on bienville street
probably down and out
from a night of drinking
and people are passing him
screaming, trying to wake
but no one is really stopping
until we get there
“well, we have to do something,”
my wife says
and i look up and down the street
hungry and hungover
it is already almost ninety degrees
in new orleans
and i think
i’d rather have a po’ boy and a beer
than help this guy
“do what?” i ask.
“the cops? i only like calling
the cops on teenagers and senior citizens
with their televisions too loud.”
but my wife takes out the phone
she doesn’t get anyone
says the phone keeps ringing
so i take the phone and dial
while i keep looking at the guy
on his back
he hasn’t moved
not even his chest
“look at those animals,” i say
pointing at another group of people
hovering nearby and shouting. “humanity
gets it wrong every single time.”
then someone gets on the phone
the usual overworked distress call operator
who couldn’t care less
if a man is dead or being robbed
and i’ll tell her what’s going
on here on bienville street
as a group of aging frat boys
drinking beer before noon
because they are here without their
wives or girlfriends
stop and hover over our guy
their beer cups tipped like they
might pour some suds on his face
before walking off toward the next bar.
“what’s going on?” my wife asks.
“they’re sending someone,” i say
“should we wait?” i can tell
that she wants to.
“yes, we’ll wait,” i say.
but then a miracle happens
our man suddenly heaves his chest
lifts his head for a second
and then rolls over on his side.
“now can we go?” i ask.
“okay,” my wife says, although
she doesn’t sound so sure.
then we turn the bend onto decatur street
looking for a place that serves
red beans and rice before eleven
just as sirens wail
and the first cop car appears out of the mist
of a louisiana morning
near the tail end of our
little american world.
The Perfect Essence Of Wasted Time:
by Joseph Veronneau