There's a singing skeleton on the street corner.
He doesn't seem to notice the stares and whispers, or the wide berth the crowds are giving him as he strums his guitar.
You can't help but notice as you wait for your coffee that he looks a little lonely, standing by himself. You wonder what he's doing in your busy little town, so colorfully out of place and alien in a corner of the world that runs on habit and routine.
A child wanders up to him, smiles toothily, and he pauses, tips his hat. They share a few words and the little boy clambers onto the bench next to him. The skeleton does an odd little twirl and the child dissolves into laughter, and you smile.
It's only moments before the child is snatched up by a frantic parent, whose "don't you ever come near my son," can be heard from across the street. The boy is whisked away into the crowd, and the skeleton is still and silent for a long moment before he plucks a string on his guitar and starts another song.
You've got your coffee and you're late for work, but you can't bring yourself to leave, aching for him the way you ache at Missing Persons posters, or Lost Dogs. You wonder why he's here; you wonder where he's from, where he's going.
And just as you're about to wonder if he has anyone to go with, another child separates from the crowd and makes a beeline straight for him. He's out of place, too, in a red shirt and a straw hat, and when he slams into the skeleton you wince for them both.
But there's laughter, and the skeleton sets down his guitar and swings the boy up to sit on his shoulders. The kid's grinning fit to burst, and trades the skeleton's silly top hat for his straw one, jamming the borrowed one on his head and plopping his down on the skeleton's afro.
Almost immediately there's two more people on the corner, a green-haired man with a scar and a boy with headphones and a long nose. Then there's a blond man and a large reindeer in a pink hat, and two young ladies with long hair in long dresses, and bringing up the rear is perhaps the biggest blue-haired man you've ever seen.
They're all very bright, very different, and the crowd, you see, parts around them like a river around a mountain. They're talking wildly, laughing and waving their arms, and none of them- not one of them- are afraid of the man who's nothing but bones.
There's a little boy on his shoulders and grinning friends all around him; you wonder if maybe it's no issue for them because they're as equally strange as a living skeleton in their own rights- and it takes you back to your youth for a moment, when you had a few good friends, a whole world of problems, and absolutely no fear, and you chuckle, your coffee going cold, your day behind schedule.
Because there are very few things that illuminate friendship as clearly as that odd little group on the corner.
This time when the skeleton strums his guitar, it's with life and warmth and the sound carries all the way through the square, and so do the cheers that follow.
They're a rowdy bunch, making their way down the street toward the port, singing and laughing and shoving and stumbling like they're drunk off the sea salt in the air and the people in their arms and the youth in their bones.
As they pass you, taking the "yohohoho"s with them, you catch a glimpse of the skeleton, of the tears in empty eyesockets looking odd in contrast to the perpetual grin of his skull-
and the boy on his shoulders swings down and settles piggy-back style now, squeezes his arms tight around the skeleton's neck, smiling like a king with the whole world at his fingertips.
The skeleton laughs, or maybe sobs, but you know it's a fiercely, fiercely happy sound when you hear it.
And then they're gone, and the laughter and the music goes with them; and you're standing on the side of the street twenty minutes late for work with a cold cup of coffee and no time to read the newspaper tucked under your arm.
You curse, toss the cup into a bin, hurry to your office. You won't open the paper until lunch, and you'll choke on your fork when the group of Wanted posters falls into your lap, and you realize you'd caught a glimpse of the infamous Straw Hat Pirates. It makes your heart race a little, as you shuffle through the incredible bounties- that little boy, worth four hundred million Bellies- and then you pause.
And lift up one of the posters.
And suddenly it wasn't hard at all to imagine a smile on that skeleton's face, was it? It probably looked a lot like the one grinning back at you now, boasting the name BROOK, and you remember that picture from back when you were little, back when the Rumbar Pirates were known far and wide.
The posters end up in the back of your cubicle, and when you stumble across them now and then, you wonder.
You wonder what the singing skeleton was doing here, that day; what had made him the way that he is, and where he was going.
But you never wonder if he's alone.
And in two months you'll discover the Soul King album, and think of a lonely figure on a busy street corner, a hug and a straw hat, and you'll smile.