You may not sleep well tonight

Every evening, Robert paints at the front table in a small cafe on Greene street. He wears a backwards baseball cap, a shock of messy grey hair sticking out the back. He’s old and thin. Tattoos cover his right forearm.

Before he begins, he pulls out a metal desk lamp and plugs it into the wall socket. He shines the light on two notebooks filled with paintings.

Next to the notebooks he places two boxes of pastels, six tiny jars of acrylics, thin brushes, and a third notebook used for sketches. He drinks from a glass of water and considers his work.

From the street, he looks like a drunk, worn out and redfaced. As he works, well-dressed women stare at him from the street. Robert looks at them wild-eyed and they scurrie off.

At half past eleven, Robert stops working and places each item, the notebooks, paints, brushes, and pastels, neatly into a red duffle bag. He’s careful to put each object in its proper place.

He finishes his routine by turning off the desk lamp and putting it into his backpack. Old time jazz plays on the cafe speakers.

Sometime before midnight, he takes his backpack and duffle and walks out into the cool night air. He passes the bank and the realtor’s office turning left toward the beach. He no longer sleeps on the sand because the beach patrol wakes him too early. Instead he heads for the small walkway behind the shops on Main street. Between a dumpster and a bush lies a ten by four foot space of grass that fits his sleeping pad and blanket.

At midnight, the church bells ring. Robert lays his head down on his jacket. He hears a radiator click on and then looks up at the sky. The weather is getting colder he thinks and then pulls his blanket tightly around his neck.

3 responses to “You may not sleep well tonight”

  1. Sam says:

    Brought me into this guy’s world. Thanks for writing it.

  2. Max says:

    Have you published any of these stories? Hit me up at max@inbooksmag.org

  3. Sophie says:

    Delightfully reminiscent of Marc Augé, it left me wanting to read more.

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