Perry reached into a coat pocket and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper, habit guiding his thickly mittened hands more than feel. He didn’t look at it though. Keep lost things lost, Old Man Gristle said, and Perry believed him. He never looked at it. The paper just hitchhiked around town with him, begged and washed windshields with him from the safety of the coats, or occasionally a knapsack unless he ran out of tape to fix the flimsy parts.
Most of the townsfolk loved the park, especially on a night like this; he and Old Man Gristle always heard people talking about it as they walked under the bridge, on their way to wherever fancy people go. Icicles hung from the venerable oaks, casting prisms of white and gold as they reflected the moonlight. The usually dull orange of the streetlamps’ lights bounced off the ice on slides and swings, reminding Perry of playgrounds he’d seen in the catalog pages of his bedsheets.
Perry didn’t see beauty, however. The night’s frost and glow merely awakened something inside him, something growling and frightened. Yet here he was again, covering the same tracks as last night, listening to the same creaky, windblown swings as the night before that. The same trees as last week, the same dang park as last year. Every night, identical—the pull, the fight, the defeat. And Life Before the Bridge whispering indecipherable secrets into his head.
Well, that life was gone. He remembered none of it, wanted none of it. He wasn’t the brightest apple in the barrel, but he knew that he didn’t magically appear under the bridge one day. He understood that he must’ve lived a life before sleeping with the rats and listening to Old Man Gristle’s God-awful snoring all dang night. But a squirrelly, slimy feeling in his chest told him not to question, that he’d forgotten for a reason.