Grandpa stared at the dark blue water. The water had a calming affect. For a moment he was able to clear his mind of the surroundings. He watched a naked elderly man who was leaning against a parking meter, resting for as long as he could. Over the course of the past hour Grandpa has seen a few like him, with worn sandals on the feet, but otherwise naked, some still had their hats. Grandpa had no water. Grandma had less than half a pint left. Sweaty people were staggering up the hill past them. Some were carrying children strapped to their backs. Others were pushing baby carriages with whatever few belongings they had brought along. The day was getting hotter. The old man had likely given the clothes he would no longer need to someone younger, knowing the night would be cold. Who knew what the next morning would bring. A woman holding on to a boy walked by, holding on to the boy for fear of losing him in the sea of people. Grandpa shuddered at the thought of the story of Dr. Zhivago where Tanya tells the general how her father let go of her hand as they were fleeing the burning city. Anything could happen in a panic. The woman’s knuckles were white. Grandpa knew this mother would not let go of her child; she would keep him close to her come what may.
Grandpa wondered how it had come to this. When the campaign for the White House began few believed that Donald Trump would remain in the race. California scorned him openly. Now one hundred thousand liberals were being marched to the ocean. The route was cordoned off by a wall made of metal mesh fences with guards at the intersections, funneling people in, but letting very few out of the march. Burly security men pried fluid containers out of the hands of the marchers, accusing without trial that they were carrying more than water, callously pouring confiscated precious liquids onto the pavement. People could not stop to lick the pavement for fear of being trampled by the oncoming crowds behind them. Ostriches, Chamberlains – all of us, Grandpa through to himself. How could everyone have been so blind, so soon, so little time after?… From the street Grandpa could see people in the surrounding apartment buildings peering down from behind the curtains. Few dared open a window and shout a word of encouragement. Grandpa remembered better times, when these streets were friendlier. Some people were cooking breakfast. Even bacon smelled good under the circumstances. Actually bacon always smelled good – wasn’t that the point? Oh what a lonesome angry God they had chosen, cantankerous and not so helpful when the shit hit the fan. But this was not about religion. Grandpa watched the people as they moved past him and started down the Hayes hill towards Fell street. Grandpa looked at Grandma, she was tired but holding on. The river of people kept coming up the hill and disappearing behind the crest, like lemmings.
It surprised him how they had found them all and rounded them up so quickly. Was it because they registered to vote or was it because they had not done so? Grandpa never kept track of these things, Grandma took care of all the paper work. If he knew what worked perhaps they could argue their case and be let back into the city to melt into the conforming majority? Since when was he a political activist? Since when had left wing become enemies of the state? He could hear Grandma chit chatting with one of the police officers. He could hear the officer assuring Grandma that there would be more water and food further along the route of the march. Where had they heard storied like this before. At least the boys were home safe in their beds. They had missed this roundup. Perhaps there would be no more. The government needed the support of the silent masses. Taking less than one third of one percent of the state’s population was enough to engrain the need for compliance. How did he and Grandma end up on the wrong side of such odds? Two political science majors in the family and no one bothered to warn him? Grandpa wondered if they would make it to the sea.
A strong sweet smell of Marihuana jolted Grandpa back into the moment. One could get high by simply breathing the air of the city in some places. What was wrong with that? For his part Grandpa supported legalizing drugs and letting people go by their business as long as they didn’t bother anyone else. But he could not stand the smell. He had no choice but to spoil the tranquility of the dark blue water in the waste tank. He finished peeing, pulled up his zipper and stepped out the portable toilet. Grandma handed him a water bottle and they continued with the boisterous crowds celebrating the annual Bay to Breakers race. Grandma FaceTime-d the girls and showed them live scenes from the parade. Two Teeth-Rexes caught Ruth’s attention, but like the rest of the carnival they moved off the screen to be replaced by a packman, then a unicorn, bananas, balloons, Elvis impersonators, wonder women, superman dogs, cubes, Hulks, Captain America, the fantastic four, Hawaiian dancers, undershirts, underpants, both or neither, visors, fake bicycles, diplomats, aristocrats, high-heeled shoes and ballroom hats, palms, giraffes, a salmon run and a few naked old men with their clothes stuffed into little bags they carried on their backs. They would put them back on when they got to the sea, or they would be arrested for indecent exposure.
Welcome to San Francisco, Happy Birthday, Happy B2B day.
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