Andy’s imposing figure worked against him. Nobody stops to give a lift to someone his size at that time of night, especially when you’re near a hospital. No telling what sort of weirdo who’s had to go to A&E you could end up with.
Summoning what little energy he had left Andy dragged himself to a nearby park and slumped onto a bench. He looked to the clear night sky for answers but in return all he got was silence.
As he stared at the stars an overwhelming feeling of insignificance and loneliness engulfed him. The events of the day came crashing in on him. He fought back the growing urge he had to scream while he wept until his tears ran dry. He sat without moving for a long time. His mind eventually stopped whirling but it was more out of numbness than peace.
A sudden cough made him jump. Looking round he saw a dishevelled old man standing a few feet away. “Sorry about that. Didn’t mean to startle you.”
Andy recognised him as one of the homeless people who were all too common in these parts. Everyone knew him as Scratch and he’d been in the area longer than Andy had been alive.
“Alright if I sit with you?” Andy nodded and shuffled down the bench.
Scratch sat and looked thoughtfully at him, a compassionate half-smile on his face. “It’s not easy being different, is it,” said Scratch. It was not a question but Andy wasn’t sure which of the two of them he was referring to.
And then, without meaning to, Andy found himself telling Scratch everything. How he felt he’d let his friend Pete down while being in an impossible situation. How angry he was for having been put in that situation The car accident. Pete’s mother’s reaction. He even told him about his new-found ability, although he didn’t expect Scratch to believe him.
“I didn’t ask for any special power. I’m just a kid. I don’t want this kind of responsibility!” Andy looked imploringly at Scratch.
“You sound like you’re channelling Spider-Man.” Scratch smiled kindly and Andy laughed, suddenly feeling understood and less alone.
Scratch talked to Andy for a long time. It was as though he was inside Andy’s head and knew just what to say to help him make sense of it all. And how to better accept the things that just wouldn’t make sense.
Andy was surprised at his depth of wisdom and understanding. Like everyone else in the town, Andy has never seen beyond the label of “Scratch, the homeless guy” and he felt ashamed.
“So what about you?” asked Andy. “How did you life bring you to where you are?”
For the briefest of moments Andy thought he saw Scratch’s blue eyes turn orange but he dismissed it as a trick of the light from the rising sun.
“Well that,” said Scratch, “is a very long story.”