Monday, May 18, 2009
Lewis graduated high school with honors in 1968, then he was drafted. He remembers leading men through high grass in choking heat, green and black paint mixing with the sweat on his face, wondering if the next step on foreign soil would be his last in this world.
Flushed by the nightmare, he pushes off his makeshift quilt, a Sunday edition of the New York Times patched together with duct tape. The clacking sound of high heels signal the approach of a passerby. He stands with effort, lifting a discarded Starbucks cup to a woman in a black wool pea coat. She ignores him.
Lewis slips back under his shell of newsprint and scowls, shouting after her:
“A MAN may see how the, the,... this world goes with NO eyes!”
Chilled to the core by a damp cold, Lewis can no longer feel his fingertips. His ear presses down on the gritty cement and he listens to the world beyond the blanket of newspapers covering his body. Feet on pavement, laughter, conversation, the sound of taxis honking prevent rest.
Lewis reaches into his pocket, pulling out the remnants of a half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich: yesterday’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The plastic sandwich bags serve as makeshift gloves; they block the wind a bit. Sleeping out in the street is hell, but it’s still safer than the shelter he was in last night.
His body accustomed to being out in the elements, Lewis drifts off to sleep again despite his physical discomfort. In his mind’s eye, the tear-stained face of his wife appears. He is dead to five children. In between sips in his regular seat at the local pub, Lewis lets the broken fragments of his life slip out of his mouth in front of anyone who'll listen.
A boy is shaking him.
“Hey there!” You have ta get up and move ya-self somewhere else. You can’t sleep here outside the business.”
Lewis reads the boy’s name badge aloud like a ballpark announcer.
“Josh Grexil, Associate Trainer!”
The boy glares at him.
"How ddddost, my boy? Art cold?.... I am COLD mysssself.”
“"What-eva ole' man. Tell it to the po-leese, freak.” The boy pulls a cell phone from his pocket and goes back inside the shop.
Lewis' bellowing voice does not cure invisibility.
“When we are born, we CRY that we are come to this great STAGE of FFFFOOLS!”
Lewis adjusts his papers and shuts his eyes. The shop door opens and shuts, announcing with a jingling the smell of freshly brewed coffee, sweet pastries, warm bagels. Lewis imagines the feeling of holding a hot cup of coffee in his hands.
The police approach.
“Come on sir, get up. Had a few beers? You can’t stay here anymore. Let’s go.”
“I ...will die BRAVELY, like a ssssssmug bridegroom.”
“Bet that’ll make for a cheap wedding reception.” The cops laugh, guiding Lewis into the patrol car, leaving behind his makeshift kingdom of paper, his 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!”
As he is cuffed, Lewis catches the secret glances of people sitting in the picture glass window of the shop. Josh Grexil, Associate trainer, bows and salutes him before he begins his job of sweeping the sidewalk.
In the car Lewis is softly crying and muttering to himself.
“I am a man more, more ssssinned against than sinning.”
Some quotes come from King Lear, by William Shakespeare.
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.