It was time to break Nancy’s heart.
Tom didn’t have a job, didn’t want a job, and Nancy had given him a place to live and a weekly allowance. But she was the sickest woman he’d ever met. She had nearly every disease in the book, and a few which had yet to be added. Currently she struggled with a stomach parasite which the doctor described as looking like a mass of undigested spaghetti which was, in fact, digesting her.
“I’m leaving,” sighed Tom.
“I knew it,” said Nancy, her eyes filling with tears. “It’s another woman, isn’t it?”
“No. It’s you. The problem is you.”
Tom began packing. Nancy owned the apartment and almost everything in it, so it took only a few minutes to collect his things.
“Who will take me to the doctor?” said Nancy, as Tom put on his shoes by the front door.
“You’ll find someone. You’re rich enough,” said Tom.
“Don’t you love me anymore?” said Nancy.
“Is that what you thought this was?” said Tom.
Nancy covered her face and sobbed with jerky convulsions. With every heave her bushy brown wig slipped forward, revealing more of her bald head. As the wig was about to fall, Tom pushed it back into place. Nancy stopped crying and looked up, mistaking his touch for compassion.
Nancy was fifteen years older than Tom. She wore a yellow summer dress with food stains on the sleeves. It was noon and the sun shone brightly overhead.
“That breath,” said Tom as he exited Nancy’s building. “And those tiny, gnarled teeth. To never have to kiss that mouth again…”
Tom walked the city with no destination in mind. He walked because it felt good to be moving, making progress. Progress to nowhere in particular.
Tom saw two kids playing dice on the curb.
“What’s the game?” said Tom.
“We roll the dice and see how they come up,” said the beefy kid.
“Is there any money in it?” said Tom.
“Not sure I understand, bud,” said the scrawny kid, scratching his armpit.
“Are you taking bets?” said Tom.
“It’s not like that,” said the beefy kid.
“Watch,” said the scrawny kid.
The scrawny kid scooped up two dice and rolled them. They bounced off the gutter and came up three and two.
“Five,” said the scrawny kid.
“Nice,” said the beefy kid.
“You wanna try?” said the scrawny kid, holding the dice toward Tom.
Tom took the dice and threw them hard. They skipped across the street and fell into the storm drain. The kids hopped up and chased after them.
The beefy kid stuck his face into the drain.
“I think it’s come up eight,” said the beefy kid, his voice echoing from the drain. “I’ll have to go in to be sure.”
The beefy kid crawled into the drain and disappeared with a splash. The scrawny kid followed him, feet first. It was five P.M. and the sun shone brightly overhead.
Tom walked into a park and approached a man at a table of sandwiches. The man wore a white chef’s outfit and had a thick mustache and a bald head.
“What do you recommend?” said Tom.
“How a-much you a-got?” said the sandwich man with an Italian accent.
Tom reached into his pockets but couldn’t find his wallet. He unzipped his backpack and dug inside. He found shirts, a few pairs of underwear, no socks (a serious oversight), and one of Nancy’s wigs, which he hadn’t remembered taking.
“How about this?” said Tom, showing the wig to the sandwich man.
“Are you a-tryin to be a-funny?” said the sandwich man, covering his bald head with embarrassment.
“I left my wallet at my girlfriend’s house,” said Tom. “Well, ex-girlfriend now.”
“Oh, you’re a man with a broken a-heart?” said the sandwich man. “We Italians a-know a thing or two about a-love. Trust me, there ain’t nothing like a-food for a broken a-heart.”
The sandwich man scrutinized the table of plastic-wrapped sandwiches.
“Here we a-go,” he said, handing Tom a gravy-drenched beef and cheese on white bread. “You’re in a-luck, I a-happen to need a fresh a-rug.”
The sandwich man took the wig and pulled it on. Long, beautiful curls tumbled down his back.
Tom walked to the city center and sat on a bench in front of a statue labeled “Proud Workers Unite.” He ate his sandwich, trying to avoid spurts of gravy which erupted with each bite.
“You gonna finish that, bud?” said a voice.
Tom looked down to see the scrawny kid’s face peaking from the storm drain.
“How’d the dice come out?” said Tom.
“Couldn’t find them. Been looking all day. Come on, give us a bite” said the scrawny kid, extending his hand.
Tom took a final bite and handed the scrawny kid the remains of his floppy, gravy-oozing sandwich. The scrawny kid disappeared into the shadows of the storm drain.
It was ten P.M. and the sun shone brightly overhead.