Coffee money

Twelve minutes past six in the back parking lot of a Burger King in Alliance, Ohio. A Stevie Wonder song was playing on the radio, Sir Duke, and Scoobie saw the boy across from him for the first time. He had a mop top hair cut — about a dozen years out of date — and striking green eyes, almost the color of lime Jello. The boy’s expression was animated but shy, the face of someone who has been perpetually bullied and has accepted it like a disfiguring birthmark. He had fine boyish features, and porcelain skin. But it was a porcelain that was mistreated and unwashed. There were bruises beneath his eyes and his skin was gray. He looked like a boy trying to be a man and not quite making it. There was something inconsolably sad in his expression, something that begged for forgiveness for unpardonable sins. Scoobie wondered what kind of hell this young man had lived through. Though his features might ordinarily be called delicate, there was something gruff about his demeanor, something mean and uncontrolled.

He tried to remember a time when things had been less linear, but could not. Even the wild football parties had a hazy kind of beginning and end to them, not this fragmented leap from then to now. He wanted to ask a thousand questions, but knew each one would lead to a thousand more, so instead contented himself by asking: “What now?” An odd question, but the only one seeming to fit his current circumstance.

Now we have our coffee. You got any money on you?”

You know I don’t.”

Now, I don’t know any such thing. I ain’t a person to go through other people’s things. I coulda checked your wallet, but that wouldn’t be polite, on account o’ we gonna be doin’ some travelin’ together the next little while.”

Traveling? Where?”

You never mind that. Leave it to me. You just drink your coffee. I woulda got you a burger, but you looked like you were plannin’ on sleepin’ for another couple days.”

Scoobie rubbed his eyes, mindful not to touch the collar around his neck, or even appear to have noticed it. “Tired, I guess. Been on the road for a long, long time.”

Noticed. I been followin’ you ‘round hell’s half acre for the longest time, boy. You been ever’where. Hell, I meet some old boy who say you way the hell over in Devlon.”

Scoobie shrugged. “I guess so. I didn’t really pay attention to where I was. I just kept moving. They can throw you in jail for the kind of stuff I do.”

Yeah. Fools and charlies who call it graffiti. They don’t know what else to call it on account they ain’t never seen nothin’ like what you done. They should be praisin’ you for your work, not puttin’ the run on you. I sure shut the fuckin’ General down, didn’t I?”

Who’s the General?”

Don’t matter. Point is, I can ‘preciate what you do. I seen that ole barn you painted over and I swear my heart stopped. I dreamt about it and kept goin’ back to it. Even took me half way ‘cross the fuckin’ State of Pennsylvania.”

What was that one?”

Huh?”

The painting. What was it? I’ve done a lot the past couple of months and I can’t remember them all.”

There was a momentary half-heartbeat in Scoobie’s throat, and then the boy’s face was within kissing distance, and he was screaming. “Did Jesus ask ‘what miracle’? Did Joe Namath say, ‘What fuckin’ football game?’ Did Mike Angelo ask, ‘Mona who?’ I don’t think so, Albagon. So you can stop pretendin’ you don’ know what I’m talkin’ ‘bout. You know ‘xactly what I’m talkin’ ‘bout. The barn, the barn, the fuckin’ barn.”

Scoobie felt his voice in his throat rather than heard it. “Oh, yeah. The barn. I remember doing that one. Warm night, coyotes in the woods. Took me three nights to finish it.”

Excerpt from CronicComing 5/1/15

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Author: Steven Baird

Writer, amateur photographer, ad compositor and chicken herder.

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