Dark Alleys, Sunlit Fields (The 24 Hour Village)
How is it that when I finally get up the nerve to borrow a grocery cart, I grab one that has a boogety-boogety wheel?
I been pushing boogety-boogety for at least, well it’s gotta be two years. Let’s see. This is the second time I been sweating my balls off for weeks after havin’ froze them near off twice for weeks. That’s gotta be two years, right?
I been tryin’ to remember where the village is. I musta walked … well, I did walk all day. Did my usual route. Crust’s Donuts for breakfast. I mean, behind Crusty’s for breakfast. Then up Third. Nobody bothers ya on Third. Cops never go there ‘cause of the gangs. Almost never. Unless somebody get’s shot. Most of the time they don’t get found, the shot ones, for a while, so mostly the cops are just there to make sure the body is taken away. Don’t investigate much that I seen.
I ain’t got nothin’ to steal and most of the time it’s been a while since I been able to get inside a shower. Know I mostly smell. I don’t smell me, but I seen their faces and I’m pretty sure they do. Smell me, I mean. An’ I guarantee this coat got fleas. Never take the coat off. I learned that. Never take the coat off. Summer or winter. Take the coat off and it gets taken.
Was a time when I got into a shower everyday. Sometimes, ‘s I remember more than once. Lots of showers and clothes. More than one coat anyway. I know I had more than one coat. Just so damned fuzzy. Hard to remember. So damned hard to remember. There was a person I remember and sometimes I seem to think it mighta’ been me. Just not sure anymore.
Oh wait, there’s Jumpy.
“Hey Jump, where’s the village?”
“Stay back, there, McGraw! I know ya got them fleas again! Ya oughta get over to the Mission and get ‘em to let you use the wash machine.”
“I lost it. The mission. I lost it an’ I lost the Village too. Gonna be night real soon. Where’s the village?”
“Saw Mayor a bit ago. Said to head to tween Plumfield ‘n Washington. Ya gotta any cigarettes?”
“If I did I already et ‘em. What street ‘r we on right now?
“Shit! McGraw you git lost ever’ damn day! Take about a mile straight the way you’re facin’ ‘n go left ‘bout that much again. Down the alley next to the pawn.”
That’s Jumpy fer ya. Like he don’t have fleas. Like the Mission is gonna let me use the wash machine. I got quarters to put in the wash machine? They don’t give ya quarters ‘less you spend near the whole day sweepin’, n’ moppin’, or some other fuck job. Maybe I get a new coat, but the fleas just jump off my shirt into the coat. Or I get a new shirt and they jump off the coat. Er pants. Unless they give me a whole new waredrobe (that the right word?) What’s the reason?
Before I was old, I had a wash machine. I think I had a wash machine. Didn’t need no quarters. And soap, I had soap to put on the shirts an’ stuff. There was a woman there. Beautiful face woman. Who was that woman? When I was not old, there was a woman and a wash machine and some little kids. Maybe that wasn’t me. And real clean bathroom with a shower. I lost that, I think. Jus’ like the village today. How can a person loose a whole village?
I miss that beautiful face woman and those little kids and that wash machine.
But I got old an’ lost ‘em … somehow. How did I do that?
This boogety-boogety is just plain onery (that the right word?). Onery. Ornery, ya dumb fuck. What? The word is “ornery”. It means “implacable and somewhat mean”. Huh? What the fuck! “You are such a filthy shithead.” I know that. I wasn’t always a filthy shithead. “Yes you were. You just wouldn’t admit it. You were angry all the time. You were abusive to people.” Abusive?
I don’t get about most of what yer saying. I don’t like you doin’ that. Just jumpin’ in on me like that. ‘S creepy ‘n scary. If I didn’t straighten you out now and then, you’d walk straight into walls. Then where would I be? You’re the fucking idiot who got us into this.
Yer always blamin’ me. Fuck you! I don’ remember gettin’ into anythin’. Town’s got to be somewheres along here. You haven’t turned left yet, dumbasse. Oh yeah. Jumpy said turn left after a mile. Has it been a mile yet? More like a couple hundred yards, shithead. Fuck you! Fuck you! That sidewalk is never going to answer you, you know that don’t you, shithead? Just follow the roach trail and you’ll find it. Bein’ nice is jes’ not something you like much, ain’t it?
I know how to make you go away, ya know. Right. Jes’ stare up at the sky. Stare up at the sky. Gotta blink though or you’ll go blind. Jes’ stare ‘n stare. Woah … that’s better. Hey! There’s a key! A really good nice key. That otta fit a lock somewhere. Plobly gold behind that key. Better take that key with me. Maybe the lock be somewhere and the gold behind it. Someone in town tonight will know where the lock is.
Put that on my key ring here. Got lots o’ keys. Lotta keys. Maybe that key’ll open the door to where my wash machine used to be. Lady B knows everything. Lady B’ll know where that key will work. I kin give ‘er half of the gold. Don’t tell Mayor though. Mayor’ll hit me ‘n take the key. Er Junior. Junior’ll take the key. ‘Specially if I call him Junior. Has to be called George. Woo – George. Georgie – porgie. What kinda name is George, anyways. Nobody in town uses names like George. Call me McGraw ‘cause I don’t steal. Won’t steal. Mostly I jes’ don’t like stealin’. Feels wrong somehow. Feels bad to steal. Don’t remember why. ‘Fore I got old I used to know that an’ I can’t do it now. It’s be nice sometimes to jus’ take stuff, but I can’t do it. So they call me McGraw. What that’s supposed to mean, I also don’t know.
Why call somebody McGraw, ‘cause they don’t steal? Don’ get it. Still if I could remember what else ‘fore I got old, they could call me that. Like Georgie-porgey – ha-ha! Used to be a lady in town who said to call her Susan. But Junior said she looked like she was wearin’ a wig, so he started callin’ her Wig and for while she was in town, everybody jus’ call her Wig. She’s not in town anymore. Least for a long time now, she ain’t been in town. Don’t know if she’s really wearin’ a wig. Doesn’t pay to look too hard at people, mos’ o’ the time.
“Cept Junior. He jus’ stares at people – all’l time. Creepy. He don’ hurt people though, mostly. He’ll make a grab fer stuff. So ya gotta be careful to not get too close to ‘im. But he ain’t bad to walk along with ‘cause others can’ stand his starin’ ‘n they leave ya be. B’then ya don’ get no spare change neither, ‘cause o’ the starin’. Others sometimes gimme a dollar or somethin’ sometimes. Not when I’m walkin’ along with Junior though.
“S been a mile yet? Jus’ how far is a mile, anyway? Don’t remember jus’ what, how far is a mile. ‘S a long ways, I think. A mile. Really long ways, a mile. Walk ‘n walk ‘n walk ‘n walk ‘n thas ‘bout a mile. I think. Mile is walkin’ fer a really long while. Thes a mile. Walkin’ ‘n walkin’. ‘Till yer feet hurt. Course my feet always hurt. Ha-ha. Walk till yer feet hurt. Thes a mile. Do my feet hurt yet? Always hurt.
Pawn to rook four. What? Pawn to rook four. Wha’ the fuck thet mean? Chess, shithead. Chess? The game, chess, shithead. Don’ like games. That’s because you’re so fucking stupid you never win. Stare up at tha sky. Stare ‘n stare. When’s a mile? When’s a mile? I remember that dumpster. I found a mattress in that once. Good mattress. But it was all wet. Got rained on. Too heavy to get outa the dumpster. Had to leave it. Too bad.
Maybe somethin’s in it today. Hey … there’s chair. Only bent a little. Don’t like metal chairs though. Too shiny. Shiny hurts my eyes an’ it smells. ‘Prefer wood chairs. If it was a wood chair, I’d take it back to town. Maybe trade it. I could use some gloves for when it gets cold. Mile yet?
I’m gonna turn here. This’ gotta be a mile. You wouldn’t know a mile if it fell on you. Huh? That’s not a mile yet. Don’t care. Seems like a mile to me. Not a mile. Don’t care. Someone I knew used to march miles. Marchin’ miles ‘n miles in boots that hurt, really hurt. ‘Member those boots. Always havin’ to shine every night, then march or run through mud the very next day. Always shining ‘em, never had shiny boots on my feet. Then she was dead and those little kids were gone and the bathroom. No more showers. Always dirty ‘n fleas. Was a dog too. No more dog. Miss that dog.
God, my feet hurt and this stupid boogety-boogety. One day that wheel is just going to fall off, then what are you going to do with all this shit?