Crowell fidgeted with his jacket zipper the entire time he stood on the Alewife train platform. Being a seasoned public transit traveler didn’t help him to lower his rising blood pressure. Although, he’d seen it all over the years, he couldn’t wrap his head around a twenty-five minute delay in service due to a disabled train, followed by a 15 minute delay due to a medical emergency. Crow started to think that the literary gods were playing with him. Luckily, he got an early start and decided to head into Cambridge a lot earlier than the scheduled meeting with Hickarado Publishing. He actually was thankful for the extra time to think about the possibilities that could unfold later today. He didn’t feel the need to exit the station and grab an Uber ride, so he sat on a sticky wooden bench and pulled a canary Moleskine journal from his backpack. Crow loved being out in the world, and fashioned himself as having a keen eye for picking up on the “human element” in the environs around him. Basically, being at large allowed him to be in his element and provided him endless material for his writing. He had a knack for finding a story in any trivial detail or exchange, and meticulously wrote down any and all clues in his journal for safekeeping. Later on, he would open his journal and find scribbled short hand that amounted to written spoken tongues. Crow would have to become part cryptologist, part detective, and part crime scene preservationist in order to cull the important bits of information he needed in order to write a story from the seeds of his observational labor. Some might think it creepy, but Crow would be willing to wager that many other writers followed a similar path in gathering material for their writing. If not, he had to wonder why they didn’t. Again, he felt very strongly that fiction was hyper-personal, and that it involved capturing the authenticity of a great many details happening within the ordinary living that occurred between the daily motions and habits of those writers that were willing to take the time to stop and listen for it. These were the mind games that Crow played with himself, and he jotted it all down in his journals. One of his longtime girlfriends broke up with him because of his compulsion to accumulate journals. Her issue wasn’t that he acquired the journals, but rather, that they remained blank on shelves in their shared apartment collecting dust. Crow had a hard time seeing it her way, but the silver lining became the subsequent surge of writing productivity, and the sudden appearance of ink on those blank pages once she Dear Johned him. In a stroke of genius, she left the break up note on the first page of the very first journal she bought for him as a birthday gift. He had been saving that journal for a special occasion, she beat him to it.
Crow noticed a homeless gentleman closing in on the other side of the bench. The man was pulling a rolling wire cart behind him, that looked as if it could equally exist here or in a tinkers market in Bangladesh. The man pushed his cart into the space beside the opposite side of the bench that Crow was sitting on. The gentleman then proceeded to make overtly exaggerated gestures and address Crow.
“Hey! Hey, Fucko!”
Crow closed the canary journal over his hand so he wouldn’t lose the page, and looked up at the gentleman.
“Hey! Hey, you! Yea, you! What the fuck you doing on my bench?”
Crow looked around to make sure that the homeless man was talking to him. Then he looked back at the hostile man, and gestured to his chest with his right hand thumb.
“Yeah, you. Asshole! You’re on my bench.”
Crow started to get a bit hot under the collar, but also remained present enough think about how to handle the situation. He had already engaged the violent man, so he couldn’t ignore him, so he thought what could it hurt? So he played along and ribbed him back.
“Your bench. This is my bench. It was my father’s bench before me, and his father’s bench before him.”
Crow thought that life was sometimes like the narratives in his writing, but from time to time, this was an incongruous belief when faced with the variable of live people.
“The fuck you say?”
“I said it’s my bench.”
The homeless man turned around and fiddled with the mound of materials that comprised his wire cart, and pulled out a cast iron pan, as if it were Excalibur itself. He started swiping through the air with it, and then landed blows on the bench creating quite a noise. Crow fell off the bench and dropped his journal and any of the loose materials that were on his lap a moment before. The homeless guy was surprisingly agile, and although his frame seemed to belie his strength, Crow knew that if he was hit in the head with that pan, he’d be in trouble.
Crow picked up his things and put them in his backpack as fast as he could. The ferocity of the attack from the homeless man grew beyond any measurable expectation, and Crow was forced to walk quickly away from the platform to the stairs exiting the station. When he looked behind him he saw the crazy old fucker sprinting after him with the cast iron pan still in hand. Crow skipped steps on his way up, and ran for all he was worth until he reached the exit doors, busting through them with a desperation that he hadn’t expected. He ran through Fresh Pond for what seemed like three full street blocks without looking back. He then cut down two streets on the right then ran down five more blocks before he began to feel safe again. His heart beat out of his chest and he was all disheveled. He was now out of his way, and stuck in a part of Fresh Pond that he was unfamiliar with. He kept walking until he got to a convenience store, he went in and asked the clerk how far it was to catch a bus to Cambridge. He didn’t know.
“Sorry, man. I don’t take the bus. I hate busses.”
“That’s okay. Thanks.”
Crow walked back the way he came figuring that the guy had given up chasing him by this point. As he approached the Fresh Pond mall, he flagged down a taxi.
“Can you get me to Publisher’s Alley in Cambridge?”
“Sure, get in.
Crow climbed into the backseat, and wondered to himself why all taxicabs seemed to have the same taxicab smell. He made a mental not to work this into a story at a later time, as he didn’t dare pull his journal out of his backpack again.