Late at night near a rural shelter, a wizened figure hobbles closer. With chapped lips he drags on a bone pipe, the warm smoke hangs in the air. I stand still, breathe it in politely until my throat itches.
I'm told a tale of some faraway town and a girl, his daughter, who left one night without explanation.
As an owl hoots somewhere behind us, He wipes away a tear. It leaves a clean track through the layers of soot and grime.
A dog barks in the distance and the hedge full of cicadas almost drowns out his whispered, dreary tale. I cough and move to reach for my wallet. He doesn't see. He has started to shuffle away, murmuring to himself about how she never made it back home.