The middle-aged man stumbling down the alleyway behind MacNally’s could have been handsome. His hair was a derelict version of teenage grunge paired with two weeks’ worth of unkempt beard. At one time his clothes had been nice; now they were so threadbare and stained even a church clothing drive would decline them. Every so often he bounced along a dumpster, keeping his footing by the experience of long practiced drunkenness.
Blood crusted over a split lip, telling half the story of his journey towards a new drinking place. The other half was the broken nose he’d left behind. He leaned against the building corner at the end of the alley. Across the way was another bar. At the moment, he could only make out the green neon squiggles on the sign. A car drove past, windows down, radio blaring some sort of young gangster music. As the tail lights blurred in the distance, he heard a cry behind him.
Turning, he was certain the bassinet hadn’t been there before. It looked like a woven basket, but when he got closer he saw it was carved. With a squint, he bent to look inside, and ended up a pretzel on the ground. Inside the basket was a blue bundle; he couldn’t tell if it was moving. An infant face, eyes closed, confronted him. He wasn’t as drunk as he wanted right now.
With the grace of a newborn giraffe he stood, stumbling a few times before gaining his footing. The bassinet was lighter than he’d anticipated, and he fell backwards a few steps into a dumpster. Back at the entrance to the alley, he looked up and down the road. Where was he supposed to take it? Finally, he just started walking, looking for someone who looked like they might know what to do with a baby. He leaned against the lamppost on another corner; something glinted in the bassinet.
He slid to the ground, back against the post, and pulled out the glittering object. Golden and shiny, a dragon with a ruby eye swam in and out of focus. Inside the dragon’s eye he could almost see something, if only his eyes would stay focused. He pocketed it. It wouldn’t do the baby any good, and he might get a decent bottle of whiskey’s worth at a pawn shop. Maybe he could get something for the bassinet, too.
Flashing lights pulled his eyes away from his armload. A cop car pulled up outside a liquor store a few blocks away. He pushed the basket away from him and pulled himself up by the lamppost. He picked up the baby and hugged it to himself, then grabbed the cradle, depositing it in a dark corner on his way to the police car.
The driver’s door was open, lights spinning, but no one was in sight. He placed the blanketed bundle in the car with a nervous glance around, then ran back to retrieve his prize. There was a pawnshop nearby.