Robbie rolls over onto his side and rubs his throbbing back with one hand and his pus swollen eyes with the other. He reaches behind him and pulls from his jeans pocket a brown paper bag wrapped tightly around a glass bottle. Lying on the bottle, for who knows how long, has awakened him from his drunken stupor. How long have I been here?
He brushes his long, stringy hair from around his face and with shaking hands opens the sack. A weak grin forms on his face as he removes the bottle. Old Crow. It’s still half full. Not yet ready to take another swig, he lays the bottle aside. He massages his throbbing head. Where in the hell am I?
It dawns on him that his shirt and shoes are gone. He glances at his surroundings. A large metal dumpster rests immediately to his left, with trash strewn on the ground around him. Robbie struggles to recall his whereabouts or the events that have led him here.
He turns to his right. A chain link fence stretches from one building to another, designed to shut off escape from or entry into this end of the alley. But the rats and other vermin pay it no mind. How did I get here? He grimaces and tries to remember. But his foggy mind reveals nothing.
Slowly rising to his feet, he groans with every movement. Once upright, he walks forward, but the first step causes excruciating pain and he has to stop. He raises his foot for a closer inspection and identifies a two inch cut on his instep, with the dirt and grime so thick the cut is almost unrecognizable. His feeble attempt to walk has reopened the wound. The freshly oozing blood appears an almost fluorescent red against the black stain on his foot.
Robbie gingerly places his foot on the ground and limps toward the daylight end of the alley. The sound of his frayed, flair bottomed jeans scraping along the ground, create the only sound heard on this early morning. He makes it to the end of the alley and leans against the corner of the building. The street appears vacant in all directions. The occasional piece of windblown trash skittering aimlessly along the asphalt, the only evidence of life.
The far off ringing of a church bell echoes down the street and resonates in his ears. It’s Sunday morning. Robbie’s mind drifts back to those Sunday mornings when Jason invited him to join him at Sunday school. How little he knew about the topics being discussed, but how warm and welcome he felt. And it felt good. Jason. And Alec. And now he remembers. The bar in Macon. The two girls. What happened from there? How did I get here? He grimaces and tries to remember. But his fog addled mind reveals nothing.
Sultry air pervades the early summer morning, and pallid rays of sunshine peek over the tops of slumbering buildings. Robbie notices beads of perspiration bathing his arms, and watches a sweat droplet run down his chest and come to a stop at the top of his jeans. More sweat falls from the tips of his unkempt hair. He jerks his head back and whips the unruly mass out of his face, where it rests temporarily on his neck and shoulders.
Peering down the street, Robbie spots a pay phone. He instinctively reaches into his front jeans pocket, searching for change, and counts out thirty six cents in the palm of his hand. He rummages through his other pockets and comes up empty. Where’s my billfold? With his thirty six cents in hand, he limps gingerly down the sidewalk to the pay phone. He must call home.
Robbie braces himself against the top of the pay phone with one hand and with the other he deposits a quarter and dials home. His family doesn’t attend church so he expects someone to answer. After two rings he hears his mother, “Hello, this is Molly Booker.”
“Mom.” His dry throat and mouth make his greeting sound more like a croaking frog than a human voice. “Mom, it’s me, Robbie.”
“Robbie,” his mother cries. “Where are you? Are you all right?”
Robbie closes his eyes tight, but comes up empty. “I don’t know where I am.”