John Francis

The Saints and the Animals

It was a sad and saintly arrival to San Francisco; a respite for sojourners who followed a trail to their Mecca but were left without hope when faith itself had failed. I pulled us into a motel off University Ave., where days were marked by the constant drone of reality T.V., and beers sat empty in the dismal clutter of the motel room. 

Was this City saintly in name only? Or was its saintliness only reserved for the devote, not the broken cowboys of the West? Not those who sought salvation in times when running was mistaken for a sense of pilgrimage? 

Alas, this was no way to live; as it was no way to live up in the hills in Mendocino; smoking blunts in an empty state; looking after the neighbor’s daughter; watching old reruns of cartoons on TV. There had been better days than this, but not for a long while. 

The money ran out, and we moved to the Mission, to Counsel’s apartment, that steadfast compadre who didn’t ask questions but laid out a cot on his living room floor. He didn’t mind we showed up unexpected; he didn’t mind a lot of things. 

Our lives turned into strange sorry Americana, not like it had been on the beautified road when we felt free, our love invisible. Now, we burned down heaters and drank steadily, warding off despair we both felt for each other but would never admit to. This was not unknown to Counsel, who took it upon himself at Mission Park one afternoon. “Frank,” he said, “What’s happened?” 

Then, things changed. 

Pen knew our run up the West Coast was over, and cried. We held each other limp, hardly clasping one another on a shoreline outside of the City. San Francisco itself sat across the bay like a half-remembered dream. Pen composed herself like a woman does and packed up her things and left that same night. There had been nothing left for us, where the road had ended. 

For days I wandered San Francisco, with nothing but change in my pockets. Cluttered streets seemed empty, and I moved about the bustle of people, glancing a strangers, hoping someone would look at me with mercy. Sad solemn poetry ran through my head like Buddhist mantra of the East. 

“Just keeping going. No feeling is final.” 

John Francis is a young writer, who wants to take off. He comes by way of all over. This is his first publication.