The sun was only two fingers away from sinking into the light grey waters of Pamlico Sound, which separated Ocracoke Island from the rest of North Carolina. Leon sat on the weather ravaged dock made of creosote timbers and cracked concrete, sharing an 18-pack of Old Milwaukee with his only friend, Gonzo.
It had taken an hour for Leon to convince the ferry boat captain in Morehead City that Gonzo was a tame bear. Still, several passengers refused to board and chose to wait another six hours for the next crossing. The bear had snored like a passed out drunk on the ride across the sound often drowning out the steady drone of the belching diesel engines of the ferry boat. He finally woke as the pungent odor of raw shrimp and fried clams drifted from the landing dock to his leathery, piggish nose.
The afternoon spent on the dock was just the latest misery in Leon’s middle-aged years. He ran his calloused fingers through his greasy unwashed hair then rubbed his sunburned neck. He was supposed to have checked in with the traveling carnival three hours ago, but the local authorities would not let him leave the dock with his “dancing bear” until a veterinarian could be brought out look over the stinking, flea covered animal.
Occasionally the two vagabonds would catch a whiff of the carnival smells as the gentle sea breeze blew cross the island from the fairgrounds. Leon’s stomach gurgled as he thought of the fried dough, sausages, and smoked pork. The thought of funnel cakes caused him look down at his feet. On his left was a dirty red sneaker, on his right was a walking cast. The doctor in Asheville who had asked him if he knew he was diabetic told him that he had to wear the ridiculously large ugly boot or risk losing his foot. It didn’t really matter anymore to Leon. He had lost his right sneaker somewhere near Rockingham anyway.