With a Werewolf Smile
There’s a homeless man in Florida who wants to see how much of a man I am.
There’s a homeless man in Florida that has a 9mm pistol pointed at my chest and I know what kind of gun it is because he’s made sure to describe the entrails behind the muzzle. It’s a semi-automatic that holds 18 bullets, he only has 7 left, with an alloy frame and polymer grip. The overall length of the Beretta is 8.5 inches but he confesses his dick is closer to the barrel length: 5 inches. There are usually two of them in his possession, guns not dicks, but he sold one for heroin.
His shaky aim has his sole raven-barreled gun directed to various points on the right side of my chest. If I had dextrocardia situs inversus, inverted internal organs, he might have had a chance of an immediate kill shot. I could be taking a non-lethal shot close the shoulder, survivable, if I can grit through the sudden penetration and incapacitate him. My stomach tells me to cut down my instincts to disarm and maim him (fight), and easily quiet the other side of my instincts (flight). I can’t run that fast – built for endurance – and my legs get a pretty good laugh when I’m in a situation where they could actually help me if healthy.
I already plotted out my approach to a situation like this when I met him, when I meet anyone. He’s been in jail for 15 years for drug smuggler, a profitable business built on giving and taking respect. There should be a balance of respect for him and respect for myself by not being a pussy, but in the end, I ditch most of my planned idea and just picture a werewolf tearing off his face.
“What would you do in a situation like this?” he asks and I’m pretty sure he’s crying.
“We are in this situation,” I trail off and flex my PC muscle.
“If there were drugs involved and you knew this was it.”
“I would slap that stupidly aimed gun off to the side and bury my cute knife into your face.” It wasn’t cute, more garish, and my mind likes to randomly choose adjectives in new and bothersome situations.
He starts sliding up his aim up towards the place behind my face that lets me frequently write about erections. “That’s all you could do. Going for your own gun would take too long,” he stops the gun around my Adams apple, which is quite large and quite capable of deflecting bullets. “A knife is a great option in any situation,” he says.
I ignore most of his advice and tell him that he’d look nice in a grave. I growl out the compliment and give him a wide werewolf smile. I’m not a shape-shifting psychopath but the observational library in my head has a few selections on how to mimic the call signs of a monster. I smile at the moon, death is on my face. And if you wait too long then you’ll never see the dawn again.
“You’re one crazy mofo.” That’s the third time in three weeks someone has used that exact phrase to describe me, but mostly for the idea of spending months hitchhiking the country. I’ll have to tally up how many people call me that based on physical threats of violence. Hopefully, this is the only one that involves bringing a tiny knife to a shiny gunfight. I slash my smile a little higher; he backs a little farther down.
And I feel comfortable enough to imagine a black woman in funeral attire singing/reciting the next part of the Dead Man’s Bones song I began two paragraphs ago: my soul is full of sunken ships. My hearts a prisoner to my ribs. We’re flesh and bone. When we are all alone. But together, forever, we’ll live. I start snapping, not mentally, I mean with my fingers, to her dead heart beat. In the scarcity of light I can still make out the burn scars running from her jaw to brow because I’ve decided my make believe backup vocalist died in a local plantation fire. But without the sun, I’m only shadows in a dress.
Waylay, possibly a nickname, reboots my attention with a burp, a lowered gun, and a true crime story about watching a drug running buddy slicing a guys throat ‘clear till Tuesday.’ He pops his thumb to do the usual thumb across the throat knife mimic charade and I check out of the conversation and try to remember the next part of the werewolf song. The words are scattered somewhere I can’t find and I just decide to hand the man at Waylay’s front desk some more cash and check back in for his night of gritty storytelling.
So forever, towards dark, we rise.
_____ _____ _____
I was walking towards a quartet of homeless men, crooning a song aloud, “Ohhh, you’re going to lose your soul, tonight. You’re going to lose your soul. You’re going to lose your soul tonight, tonight.” I had some greasy tinfoil-encased ribs with me because a man on work release from prison decided he didn’t feel like carrying the food the food home with him. My mouth looked like a good place to deposit his burden and these homeless guys looked like hungry pack of jackals. Their handshakes come in sharp, fast bites.
My notes only list them (in order of seating arrangement) as Kid, Old Guy, Waylay, and Hispanic:
Kid’s mom died when he was 18, three years ago, but Kid, himself, died around the age of 12 when he start regularly smoking crack. Despite his substantial downfalls and drawbacks, Kid managed to land himself an ‘exceptional’ job making ‘exceptional’ money. His ‘exceptional’ girlfriend was along for the ride, which came in an ‘exceptionally’ white, expensive Ford truck. The ‘exceptional’ downfall of Kid came in the bright and bland colors of multiple drugs after the death of this mother. Six months of jail would be at the bottom for a crime he didn’t commit. Being committed for something he didn’t do was A-okay with Kid, he’s gotten away with too much in his life. The only thing keeping Kid alive is his little kid brother, who is quite suicidal himself.
Hispanic’s thickly accented English is a hard enough to understand that I have him repeat everything he says at least three times. Four times when he inquires to my mental health. He’s observant for a man that just got done drinking two beers and huffing some glue. I tell him I’m thinking about a girl and in turn his erupts with a smile. My hand gets shaken violently and the part of Hispanic that wants to tell a stranger about his wife comes to the surface. In the northeast his job paid him 30 dollars an hour, and in the northeast the weather crippled his wife. The southern highroad paid him 9 dollars an hour and took his wife from him. There’s a van he sleeps in around the corner.
Old Guy and I spent most of the night competing in a not-so-friendly game of Name That Rock/Metal Tune with a small radio on top of an electrical transformer; he beats me one time with a Five Finger Death Punch song. (Hispanic and Kid both agree that music is the devils work.) The self-inflicted homelessness of Old Guy has lasted twenty years and so has his beard. It’s fucking bush sized and there has to be at least one cockroach living in it. Towards the end of the night, when beer and sleep start to combine into an out-of-body experience, Old Guy will only, repeatedly, murmur, “how can something come from nothing?” It’s a reference to the creation of God.
“God only follows the sinners,” Waylay preaches like a snake. Hispanic and Kid let themselves be swallowed whole, while Old Guy manages to keep his head poking out. This once handsome cleric out of the Old West, Waylay looks a lead villain character from an episode of 50s and 60s era cowboy show Gun Smoke, makes due with God by helping out anyone he can. Regardless if it ‘financially or drugly (?) fucks him in the ass.’ He considers himself to be a good guy.
He wants me to consider that his Irish blood will not be fucked with or walked upon. The anger will not come often but it will come suddenly. “You know I’m serious if you see tears running down my face.” I pronounce tears both ways while writing this and decide that either use is appropriate. “It’s because I don’t want to do it and God doesn’t want me to do it but sometimes you have to fight.”
The final part of the Redemption of Waylay is his saintly views on not breaking a fresh vein on a new heroine user. He will cheerfully slide down a rope into a deep dark well, but on his way down, no fresh blood is coming with him. They all meet up at midnight takin’ rides into the well. And dancin’ while the devil taps his dirty finger nail. You never find a hero just dirty souvenir. For the old and broken angels are the ones that brought you here
“God stays with the sinners and keeps them safe while they fix themselves,” and Waylay reaches for his gun.