The small fire at our feet crackled. My brother poked at it with a metal spike he had found buried in the dirt. He said it was better to use the spike than another piece of wood that would be better to burn. I knew he just liked to hold its weight in his hand while he played with the flames.
"Can you get my book for me, Mason?" He poked the fire again before climbing into the girders of the bridge where we kept our favorite things. The climb was too difficult for a short girl like me, but my brother's long limbs made it easily.
I slipped a dirty, wrinkled piece of paper from my pocket and smoothed it over my lap. It was a black and white picture I tore from a brochure showing the two stars of some old movie playing at the historic theater downtown. I loved the sharp lines of his black suit, how her necklace seemed an extension of the gems adorning her pale gown. They looked happy, like they didn't have to worry about a thing.
I liked to stare at the picture and pretend they were our family, that there had once been parity between them and my brother and me.
A scraping noise from above had me quickly folding the picture and putting it away. Mason did not like my daydreams.
"Here you go, Picassa.” I stuck out my tongue as I took my sketchbook. My name was really Amy, but he liked to call me Picassa because it was the girl form of Picasso. Mason thought it should be my artist name. I told him I liked Amy Winkle just fine.
I took the broken crayons Mason swiped for me from the kids menus in restaurants and began my nightly drawings. The sale of my sketches earned us pennies here, a dollar or two there. Tonight we had earned enough to get a few ham sandwiches from the convenience store on the corner, the one where they didn’t always kick us out at first sight.
I worked for a few hours while Mason pounded the spike into the dirt a few times. “It’s a good thing we have you, Picassa,” he murmured, glancing at my latest sketch. “One day I’ll get you something real to draw with and on. One day, people will pay a lot more for your stuff than a few pennies.”
I smiled at Mason in thanks, knowing he meant it, trusting his promise. If it wasn’t for Mason, we wouldn’t be here, together. The bridge wasn’t much of a place to live, but it was a home because we shared it.
“I think it’s time to sleep now,” Mason suggested, easing the notebook out of my hands. I didn’t resist, realizing I’d already fallen asleep over my sketches. He moved quickly, putting my book back in place, then sitting down beside me, his arms around my shoulders as the fire cracked a lullaby.