The old man always sat in the same place,
behind a table propped up on one side by a broken half brick.
He sat there in the sun,
seamed face turned up to absorb it,
scattered teeth grinning into it as if to welcome an old neighbor.
He sat in the drizzle under a tattered umbrella with the faded words ‘Wrigley Park’ barely visible.
And in the cold he sat shrinking into himself.
a small brazier at his feet,
wearing gnarled and unraveling fingerless gloves on his hands,
usually wrapped around a hefty ceramic mug of something steaming.
His books lined the table in no discernible order,
old and new,
dull and vibrant,
whole and scotch taped together.
No one bothered him,
few spoke to him,
truth be told few noticed him,
except to sidestep cardboard carton corners poking out from underneath
the battered card table.
But he smiled and nodded gently to all.
“Books are capricious things,”
he would tell anyone who lingered at the table…
“and the ones who peddle them must understand the way
and accept the oddness that comes with them
as old friends must…”
He would finish by nodding and patting the books arrayed on the table.
all walked away.