“Vagabond Heart” by Ron Koppelberger


The bond of nights and shaggy parades of poverty, hungry wanting desires of exclamation, "Scratch a patch, scratch a patch," he whispered in energetic need. "Scratch a patch, scratch a patch,” he hissed in sibilant excitement.

Welcome savory smells and tender roast beef perfumes drifted in waves from the interior of the metal box. The trash can stood five feet high on the sides and he peered on tiptoe into the green battered box. The visible remains of a take-out box lay beneath the shredded remains of several garbage bags. Hanging over the edge of the dumpster he stretched his arm out as far as it would reach, just barely touching the white styrofoam box. "Damn scratch, scratch that dog," he grumbled. His legs rocked out behind him as he balanced against his stomach, reaching forward with both hands. His balancing act paid him the take-out box, his fingers found purchase on the styrofoam box as he leaned farther forward. "Arrrrrrrrrgggggghhhhaaaa," he grunted as the air was forced from his midsection. In awkward momentum he propelled himself backward with his left palm against the lip of the can and his other clutching the white chunk of plastic foam. He landed on his heals and pin wheeled for a moment, finally falling square on his rump. He grimaced in a bruised expression of pain and hungry acceptance.

He layed the box in his lap and opened the lid. Smiling, his belly grumbled, a quarter section of corned beef between wheat, it even had a toothpick in it, a pickle and six fat fries with a dollop of partially dried catsup. Written in cross catch salvation he thought as he devoured the plate of food.

He had found his patch, the dusty shadow of a dream, a wish in starving distinctions of taste. "What’s this?" he mumbled through bits of corned beef. The bottom of the box had an inscription written in azure ink.

“VAGABOND HEART,” it read. He thought for a moment and tore the edges of the styrofoam leaving out the script. He placed the piece of lunch box in to one of his backpacks and made his way home. Home was a cardboard box on Cannon Street.

He lay there, twilight illuminating the edges of the opening to the cardboard house. The smell of cardboard filled his nostrils with its bouquet and dry warm essences. His eyes flittered and finally he slept. The remnants of a struggle and a day of wandering purposeful foraging behind him. The rubble of nearly a dozen broken boulders lay scattered before him in his dream, in a fog enshrouded circle, filling his subconscious; bones and blood covered the dusty Taboo. He backed away smelling wheat, sweet saffron seed, amber rows of grain and moist fertile earth. Turning he saw the endless wheat fields in saffron glory. Beautiful embracing waves of glowing grain. The sky was a deep flowing ember of twilight fire and ebbing sunshine alliance with the seeping indigo skyline. Looking down he saw the piece of styrofoam, "VAGABOND HEART." Picking it up he remembered the trash box and the scraps of food.

He stood still for a moment before he realized he was really there. He knew he should have been waking up in his cardboard house, the sound of car engines maybe even an ambulance in the distant city street, yet here he was in fields of sanctified virgin wheat, in fields of grain perfected, blessed wheat. He felt the cool summer tide of air against his skin, touching his cheeks and brow. Looking to the west to unbidden mysteries of spirit, west to the silhouette of nightfall bloom, he sighed and found the passion to move forward from the spot.

Somewhere in the distance a wolf cried to the moon and the wild loves of adventure and desire called to the east.