Quinn knew they couldn’t ignore the flashlight for long. Ignoring footsteps was easy. Ignoring cars was even easier; their rising and falling noise could be almost soothing. Voices were tricky, especially the boisterous ones spilling out of the pub at the other end of the alley. But they always moved on eventually.
The flashlight didn’t move. “You can’t stay here, son,” a gruff voice declared.
Quinn finally opened their eyes, glaring into light. It was impossible to discern any features of the individual, but even so Quinn knew exactly what sort of person was staring down at them. “Fine,” they croaked, and began hauling themself up from the makeshift bed. The spotlight never left. They almost felt like taking a bow.
“You need a place to go?” the officer asked.
Why else do you think I’m sleeping behind the dumpster? Quinn thought. But they simply mumbled, “I’m good,” and began shuffling down the alley. The flashlight followed.
“It’s going to be cold tonight, son” the officer offered. “Better to be somewhere warm, with four walls around you.”
Quinn kept walking. “I’m nobody’s son,” they said without looking back. They followed the shadow ahead of them, moving resolutely into the unknown.
* * *
Story by Gregory M. Fox