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Magic Words

The sunrise spread over the urban meadow as he walked quietly along, behind his cart. His brown clothes hung like Buddhist monks robes. This one had a drinking fountain, he could refill his bottles. He had been teased by others in the underworld for living there. They called him designer homeless, the organic, free-trade vagabond. This was home. Their nicknames fell off him like water off a duck. He’d lived places where resources were scarce. Food bank passed out bags of rice. What good is microwave-for-ninety-seconds rice to an underworlder? He laughed at the thought of some smug white city councilman suggesting installing a microwave in the tent city along the Guadalupe, or the center offering showers and “free access to a microwave.” Processed food was bad for him anyway. Too much shit in that versus food. Fucking filler foods anyway. Fucking carbs. He was distracting himself. Too much thinking. That was never a good idea. Keep on schedule, he thought to himself, keep on schedule. Bottles filled, he made his way to the community garden where she greeted him. This one moment each morning reaffirmed him in a way nothing else could. They’d met one morning, her catching him harvesting carrots from a neighboring garden. Her reaction wasn’t shame or defense, but insisting on knowing his name. Nobody else cared to know it. She was Karen. Karen who loved her grandkids. Karen who saved the small tomatoes for him. “Good morning, Albert” had become magic words.