflection of the water and the people coming to see it. She sat on the other side of the road and let herself cry for a little bit, as she listened to police cars and that old fashioned city hullabaloo. It snowed, but still wouldn’t stick to the ground. As Abigail caught the flakes in her eyelashes, she looked to the sky past the bow of the boat, and past the windows of Brooklyn, to all the lovely and unique flakes that reflected the color of the lights all around, dancing and twirling with the wind without even knowing how to dance like the humans below. She stared, and sang. “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you, and all the blue snowflakes are falling,“She sniffed, and felt her feelings begin to well inside her again, knowing this was Ripley’s favorite song. “You’ll be doing alright with your Christmas of white, but I’ll have a blue... blue... Christmas…“