Tuesday, June 15, 2010
So I'm standing on the corner, selling flowers and Rolex knock-offs for my Temple, when I see a young woman walking arm-in-arm with a waddling elderly streetperson of indeterminate age and gender. The older person has stringy gray hair and is wearing a stained yellow frock, a reddish Ace Hardware baseball cap and a pink windbreaker over a heavy frame, it resembles a greasy, shambling Easter egg walking on tiny, toothpick legs; the petite younger woman is wearing a little black dress and looks exactly like someone I used to know.
I can't quite place who it is, though, or how we knew each other. It's on the tip of my memory, just out of reach.
Ah. June. That's her name. The last time I saw her was a hot summer back in 1980-something. We were visiting her dad on his farm and on our last night there we liberated his cattle. Well, technically we were trying to liberate the horses from the barn, but once we opened the stall ,the horses didn't seem to be interested in finding their freedom. They just sorta shuffled back and forth and looked at us like they wanted carrots, not liberation. We must have left a gate open on our way out or something, because the next day we heard a report on the local news about some stray cows that had fallen off the highway overpass and blocked northbound traffic during morning rush hour. Her dad sure was pissed but I don't think he ever knew it was us.
Anyway, June's doppleganger catches me staring . The saggy, eggy person attached to her unexpectedly calls me by name. Sensing my confusion, the older person tells me their own name. It's June and the younger look-alike is her daughter, May, who has just graduated from college.
After an initial shock of recognition, we hug. June reeks of cigarettes and cat piss but her daughter smells like fresh laundry and untapped sexual potential, so I ignore June and devote my attention to May.
Would she like to buy a flower for my Temple?
"What 'Temple' is that, exactly?", she asks me.
"Um, the inner one", I reply.
May raises one sleek eyebrow. "The inner one? What does that mean?"
"Well, we haven't actually built it yet. That's why we need to sell these flowers. To build the Temple. I have some nice watches too, if you are interested."
"Ah. I see. Well, it was nice meeting you", she says, her tone indicating that it wasn't. My eyes linger on her rounded moon-pie derriere as May walks away, June in tow.
The interruption startles me and I turn around and see another familar face, this one belonging to Officer Sal Sterling, a local beat cop and my part-time nemesis. He's fondling one of my Rolex clones with his chubby hands. The cheap, glued-on plastic lens comes off.
"You broke it, you bought it", I tell him.
He ignores my remark and tells me he's investigating a report of stolen flowers. It seems that someone walked away with a freshly planted bed of pansies from the grounds of the Children's Hospital. Sterling followed a trail of flower petals and dirt clods to my table.
What do I say to that?
"He went that a-way", I say, pointing at nothing.
"Who?", asks the fat cop.
"The Flower Bandit, of course. Look, he dropped a twenty dollar bill", I exclaim as I drop a twenty on the sidewalk at Sterling's feet.
Sterling pockets the crumpled note, telling me he'll check it for fingerprints later.Then he walks away, hot on the petaled trail of the Flower Bandit.