The smell of food woke him. He opened his eyes, sat up. He had slept well. Now his empty belly demanded his attention.
He could see the far end of the tunnel, a tiny square of light. Darkness still held dominion inside the tunnel, though a weakened darkness, lessened. The woman sat a few feet away on top of the crate, hunched over. A small fire burned, and she held out her hands to it as if trying to catch the flames.
“Figured you might appreciate some breakfast,” she said. “I lifted these here frankfurters from the grocery store down at the corner.”
A makeshift rig held several little pink tubes above the flames, a stick poked through each one. No, not a stick, some kind of wire. Coat-hanger, his mind said. Hot dogs.
“Eat up,” the woman said. “I done had my fill. Don’t need much, anyway.”
Adam looked at her. She did not seem very old, but she sat hunched over like an old woman. She wore baggy black pants and boots, a yellow shirt with another over it (flannel, his mind said). Wool cap over her short gray hair. She had a pair of gloves with the fingers missing. Around her neck hung a bright purple cloth (scarf). Though it was quite warm in the tunnel, the woman sat close to the fire.
“Come on now, ‘fore they burn.”
Adam crept over, squatted.
“Careful. They’re hot.”
With care he lifted the wire spit from its place atop an upturned brick. He slid one of the wieners off the spit, a piece of straightened coat-hanger set on top of two bricks like (clothesline? tightrope?) with the wieners hanging in place over the fire. Adam popped the wiener into his mouth and crunched it between his teeth. It tasted good. Hot, like fresh meat, though he missed the blood of a fresh kill.
He looked at the woman’s face. Wrinkled, several brown spots (moles) and a single scar, curved like a quarter moon, from the corner of her eye down to her jawline. She smelled of dirt and sweat. She raised her eyes (hazel) to meet his.
“You’re a funny-lookin’ one,” she said.
Adam ate another hot dog.
“What are you, anyway?” He stared at her. “What’s a’ matter? Can’t you talk?” He shook his head. “Oh. Well, reckon there’s worse things. Most people don’t know when to shut up.”
Adam chewed another wiener.
“Good, huh?” the woman said, smiling. Then the smile vanished. “Listen, ’bout last night an’ what I said an’ all.” She paused. “I was pretty well lit, an’ I, I get things confused sometimes, in my head. I figure I must a’ been dreamin’.” She shook her head. “Eddie’s been dead near twenty years.”
She lifted something, a container, round but flat on the sides (canteen) and unscrewed the top. She took a drink, then held out the canteen to Adam.
“It’s clean,” she said. “I get it from the water fountain over at this little park, down near the train tracks. They got this old railcar sittin’ there. But it’s locked up. You can’t get inside or nothin’. I used to sleep in that park, in the summertime, ‘fore the gangs took it over.”
Adam drained the canteen. He handed it back to her.
“Hmph. Guess I’ll be takin’ me a hike over to get me some more,” she said. “Thirsty, ain’t you? Well, not no more, you ain’t. Shouldn’t be, anyhow.”
Adam finished the last wiener.
“Seen some weird shit in my day,” the woman said, “but I reckon you done take the cake. An’ that’s sayin’ a lot, believe you me. I dropped acid with the best of ’em back in the day.” She coughed, cleared her throat. “Oh, don’t get me wrong. I know I ain’t no peach myself. I figure you’re alright. I mean, you could a’ slit my throat last night, state I was in, but you didn’t. You didn’t even roll me for my cigarettes.” She sniffed, coughed again. “I figure you’re alright.”
Adam moved back a little from the fire and sat down.
“Gonna be a pisser, you not being able to talk at all,” she said. “Like, how am I supposed to get your name? Mine’s Moses, by the way. Call me ‘Moe.’ Everybody does. Just plain old Moe.”
He took his claw and drew in the mud.
“That’ll work.” She nodded. “Adam it is. Well, nice to meet you, Adam.” She stuck out her hand. Adam looked at it, then took it.
“Damnation, look at them claws!” the woman (Mo?) said. “Why, you could open a tin can with them suckers!”
She held Adam’s hand in her own, turned it over, looking at it. “I ain’t never seen no hand like this,” she said. “You from outer space or somethin’? You escape from some government lab somewhere?” Adam nodded. “Oh, so that’s it. Figures. Can’t trust the government, that’s for damn sure. So they made you like this, huh? Yeah, that figures. I guess you’re on the run now? Layin’ low?” He nodded.
She patted his hand, let it go. “You can stay here, if you want to. Cops don’t care if you wanna live in a tunnel over in this part a’ town. They don’t never come by. Don’t reckon nobody’s gonna find you here ‘less you want ’em too.”