I'm not the first to make this observation, but this obviously opens the door for life on the Street to make a much darker turn. Here's 500 words dashed off at lunch time imagining what that might look like.
Give Him to the 'Gus
Gordon. He's strung out again. Vowed last time he'd stay clean. Tears-in-his-eyes promises to all the kids. But the Bird and the Grouch knew better. They knew he'd be back, and here he was.
"You don't look good," Oscar tells him. "You're thin."
"I'm fine." He stands up straighter. Pulls at the hem of his shirt, trying to tug it smooth. Runs a hand through his hair. "Is he in?"
Oscar looks around the corner and back into the alley. Bird is sitting in his nest. He gives Oscar a slight nod. "He is. But he's going to say the same thing."
"I'm fine," Gordon says again and walks into the alley. His hesitating shuffle steps betray the confident wide smile. He waves a dirty hand at Big Bird.
Bird puts on a smile and says, "You lose weight?"
"Just been watching what I eat," Gordon says.
"Haven't seen you in a while."
"I've been keeping busy." His eyes — heavy lids on top of dark circles — give away what's been occupying his time.
"Look at me," Bird says and waits for Gordon to meet his gaze. It happens slowly, but it happens. "Who have you been seeing because you clearly haven't kept clean. You look as strung out as ever, but this is the first time you've come to see me since you've been back on the Street."
Gordon looks away.
"Up here," Bird snaps. Gordon slowly lifts his eyes.
There's commotion out on the street. Oscar shouts something then drops into his can. The lid rattles as it settles into place.
Big Bird waits for whoever is coming to pass. "Hey, kids," he says and waves a wing at them. They smile and wave back.
"Who have you been going to?" Bird asks asks again when the kids have gone.
"No, one," Gordon says. "I swear."
Bird reaches out and slaps Gordon, his cheek left red. "Don't lie to me. You're bad at it."
Gordon hesitates then admits "I met a guy while I was away. He said he knew a guy a couple blocks over if I wanted to score somewhere away from the Street."
Bird nodded. "At last you were honest. Eventually." A pause. "His stuff any good?"
Gordon shakes his head. "Not like yours."
"Nobody has stuff like mine."
"No, Big Bird. They don't." Gordon pushes his hands into his pockets and rocks on his heels.
Big Bird nods. "How long've we known each other? Years? Decades?"
"Then you know me. You know I value friendship. You know I consider you a friend."
"But you know what I value more than friendship?" Gordon shakes his head.
"Loyalty." Big Bird pauses. "Now, as friends I can overlook your dalliance with someone else. But, as a business man, there's a penance that I'm going to have to ask you to pay to make good. Now, a guy like me I can't get my hands dirty with that kind of work." Then he flaps his wings and says, "Besides, I don't have hands!"
Bird enjoys his own joke. Gordon forces a smile and laugh. Both stop when they hear the shuffling coming from the shadows behind the nest. Gordon squints into the dark. His mouth drops open when he finally sees him, a thousand pounds of brown fur and a trunk.
"He's real," Gordon whispers to no one.
"Good," Bird says, "you've heard of my friend Gus."