The tree spirit that has the books is on the way to Spiro's. Might as well stop there first. He'll be there all night, I remind myself. It's the beginning of rush hour and the parking lot is full at the dollar store. I move through the lot carefully but it's impossible to really know if anyone is watching. Maybe I'm better off being here when it's busy anyway. I spot the white of the plastic bag that's still under the ficus tree from across the lot. I skate over and plop down under the shade of the tree. I thank the tree for keeping my package safe. The spirit in the tree retuns the thanks for rehoming the young spirits. They say that it was nice for them to have a calm and quiet evening alone for a change. I unwrap the books. They look untouched. I stuff them into my backpack. I ask the spirit if it requires anything before I leave. It asks for a bag of candies from the shop. It tells me they are small and blue and square.

I enter the store and start looking for the candy. There is a massive amount of candy in the store but nothing blue and square. I walk up to the front to ask a worker for help and pass by the gum. Did they mean gum? One type is square and there is certainly a blue one. I buy a bag of the gum and some seeds for myself. I return to the tree and arrange them in a circle around the trunk for the spirit to enjoy. I take a seat and munch on my seeds while the spirit sucks on the minty sweetness of the gum. We chat about the parking lot. The spirit tells me about how the graffiti on the back wall of the building has changed over the years.

I guzzle some water and pour some into the exposed earth for the tree and bid the spirit farewell and head west to meet Spiro.

Spiro lives in a weird relic of a neighborhood filled with single-family, single-story houses that cost way too much to buy and even more to keep in property taxes. There's no graffiti anywhere and no form of public transit will get you anywhere near it. I'm not sure how he came to own the house in the first place- but I know that the city pays his taxes on the house since it functions as his art studio and home. He's currently on a long-term city career assignment. He holds a relatively prestigious position with 45 other artists that the city formally patronizes.

I can see him in the road from a block back. The sun is setting behind the house and he's walking across the street to the curb on the other side of the road. Now he has stopped and is walking backwards to his own side of the road, and up onto the sidewalk, and up the cement stairs and path that lead to his front door.

Spiro is medium height but lanky. He has long dark hair that he keeps pulled back in a ponytail. It curls in large waves and clings to his grey sweater. He always wears these olive shorts with big pockets on the side. I've never seen him pull anything out of them but they always look like they are stuffed with something. He has long eyelashes and huge brown eyes that dart faster than a teenage pro-gamer.

The City of Los Angeles fell in love with Spiro's art after one piece was a surprise hit at a small gallery. The work was a visualization program that can be displayed on any monitor, but once it is displayed, nothing else can be displayed on the monitor ever again. It essentially destroys the monitor of any function aside from displaying the composition. Due to its destructive nature, it was impossible to show digitally without destroying yet another monitor. Any partial copy that was produced would still destroy the display. It could be photographed from a previously destroyed monitor but only if it was interrupted by facial recognition software. This made it a very popular piece of artwork to visit, as it could be photographed safely with a person standing in front of it, but still risked the life of the camera's display to take it. People flocked to the gallery to try to photograph it without breaking their cameras and handhelds. It became especially popular for tourists, and the city visual art commission picked up on that and quickly gave Spiro a slot in the MoMA. He didn't expect the popularity to last long and it didn't as far as locals were concerned, but tourists continued to flock to the MoMA to take their portrait in front of it. The city visual art commission promised Spiro a paid position as a city artist if he would produce another one.

Spiro heads back down the stairs and out into the street. He reaches the curb on the other side and steps backwards to the other curb. He moves past the line of potted plants to the sidewalk and up the stairs. He sees me heading down the road towards him. He quickly waves at me and then continues to head back down the stairs and into the street. He stops again across the street at the curb and then backs back up to his stairs.

Spiro demanded some incredible number of monitors to work on the project, claiming that it would destroy too many in the process for him to afford. He sold half of them for CASH over the course of a year and slowly bought a hoard of drugs. Now the monitors are gone but he has secured himself a steady CASH job as a black market drug distributer. He specializes in hallucinogens and his current big seller is called Onyx. It's gotten a new reputation among non-users as being dangerous, but the rumors have yet to be substantiated by an actual study. Sometimes all that the public needs are consistant statistics to form beliefs about something, whether they are true or not. A popular news outlet ran an article that people who used Onyx have a 50% shorter life expectancy than nonusers and even 70% shorter life expectancy to other drug users. Unfortunately "other drugs" includes Go99 which is popular among a particular population with extremely long life expectancies and take Go99 exclusively. They don't even drink, these people. And most people who use any illegal drug- including Onyx- enjoy many different illegal drugs, and other addictive behaviors that that will definitely shorten your lifespan.

The last time I spoke to Spiro, he was rather depressed about the article. It's been a couple weeks and I'm glad to be hearing from him again. I worry about him alone in his house. Not that he will OD on Onyx or whatever, but just that it's really alienating to live in a neighborhood like this. For one thing, everyone lives so far apart in their own little houses, and it just looks creepy. It looks like one of those old movies about the Midwest where everyone had small families with lots of secrets.

I see someone walk from their car to their house next to Spiro. They stop before unlocking their door and stare at him backing up across the street. They shout "Hello!" to him. He impatiently waves to them and continues his walk back across the road again.

When I get up to the front step, I can see that the pots out front each contain a spirit, their eye spots on Spiro as he walks back and forth across the street. Eventually, as he walks past the first pot, he touches the pot, and the spirit jumps onto him. Spiro steps across the street and the spirit is nowhere to be seen. Once he reaches the other side, I can see the faint spirit emerging from his hair and grasping onto a small tree in the yard in front of the house across the street. It's a lemon tree. The spirit sinks deep into a small lemon on a branch. Spiro is already back across the street picking up a second spirit to bring over. Soon, Spiro has moved 5 spirits from the pots in front of his house to the small lemon tree across the street. When he's done, he stands up straight, turns around and waves his hands around in the air and speeds across the street to me.

"Hey Sugar," he mumbles to me and charges up the stairs and into his little house. I follow him inside and shut the door behind me. I hear him sniffle as he wipes his nose quickly.

©2019 by Zita