Moonlight poked in through various holes in the ceiling and the walls which surrounded Baxter Jing, so bright that it seemed more like its counterpart, daylight. His eyes opened wearily, a squint and then an actual blink. His best guess was that it was now close to three or four in the morning. It's become so easy now, after having lived like this for so many years, to judge the time of night by noting the position of the moon in the sky, even in his cardboard room. He felt something wet on his neck and forehead, touched his hand to his hair. It had rained while he was sleeping. Vision clearing, he could see the slight dips and bowing of the shallow roof above him, dark spots in a bright moonlit night.
He took a wary sniff and found that no miracles had been turned while he slept through the late night rain. He still stunk to high hell and the rainwater hadn't bothered to cleanse him. He would need to get a new house before the sun came out. A Wal-Mart was just a few miles away. House hunting was honestly his favorite past-time. He always found a house, but often was granted other boons from the Dumpster God. He'd once found a gold necklace in a dumpster, which had kept him fed handsomely at MacDonald's for a week and a half, while on the search for a new house. He hadn't quit scrounging in that particular bin since, having found other such trinkets that led to money. House Hunting was more akin to Treasure Hunting as far as Baxter was concerned.
"You up yet, Bax?" came Derringer's gruff voice. If Derringer had a first name, no one knew it. To friend and foe alike, he was just called "Derringer." Even the cops called him that when they went on their monthly crusades and tripped over him. Baxter didn't think that Derringer himself even knew if he had a first name. Hell, maybe that was his first name.
"Yeah," Baxter answered groggily.
Baxter didn't move or say anything, but the words "No shit" rang through his mind like a gong. Derringer had a bad habit of stating the obvious. Other than that, Derringer was an all right guy. Just don't leave your shoes outside when Derringer's around. They might sprout feet which look suspiciously like Derringer's hammertoed slabs of meat and walk away. Being homeless presents few opportunities and you take, literally, what you can get.
Baxter pulled himself out of his box and looked upwards, not caring to look at Derringer just yet. The night sky was inky black and blinking God's neon expanse at him, billions of points of light twinkling, not a cloud in the sky. "When'd it stop?" he asked. "Looks clear."
Derringer shuffled a little, probably to sit up. "Dunno," he said. "Woke up and this was it. Wetter 'n a pair of sorority panties at prom. I'm gonna go dumpster diving soon. Wanna join?"
Valhalla waits for no man, Baxter thought to himself, but shook his head. "Naw. I'll do it later. I got business first."
"No shit? You got business? With what?"
Now Baxter looked at his block companion, a sort of pseudo friend that he hadn't been able to shake and never really felt inspired to get rid of anyway. Derringer looked the same as ever. Black demin pants, a stained flannel shirt and an old Army duty cap. New Keds that looked like they just barely fit adorned Derringer's feet, red with dark blue stripes. Baxter immediately took note of the fact that Derringer didn't ask who Baxter was doing business with or for, but rather what, knowing full well that Baxter was just as dispossessed of anything with value as Derringer was.
"With a guy," Baxter answered. "Or a girl. Or your fucking mother. What's it to you? And good morning wouldn't hurt, asshole."
Derringer cocked an eyebrow. "Sorry, man. Big deal. Okay. Got it. Your own business. Just curious is all."
"Yeah, well, don't be." The fact of the matter was that Baxter didn't have any business at all. Nothing. But that didn't seem to be relevant at the moment. He could always go out and find some odd job or do some hustler a favor or something. It was just that he hadn't even been awake for five minutes and already someone was giving him the third degree, nosing into his business (or lack thereof). He looked back up to the stars.
"Looks like it'll be a nice night, though," Baxter said.
Derringer looked upwards also, Baxter could tell by the way his voice seemed to come from a different direction. "Yep. That rain's gonna fuck up my chances of finding a new box, though."
Baxter stood up, already dressed because that's how he slept. He looked down at Derringer, who was still consulting the stars as if he knew what they might be telling him. "Just another day in paradise," Baxter said. He stuffed his hands in his pockets, old green khaki pants with only one hole in them, and set out in a direction that seemed like it would take him somewhere useful, somewhere with purpose and opportunity. Somewhere where he could take something and get away with it, but he was no thief.
"Good luck," Baxter said over his shoulder.
"Hey, you too! With your business, I mean." Derringer chuckled quietly. He knew as well as Baxter did that there was no business to be had. Not for a couple of dumpster divers like Bax and Derringer. For guys like them, opportunity never knocks; it gets knocked over.
Baxter left Box City behind, its inhabitants numbered somewhere close to twenty in all, though that changes nightly, in search of something to knock over.