Star Prophet lay in the dirt. Underneath the drain pipe by the abandoned Bojangles he lay in mud and water, the blue jacket he always wore, a black cord wrapped around each wrist. After school I would bring the lunch I had saved and sit with him on the broken concrete and talk and watch him eat — pushing each wrapper into his mouth and chewing the plastic. Not a crumb escaped and he would talk about planets.
“Jupiter now, that’s a giant musical note — a hum in the cosmos, a perfect counterpoint to the static coming off Mercury during the winter months.” a clean slide of plastic pulled from his mouth.
He always wore the hood of his coat up, even in June-heat. Somewhere in his orbit of town he had found some white tape, and carefully lined out a star on the front peak of his hood.
“People gotta know. People gotta know.” Star Prophet said, right hand clutching the zipper tab of his coat.
“Yeah?” I said. “They gotta?”
“Gotta-gotta.” completing our joke.
He stank, sweat and plastic and wet earth. His hands were brown like mine.
“The chance, the promise — the song that the rings of Saturn sing. It belongs –we belong!” he yelled, a stray fleck of yellow bread falling from his lips.
They chased him away from everywhere. The stores, the streets, the fronts of churches. Star Prophet would run and point, sliding down railings and stairs. His long brown finger to the heavens, spraying spit and star charts into empty faces. Late nights he would grab rich drunk white boys by the lapels and shake them into his words about Orion and Sagittarius and the shapes of memory in the stars.
They beat him and broke him and chased him into the wilderness like a dog.
So we sat and talked, and the house waited.
“It’s in us -It’s in us the stars and the sky and the light of the sun and the dance of the moons, and I can feel it — I can feel it in my heart, lifting me up while I sleep, and I can’t sleep only dream the stars in my water, and in my earth the moon.”
Sometimes Star Prophet would cry. Sometimes Star Prophet would hold my hand, and that was okay.
“Tell ’em. You gotta tell ’em when I can’t. Won’t you?” he whispered.
“I will. I promise.” The stars were out and I was late.
“And Cheetos — maybe, tomorrow?” his star-marked hood bobbled.
I walked home in the stars, to the dark house where my uncle waited.
[I finished this piece, and realized I was writing about Doctor Who.]