It was behind my building one day - someone moved out, or got a new, comfier bed, and wanted to get rid of their old mattress. It was just the mattress, no box-spring. It was leaning against the dumpster in the drive-through alley; Breeze has two lanes, one you can drive through, and the front of the buildings which is walk-up only. I wondered who would take a mattress leaning against a dumpster. Sure, it was a nice, full-sized mattress, but... can you imagine coming home and saying, "Hi, honey! I found us a new mattress out in the alley!" Okay, I can imagine it but I can also imagine the fight that would ensue. Well, not really, because I'd be saying that to the cat and I suspect as in all things, she'd be quite indifferent.
But the next day, it was gone and the dumpster had not been emptied, so it wasn't the trashtruck that had hauled it off.
The mystery was solved the next day. As I walked out to my car early in the morning, a couple of blocks away I saw the mattress laying on the ground behind another building. A man was sleeping on it, shirtless. He had a backpack under his head, and a blanket and a jacket wrapped around himself like swaddling clothes for an infant. Traffic was roaring by just a few yards away, and he was close enough to the sidewalk that he must have heard my footsteps as I walked by. I wondered at his ability to sleep through the racket - but then, I'd seen the homeless in Venice sleeping in some preposterously weird places and positions; curled around an umbrella on the beach, with one leg propped up and head resting on the knee on a bench on the boardwalk, with a cardboard box around the waist on a church stoop.
Almost every day I'd walk by that mattress. It grew into a little nest - first an old army blanket left there throughout the day. Later it was joined by a multi-colored piece of cloth, like an Andean serape or something. Then a hugely shaggy blanket or carpet or something - white and fuzzy like a skinned muppet. As time went by, the mattress got filthier, and the blankets more matted with dust and dirt. The weather turned cold, or what passes for cold here in Venice; and it even rained once or twice. I wondered what he did during the rain. Did he take his blankets and go huddle somewhere under cover?
The next day I found out - no occupant, but the nest was sodden and bedraggled. I wondered how long it would take to dry out. It was a fine clear day with plenty of sunshine - if he spread the blankets out, I'm sure they would dry quite quickly. But no, they remained in a wet little tangle for several days. A few days later, I saw something under the pile of blankets, though I couldn't tell if it was a person or a stash of stuff. A few times I walked by and wasn't quite sure if it was occupied or not. Whenever I went down to the beach, I'd look for the man who'd built the nest - a middle-aged black man, slightly balding with a stocky build. I never did see him.
Last week, I walked by and the whole nest was gone - blankets, mattress, and all.
I wonder what happened.