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Phantastic Hope by Ray Murphy

Phantastic Hope

by Ray Murphy

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Foggy, vacant, the streets and buildings floated, loosed among dreams before first light. Walking to work I crossed routes with a hulking, bent-backed man, hair to his hips, dragging a gaggle of cans in a plastic sopping sack.

Just before New Years I saw him in Safeway’s side lot, where the chained dumpsters repose in a rust-bearded reek: he was standing head down, ponytail hanging, as if in deliberation. He cradled a small gray carton in his hands. With concentration so pure it was enviable he plucked one strawberry by its stem and bit into it.

I could taste the soil on the tiny hairs in its dimpled skin, the tang of the juice with its bitter edge at the berry’s white nub, the sugary heady center: jewel of the running weed, strawberry -- bringing you back, back to north central Washington, the first ripe night of summer.
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