Pittsburgh Steve lay under the RT 366 bridge where it spanned the San Gabriel River. His back was flat on the cool earth and he gazed up at the underbelly of the bridge. The night air was alive with sounds. the rushing water of the San Gabriel and the sounds of insects soothed him. Pittsburgh Steve had a small fire crackling beside him. A catfish was simmering in a pot on the fire.
Other vagrants called him Pittsburgh Steve, but he wasn’t actually from Pittsburgh. He grew up in New Middletown, Ohio, close to the border of Pennsylvania. That was close enough to Pittsburgh. He accepted the name, not that anyone would care if he didn’t.
He used his pack as a pillow. It was pretty comfortable. His eyes traced the large beams that supported the bridge. He wasn’t deep in thought or anything like that. He didn’t philosophize about the world anymore. He was tired of that, he simply existed.
The smell of the cooked catfish wafted to his nostrils. He slowly sat up and removed a tattered rag from his back pocket. He folded the rag onto itself and then gripped the edge of the pot. Placing the pot on the ground, he pushed himself back against a stanchion of the bridge. He liked this a lot more than being in a city. It was harder living, but he felt safer.
He had walked from Houston last month. That city was huge, but he could get money by sitting on street corners and holding a sign. He often held a sign that simply stated “25₵”. He never hustled anybody. He hated that. Several times he was chased off of corners by ruffians. He didn’t like going into cities, but sometimes he had to.
One time, when Steve was in Missoula, Montana, he watched another man get stabbed. Steve could still picture the surprised looked on the man’s face when the knife stabbed him. Two men were arguing over a case of beer. One of the men was already piss-drunk and he pulled his knife and went after the other guy. Pittsburgh Steve was glad he wasn’t in Missoula anymore. It was probably getting cold at night up there. He liked that he could lay out, exposed to the elements, and not worry about freezing to death.
Steve picked at the catfish with his fingers and wondered if he should head south towards Austin. He wasn’t in dire need of any supplies, but having a little extra cash wouldn’t hurt. Nah. He was fine for a couple more weeks. Maybe he would stay in the area and keep walking up the San Gabriel.
“I bet there is a bass under that ledge,” the flyfisherman confidently stated, “Let’s see.” He stood at the bow of a small inflatable boat. The oarsman positioned the boat, working it closer to the bank. After the cast, the man at the bow let the fly drop well below the underwater ledge before pulling in line with his left hand.
He stripped in his fly line, “One.” He paused, then gave the line another pull, “Two.” Another pause, “Three. There he is—Got ‘em!”
The oarsman scrambled for a net. Both of them were smiling from ear to ear. “Get him closer to the boat!” shouted the oarsman.
Neither of the fishermen saw the haggard looking man standing on the bank. The man watched as the two fishermen floated down the river, completely engrossed in the task of landing the fish. The man was glad the two fishermen hadn’t noticed him. He didn’t like it when people stared at him. He waited until the two men had floated out of sight before he continued walking up the river.