“That’s a gorgeous sweatshirt,” I said admiringly.
David smiled, wide and delighted with lots of teeth. “Thank you very much,” he said, and stopped to chat, “I’m David.” A frail-looking man in his 60s, he was wearing a black pinstriped fedora with fashionable glasses, neat brown oxfords, highly polished, and worsted brown slacks with the creases carefully pressed in. And the sweatshirt made the outfit.
It really was gorgeous, of creamy, honey-brown fleece, almost like suede, embroidered in black satin. The pattern started with Escher’s birds, the one where the black flying geese swoop down diagonally and eventually swap places with the negative space, so that the geese turn white. Except these were crows, and they started their diagonal trek at David’s shoulder, then worked their way across his chest and belly.
Yet halfway down the crows broke free from Escher’s stern regimentation and began cutting didoes and doing loop-the-loops on the fleece. Exactly what I’d do if stuck in formation, and so I was charmed.
David carefully described where he bought the shirt, somewhere down on Hawthorne. “It cost $125,” he warned, “But it was just so beautiful I had to have it. Of course, that was last year.”
I puzzled over the “of course,” but we chattered on. We talked of the cheese at the market and whether or not the blueberries would be good this year. We debated the merits of bakeries, the use of duck confit, and he pointed out his favorite vegetable stand. “When the tomatoes come in, that’s the ONLY place to go.”
We drifted over that way because David wanted some leeks and onions and greens. As we approached, his hand slid to his back pocket. Casually, under cover of the glorious sweatshirt, he pulled out a sheaf of papers, concealing them with his hand.
I glanced down curiously and saw the letters “W.I.C.” peeping through his fingers. David followed my gaze, his cheeks reddened and he closed his eyes, briefly. Then he looked into my face.
“The sweatshirt, that was last year. This,” and he held up the sheaf of food stamps, “This is this year.”
He sighed, and moved off to buy his vegetables.