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His hands wring together practically shouting that a man in his underwear should not be standing in front of the ice cream store at seven a.m. on a Wednesday morning.
A bus pulls up in front of the ice cream shop. Albert gets on the bus. Surely he struggled with abandoning his duties. Most certainly his upbringing gave him pause at the idea of leaving his new boss high and dry. He struggled and he was relieved. Albert, for all his enlightened upbringing, did not want to spend another minute watching over the clothing of a homeless man standing out of doors in his underwear on a busy street corner. All that, and this was his bus.
"Al!" The throaty voice of the homeless man croaked at the bus. "Al, you're lettin' me down, Al." He shouted at the bus in a pleading, almost wailing, yet somehow happy tone. A mocking tone as if he never fully expected his young charge to guard his things in the first place. "Al, don't do me this way!"
Albert sat in the back of the bus looking out at his abandoned assignment. He watched the man in his underwear duck back into the alley to finish the urgent business he started with his pipe. Albert thought for a minute about asking the bus driver to stop so he could get out. He thought about telling the driver he had to at least give notice of some sort to his new boss. Two weeks? No, two seconds—maybe. He wanted to do it, really he did. Then he remembered how uncomfortable he was just ten minutes ago when the man dropped his pants and wrung them out onto the street before him. The young man weighed discomfort against his sense of duty and, taking it all into account, getting on the bus seemed like the thing most consistent with his character. It was his comfort decision.
Albert sat still in his seat watching another homeless man walk on the traffic side of the bus. He saw the man walk briskly over to the park bench with the bus between him and the man in his underwear smoking crack in the alley. He watched the new man, another bum, and rival to the first, make off with the clothing draped over the bus bench by the side of the street in front of the ice cream shop. In the alley he saw the flare of a lighter through a fog of grey smoke. Albert turned and looked forward to the front of the bus, lost in thoughts he didn't want to have, tripping over words he couldn't quite form and make come out of his mouth. He didn't want to think about thievery or desertion or lack of will or homelessness or addiction, or any of that. For a short time, less than a minute, Albert struggles with ideas he wasn't prepared to deal with at this time. Then suddenly, like the sun that is now up over the trees and buildings across the street from where this morning found him, a smile blooms and spreads on his face.