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A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.
by [?]

The boy held himself stiffly, his hands curled tight around the counter edge. Finally he asked: “Did you ever really find that lady?”

“What? What say, Son?”

“I mean,” the boy asked timidly.”Have you fallen in love with a woman again?”

The old man loosened his grasp on the boy’s collar. He turned away and for the first time his green eyes had a vague and scattered look. He lifted the mug from the counter, drank down the yellow beer. His head was shaking slowly from side to side. Then finally he answered: “No, Son You see that is the last step in my science. I go cautious. And I am not quite ready yet.”

“Well!” said Leo.”Well well well!”

The old man stood in the open doorway.”Remember,” he said. Framed there in the gray damp light of the early morning he looked shrunken and seedy and frail. But his smile was bright.”Remember I love you,” he said with a last nod. And the door closed quietly behind him.

The boy did not speak for a long time. He pulled down the bangs on his forehead and slid his grimy little forefinger around the rim of his empty cup. Then without looking at Leo he finally asked:

“Was he drunk?”

“No,” said Leo shortly.

The boy raised his clear voice higher.”Then was he a dope fiend?”


The boy looked up at Leo, and his flat little face was desperate, his voice urgent and shrill.”Was he crazy? Do you think he was a lunatic?” The paper boy’s voice dropped suddenly with doubt.”Leo? Or not?”

But Leo would not answer him. Leo had run a night café for fourteen years, and he held himself to be a critic of craziness. There were the town characters and also the transients who roamed in from the night. He knew the manias of all of them. But he did not want to satisfy the questions of the waiting child. He tightened his pale face and was silent.

So the boy pulled down the right flap of his helmet and as he turned to leave he made the only comment that seemed safe to him, the only remark that could not be laughed down and despised:

“He sure has done a lot of traveling.”