DISCO PENNIES DANCED dropping splashes in the gutter next to him and he picked them out with his lips like a circus trick and watched for sniper rifles in the folds of street vendor tacos and busied himself calculating the odds of everything and anything and then he swallowed the copper because it was the only safe place to keep those things.
His home was cardboard and urine twisted with spit and cemented with nicotine and glued with liquor shakes and windowed in toothless faces yawning.
His breakfast was the tin can residue of tuna fish three days gone and smelling more of whoring cat than of fish just like litter clumping shit and juggling stray hairs.
And in his head there were screams of tortured chained nothingness banging shackles against the inside of his skull and begging for rain or water or something mixed with both in a flawless martini glass and reeking of spring.
She passed and wafted near him as lollipops and pigtails and stereotypical skirt shimmies and ruffled legs newly shaved and pump heel high. She was brisk. Whisked in a bowl with morning fresh eggs and a layer of musk followed in by something raw and dirty.
His sign said ‘fuck off, all of you’ but she winked at him and drifted a dollar into a puddle next to his elbow next to his peeling ribs next to a disappearing belly button leaving his stomach faceless like an empty locket dangling between sweet white lusciousness.
There was nothing left to say so he tipped an imaginary hat and flipped her the bird and watched a plane overhead scorch blue through his one squinted eye revolving on glaucoma and the essence of accidental sun blindness.
And when the bus rocketed past his leg warmer spindles a newspaper brushed his calf as if a gloved hand reaching inside to feel the head and positioning and the terms of birth. Like that. Leather skinned and mean and pushing opinions through his blood and making him bolt along on a sled of missed diplomacy and political flu symptoms.
But a dollar. Green back and lithe and lolling its tongue toward a crisp oasis of starch water and pale rocks was like holding a revolver filled with mouthy bullets and watching so many targets waltz by politely and wonderfully and openly and exotically. To spend and spend. A big fat paycheck.
And though his knees wouldn’t work wouldn’t bend wouldn’t follow his captain’s orders he could push cash register rings from here to there as quickly as his gray matter mind could invent and re-invent and think onward. On trinkets and maps and puzzles and toys. Dragons and lap dances and coke and chinatown goodness. All of it a dollar’s worth crunched and chucked at his feet. A nightlight in a bathroom where nausea waves a fluttering sick hand.
Two days passed and in his brain the money was gone even though his fist clenched it with stubborn stupid ignorance. He didn’t feel anything there but the peel of an orange or the husk of an ear of corn or the cool whispery paper of a long gone burger laid as a sacrament at his feet housed in holey and dying piss shoes.
So he ate the bill in little gulps waterless and stained pushing serial numbers and a washington face through a strep pus throat and into a troutless acid lake rumbling with syphilis spiders and gangrenous beetles and the thin treads of tapeworms and suicidal drunken moths. He ate it a corner at a time. Splitting open his piggy bank at the esophagus level. Waiting for something to happen. Holding on to a jesus hand. And nothing did happen. Save the shits he had the next morning. But that happened every morning now. It wasn’t news. Not any more.
by Maureen Lougen