Follow the Sun to My House of Shells

“Follow the sun to my house of shells,” said the hummingbird to the man sitting in his car. And with that the hummingbird was gone, like the barely-remembered thread of a rich and vivid dream. The man wiped the sleep from his eyes and yawned to greet the day. He was waiting for something, though if you asked him what it was he wouldn’t have been able to tell you. He looked down at the half-eaten donut on the passenger seat, then glanced toward the bushes near the car for places where a hummingbird might hide.

“Where’s the house of shells?” whispered the man.

The neighborhood was waking. A woman dressed in a bright orange and purple tracksuit swept the sidewalk in front of a pet grooming salon. On the other side of the street, a homeless man gesticulated oratorically as if lecturing to a hall filled with eager students, except that there wasn’t anyone on the street to hear him. A dirty sleeping bag was draped over his shoulder like the toga on a modern-day philosopher. A Stoic perhaps, thought the man in the car, recalling something he learned long ago in a philosophy course.

Not too stale, thought the man when he bit into the half-eaten donut. He took another bite and watched himself in the rearview mirror, chewing. When he finished the donut, the man licked the sugar off his fingertips and brushed the crumbs from his shirt. “Here we go,” he said when the early-morning rays of the sun shone off the corrugated metal rooftop of a shuttered warehouse across the street. “Now I can follow the sun to the house of shells.” He gripped the steering wheel with his left hand, while reaching forward with his right to turn the key in the ignition. His newfound enthusiasm was matched just as suddenly, however, by an overwhelming wave of sadness as the hollow clickety-clickety-clack of the dead engine reminded the man in the car that he wasn’t going anywhere.