Thursday, May 21, 2009
Fallen (Second Revision)
I’m leading my platoon through high grass in choking heat, green and black paint mixing with the sweat on my face, wondering if the next step on foreign soil will be my last in this world. I hear shots and drop to the ground, putting my hand up to halt the line. So, this is the bright future of a grad student who majored in English literature and had a passion for the stage, I think as I spit in a bush.
Jolted by the nightmare and the freezing cold, I push off my makeshift quilt, a Sunday edition of the New York Times patched together with duct tape. The clacking of high heels signal the approach of a passerby. I stand with effort, lifting a discarded Starbucks cup to a woman in a black wool pea coat. She looks past me.
I slip back under my shell of newsprint and scowl bitterly, shouting after her:
“A man may see how the, the,... this world goes with no eyes!”
Chilled to the core by a damp cold, I can no longer feel my fingertips. I press my ear down on the gritty cement and listen to the world beyond the blanket of newspapers. Feet on pavement, laughter, conversation, the sound of taxis honking, and a pain in my stomach prevent rest.I reach into my pocket, remembering the remnants of a half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich I stuffed there yesterday. The plastic sandwich bags work as makeshift gloves; they block the wind a bit. Sleeping out in the street is hell, but it’s still safer than the shelter I was in last night.
God, it is so cold out here, I think, as I drift off from exhaustion. In my mind’s eye, the tear-stained face of my ex-wife, Helen, appears. I have five children who won’t see me. Sometimes, if I get into the whole thing in conversation, like I did yesterday with a young lady at the soup kitchen, I get all snotty like a sissy, because it breaks my heart.
“Lewis. Hey there, ole’ man. Wake up!”
The little punk who works in this store that I’m sleeping in front of is shaking me. He thinks I’m crazy and I like messing with his head. I’ll just pretend I’m sleeping and maybe he’ll go away.
“Hey there!” You have ta get up and move ya-self somewhere else. You can’t sleep here outside the business.”
I sit up and read the boy’s name badge aloud like a ballpark announcer just to piss him off.
“Josh Grexil, Associate Trainer!”
The nasty brat glares at me.
How ddddost, my boy? Art cold?.... I am cold mysssself.” I shout.
"What-eva ole' man. Tell it to the po-leese, freak.” Then the kid pulls a cell phone from his pocket and goes back inside the shop.
It's funny that I can sit here, yelling like a madman, and even that does not cure invisibility.
“When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fffools!”
I adjust my papers and close my eyes. To hell with him, I’m not getting up. Let them come and drag me away. The shop door opens and shuts, and I get a whiff of the freshly brewed coffee, sweet pastries, warm bagels. I imagine the feeling of holding a hot cup of coffee in my hands. I smile.
“Come on sir, get up. Had a few beers? You can’t stay here anymore. Let’s go.”
That’s the police. They’ve come to throw a war hero in jail for not having an address and drinking a beer to forget that grim fact. This is America.
“I ...will die BRAVELY, like a ssssssmug bridegroom.”
“Bet that’ll make for a cheap wedding reception.” The cops laugh, guiding me to the patrol car, leaving behind my makeshift kingdom of paper, my bank of Styrofoam.
“Come, Come, I am a ...king! ...I was a decorated sssSergeant in the... United... States... Army before you were out of.... diapers!”
They cuff me as if I am someone dangerous as people stare from the shop window. That rotten kid, Josh Grexil, Associate trainer, steps outside with a broom. He bows and salutes me before he begins his job of sweeping the sidewalk. I’d like to smack that grin right off his smug, ugly face. There are bars in the car between the back seat and the front. I’m not crying. My eyes are tearing from moving from the cold street into a warm car.
I am a man more, more sinned against than sinning, I think.
Dear Internet Traveler,
Welcome to my writer's blog, started about six years ago for fun. Over time, the writing I have posted has ranged from personal reflection, to Long Island history research, to tall tales for my own amusement, to feature articles for local newspapers. As you can see from topics listed here, I travel in many mental directions in regard to interests. Click on the tabs and labels to explore my strange mind which senses that you may be having a criss-cross day. If so, perhaps this blog will distract you. However, please note that if you tell me my blog is beautiful just to get me to advertise rhinoplasty surgery and cheap drugs from Canada in your comment, I will ask the gods to give you a tail that cannot be concealed.