Ephemeral Book IV – Mainer
Chapter 1: Avesta
“She is an adorable girl with a delicate nose, red lips and slender legs, wonderfully clean and well groomed, she certainly bathes twice a day and never has any dirt under her fingernails.”
– Erich Maria Note,In the west, nothing is new
I had never seen Wheels drink before. He was really drunk when I walked past the shelter. I had never seen him in a wheelchair either – or without the legs. The cops had his legs, and they had him on a chair, hoisting him into the arrest wagon. He was going to jail and he was pissed off. He called the cops all kinds of creative curse words as they tried to reason with him. They looked a little uncomfortable about the whole thing, especially the young cop holding Ronnie’s legs. I never knew what it was, but he got a CTO from the shelter for a year.
For a while, Ronnie slept somewhere off the bike path. He had his own bike and rode around with a huge backpack. The situation was like a set-up for one of my street jokes: On my way to Preble Street today, I saw a guy with no legs riding a bikeâ¦
I probably would have used this one, but I hadn’t told a lot of jokes at the time. I had a guitar. I also had a place much closer to the Block than Ronnie’s. While he could no longer sleep at the shelter, he could still eat at the soup kitchen. And he still needed to eat.
Wheels once asked if he could start crashing into me. I loved the idea. The business would be a welcome change, and it was too absurdly ironic for me to resist. My place at the time was right in front of the offices of Avesta Housing, a major developer of “affordable” housing in the Little Town. On my way to Preble Street today, I saw a legless guy sleeping across from Avesta. He got up and went on his bike with a giant backpack that must have weighed 60 pounds!
A setup like this doesn’t even need a punchline. Absurdity at its best.
When I first saw Kassandra, she was standing by herself in front of the Resource Center. She was pretty and I knew there had to be a boyfriend, or there would be one soon. Women like Kass last about a minute on Preble Street before they have a guy. She was slim and petite, with a gentle smile and gentle eyes, and I have to admit that I might have been speechless, because I was in awe.
I watched her as she returned to the soup kitchen, and determined it was breakfast time. I don’t know what I was thinking, or Hope that.Nothing, I guess. I was homeless and I was 20 years older than her. But I had to follow her. She was absolutely breathtaking. And, after all, Toni is 20 years younger than me, and we had a child together.
I sat across from her with my meal. We talked. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I do remember her voice and demeanor as sweet as her eyes. Even in the grungy soup kitchen environment, Kass moved gracefully, almost elegance, like a flower floating in a sewer. I also remember that I narrowly missed the fresh fruit served that morning. She shared hers with me – generous, as well as gentle.
Then the boyfriend arrived. His name was Devon, and it turns out that he and I had met a few days before. He sold us acid to Jeremy and me. We tripled, but it wasn’t LSD; more likely LSA (the kind made from morning glory seeds).
Devon and Kass asked me if I wanted to buy a jar, and they gave me a reallygood deal. For a while, I pulled weed out of it every day. I couldn’t wait to see them, if only to have the opportunity to enjoy Kassandra’s company for a moment.
I started to wonder what they were in. I wondered if she was a drug addict. I knew from experience that you can’t stand two heroin addictions selling weed. If you didn’t want to steal or sell heroin, you had to sell something that was worth just as much,or more.
Then one day I saw Kass cry. Devon was gone, had gone back to where his parents lived. He was goneresidence,and she was now homeless, and alone. I wanted to take her in my arms, to draw her inside me. I wanted to save her. But I had nothing to offer.
Chapter Two: The Circle of Life
âWe are two men, two little sparks of life; outside is night and the circle of death.
– Erich Maria Note,In the west, nothing is new
We took off a few layers and leaned back in the hot late morning sun. Casco Bay was calm. Fire boats, ferries and water taxis floated slowly by their docks. It was just Mark and I at Buoy Park. All the other benches were empty. We didn’t even have Mr. Charlie with us that day, but he rarely disturbed the peace (unless he saw a squirrel).
Lunchtime was approaching and I was hungry. I told Trake about it.
“You’re always hungry, Fatboy!” Trake shoved me in the stomach like I was the Pillsbury Doughboy.
“It’s probably not going to ease my hunger,” I said, crossing my arms under my ribs so that he couldn’t sting me again, “sting or harass me.” “
I was really hungry, but I wouldn’t mention it twice. I could ride it. Something was about to happen. He always has. I hadn’t been to the Resource Center for weeks, maybe months, but I hadn’t starved to death yet. And if it got to the point of starving, I could still go to Preble Street. I just didn’t want to go.
It crossed my mind that Jeremy would have said a prayer. I considered it. I had seen prayers work for us many times, sometimes for quite specific requests. I’m just not the type to pray. But I was confident that the Cosmos would provide.
Sure enough, before too long a woman approached us holding a stack of pizza boxes. I was really grateful and tried to tell her how much I enjoyed the food by thanking her as sincerely as possible. There were a lot of pizzas in those boxes, more than the two of us could eat in a day.
âThere you go, Fatboy,â Mark said, giving my abdomen another blow – I had let my guard down; it had to be the pizza. I immediately dug. Mark wasn’t far behind, so I guess he had been as hungry as I was. He just didn’t want to admit it. It’s good for morale. No one wants to be like the weak, so it inspires strength.
Difficult to eat outside on the Port without attracting the crowds. The seagulls began to congregate. Mark loves seagulls. He thinks of them – and all the animals, really –as pets. They are his friends. He talks to them, even names them. And when Charlie wasn’t there, he was even more inclined to take an interest in birds.
Mark tossed them a crust. I threw away the crust of the piece I had just finished. The birds slammed aggressively against each other, grabbing the pieces of bread. We launched more, trying to reduce the level of violence. It created a frenzy. They ate faster than us. We started tearing up whole pieces of pizza and throwing them away as they liked. After all, we had a whole stack.
As supply began to meet demand, two people from the street entered my peripheral vision. He was an orderly officer and a game warden. We didn’t watch the cops because we had no reason to – we weren’t doing anything wrong. It was the same ordinance officer who told me I couldn’t ask for money outside the ferry terminal, and later arrested Griz and I for drinking on India Street. I wondered if he was the only ordinance officer the town employed; I had not met others.
I quickly surveyed our surroundings. It would have been difficult to hide anything that could have made us quit at this point, but I might have had time to smoke one last cigarette before I got jailed – again, if I thought I was doing something wrong.
The gamekeeper began. “Do you know that it is illegal to feed seagulls?
Mark had a shocked look of disbelief on his face as he covered his trail and replied, âWhat? Are you kidding me? âI myself was stunned in disbelief.
âThe bread is not good for their digestive system,â continued the manager. âThey are designed to eat fish. Foods like pizza will make them sick. “
I am not a zoologist, so I cannot say if there is any truth in his claim. I can let’s say I fed gulls an awful lot, and there are only three things that I discovered they don’t eat:
1. Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, etc.)
2. Peppers, hot or sweet
3. Beggin ‘Strips (Charlie won’t touch them either)
The orderly officer took on the only official job he seemed able or authorized to perform, which was to get our names out. (He better hurry up and get promoted, or technology will replace him, assuming it hasn’t already.) That meant we weren’t going to jail.
The game warden opened a notepad and began to write. It wasn’t a shopping list. She wrote each of us a note for $ 118. The quote listed “feed the seagulls and leave garbage under the bench” like our offenses.
I reflected on these offenses as they walked away. How could I be guilty of “leaving” garbage under the bench I was still sitting on? And what suddenly made boxes full of pizzas “trash” – the fact that we and the seagulls were enjoying it?
Mark was not in a contemplative mood. He quickly and silently scanned the quote, then crumpled it furiously into a ball. He got up from the bench, reached out his hand underneath to retrieve the stack of boxes, and began to empty them one by one, throwing the pies on the floor for the birds. Then he threw the boxes and the crumpled ticket into a trash can.
I carefully folded the quote and put it in my pocket. “Aren’t you going to throw this away?” Mark asked, bewildered.
“Are you kidding me?” I answered. “I hope I have a fridge to set this up someday.”
I never paid for this ticket – neither of us did, and we’ll probably be arrested for it someday – but it’s not hanging on my fridge. The quote was just one more thing I couldn’t keep on the street.
We never stopped feeding the birds either. And we never will.
It seems quite ordinary to normal people, but feeding the birds is one of the ways we connect with the Cosmos. I feed the birds in wonder. It is the concept of a internet food made manifest. We get the larger pieces and break the seagulls out of one cut. When they leave, the pigeons move in for the remains. Once the pigeons are done, the finches rush to collect the remaining crumbs, then the insects collect theirs and the microbial organisms clean up the rest.
It’s theCircle of lifeIt is not a crime against nature. HeisNature.