Sonya hurried along the street. Newly arrived from the Russian Opera Company, she was late to her appointment at the opera theatre where she was to meet her co-stars. She had lost her way and was walking fast to make up time. She ruefully realized it would have been better to hire a cab than to try to walk this distance in her high heels. Her long white gown and pearls set off her tall slim figure. Her red hair was carefully coiffed into a mass of lovely curls on top of her head, and arranged with pearls and lace. Her white fox fur was coiled artfully around her neck and the ends fell across her bodice.
Sonya liked to daydream. She was indeed on her way to the opera house to work, but her real job was cleaning the theatre. She worked alone on the stage and in the auditorium itself, cleaning, and daydreaming helped make the time go faster and the work easier. She wasn't Russian either, but thinking that made her name Sonya seem more exotic.
Sonya was really dressed in a long, light blue dress with a black overcoat. She was slim, but petite, not tall. Her overcoat had a few patches on it. Her hat was old fashioned, too, it had belonged to her grandmother. It was about twenty years old, a cloche hat in light blue, with an artificial flower that stood up straight on the front. Her long red, curly hair, which she wore pinned up, peeked out from under the cloche. Her ensemble looked to be from perhaps 1910, but the year was now 1936. She was 21 years old and still not married. She felt like an old maid, but who would have her in her shabby clothes? Thus, the daydreaming.
Sonya really did have a beautiful contralto voice. Sometimes, when she was alone, she sang in the theatre to the empty seats, daydreaming that she was the head liner. She sang at home, too, having learned the arias with the foreign words from her mother before she had passed away, then later by listening to her mother's Victrola recordings and sheet music.
And Sonya wasn't really late for work. She realized she was walking quite fast and checked her watch, which was pinned to her bodice. She had plenty of time. She slowed down a bit and continued walking. She paused at a stop light to wait for her turn to walk. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw some movement under an auto mobile parked next to the curb.
Thinking there must be a stray dog or cat under the auto, she peered down and was astonished as a small man emerged from under the car. She was bent down looking right at him, but he was peering backwards at something and didn't see her. He walked right into Sonya, knocking her over. Surprised, he offered his hand to help her up.
The little man made sure she was all right, brushed off her coat with a ragged handkerchief and tipped his hat to her, all without saying a word, then started to run. He made the corner fast on one leg, the other straight out in front of him. She walked to the corner to watch him. He carried a walking stick horizontally in his left hand. He ran very fast, but with a weird gait she had never seen before. He was holding on to his hat with his right hand as he ran. She wondered where he was going in such a hurry. Sonya continued across the street and the little man had disappeared.
The little man, who was a homeless tramp, was running from the police. He was always hungry, having no money, and he made a practice of walking by the open market fruit stands in the morning and pocketing fruit and bread here and there when the proprietor was not looking. He was normally very good at it, but today, he had dropped a particularly slippery banana and although he had put it back right away, the fruit stand owner had alerted the police officer who was standing nearby.
After running a short distance, he stopped, knowing he wouldn't be pursued any further for just pilfering fruit. He decided to get rid of the evidence and he ate his fruit and bread. Not having anything in particular to do, he decided to see if he could find some short term work. He really wasn't in any hurry to find work and he wandered idly about the streets looking through the plate glass windows at all the things he would never be able to afford anyway. But that didn't bother him. He looked in every shop window for signs saying "Help Wanted".
He wandered for several hours without finding any jobs posted. He saw another police officer and ducked into an alley to avoid any trouble. He peeked around the corner and the officer had gone. The little vagrant continued wandering about. He stopped in front of a large, fancy, white building. He read the posters near the door which told of some type of show that was coming up…but he couldn't read them. It was not that he couldn't read, he could read, and fairly well, too, but they were in a strange language.
The tramp heard something from inside the building. It sounded like music, singing…he was intrigued and tried the door. It was open. There was a large vestibule inside, but it was dark, only a bit of light coming from windows high above him. What he could see was very lavish, marble pillars and carved ivory cornices. He walked on to an area lit up with skylights. He looked up. The rococo ceiling was painted blue and the edges were gilded with stars. Classical statues in white marble were standing along the walls of the chamber.
The music was coming from within, on the far side of the sky lit area. He pushed open a door timidly. It was pitch black except for the stage. There was a stage spotlight trained on a woman on the stage who was singing a capella. The tramp was entranced. What a beautiful voice! He couldn't understand a word, though, but that didn't matter. The voice was captivating.
As his eyes became used to the dark, the tramp could see that there were seats in the theatre. He found one near the back and sat down. He realized the woman couldn't see him. He didn't want to be seen. She finished her aria. He wanted to clap, but again, didn't want her to know he was there. She started a new song.
When the woman finished her song; this time the tramp forgot himself and jumped up clapping his hands loudly, then caught himself in mid-clap. The woman seemed shocked and stood still. "Who's there?" she cried. The tramp stood still, his hand over his mouth, having shocked himself, then ran out the door. He took a turn and ran up some stairs. They led to the upper gallery with seats looking down on the stage.
The woman quickly ran behind the curtains on the stage and turned on the main theatre house lights. She scanned the seats and called out again, "Who's there?" No one answered.
Above in the upper gallery, the tramp was hiding so she couldn't see him. He hoped she'd sing again. But she didn't turn out the lights. He sneaked out of the gallery, down the stairs and out the door. He wondered if the place was open all day. It would be a grand place to sleep. Of course, he figured they would probably lock the doors after the performances in the evening. Maybe if he could get in during the day, he might be able to stay hidden until the lights went out for the performance. Then he could hear the woman sing in the opera during the evening. That way he wouldn't have to get a ticket, which he knew he could never afford anyway.
He wandered around the rest of the day, getting very hungry again toward evening. He went to the alley behind the fancy restaurant and waited, hiding and watching until they threw out their trash. Then he looked through it for something edible. He found a lot of almost fresh food. He would eat well tonight. He took out his pocket knife and opened it up to stab the pieces of meat and vegetables in lieu of a fork or spoon. His knife and his pocket watch were his only two possessions of any value.
The next order of business was finding a place to sleep. It was a warm night, so there was no need to find a shelter to take him in. All that was needed was to keep out of the way of the cops. It was a fairly easy task if one were careful. Around here, some of the cops had a soft place in their hearts for vagrants anyway, and as long as a person weren't bothering anyone or being a public nuisance or stealing anything, the cops would sometimes look the other way.
The tramp climbed a tree and jumped over to a flat roof. He surveyed the roof, and finding it to his liking, he curled up in a corner. The black roof surface was still warm from the sun, but not hot and it was comfortable. He rolled up his jacket under his head, put his hat over his face and fell asleep.