After years of living in an industrial area much beloved by taggers and junkies, Paul knew that taggers, at least, were not dangerous unless they were cornered. He’d never had occasion or desire to corner one, so there’d never been any conflicts with them. Paul minded his own business, only nodding when the spray can-toting outlaws made eye-contact, which was seldom. Now, the kid tonight he’d seen before: he’d been trying to tag the new billboards above his studio for several weeks. That particular billboard changed frequently enough that it was a challenge to keep it tagged. It seemed to be the personal quest of this one particular kid to keep it tagged and he was willing to brave cold, rain, police, and falls. Paul had seen him fall more than once, but the kid usually bounced right up again and darted away before the police got there. But not that night.
“Hey, thanks, man,” the kid said, hobbling out of the shadows.
“You’re not going to get far on that leg,” Paul said. “And the cops are probably just going around the block, looking for someone who has spray paint on his pants. Like you do.”
“I–” the kid slipped back in the shadows as a car went by. “I’ll be okay,” he said, trying to look tough balanced on one leg.
“I can give you a ride somewhere,” Paul said.
The kid thought about it and then agreed. He directed Paul into a shabby neighborhood not far from the train station. He said, “Thanks,” and hobbled away as Paul drove off.
“You’re welcome. Stay off that billboard, kid,” Paul thought ruefully as he drove home. He stopped at the market to pick up a carton of milk because he knew Mark would be there when he got home and he knew he wouldn’t feel like explaining where he’d been.