“No, you see, it holds fifteen clips. You just aim it and…” He performed a gesture of swishing his cocked hand back and forth while making a rattatat sound. “Just spray and pray. I have a huge selections of semi-automatics. I love guns.”
They sat across from me during the slow bus ride downtown. Save for us three, there was no one else on the bus. The gun aficionado was a roly-poly built goober with cascading black hair that reached his ample hips. He looked like the actor/director Tom Savini had really let himself go. Clad in double denim, his nasal voice reverberated throughout the stale air of the bus.
“Just love them. I really, really do.”
“And what kind was that?” Asked his slender companion. He toted a small black terrier on a leash. A yappy and over excitable mongrel who darted about at the tethers length. The scrawny man wore tinted aviator sunglasses and acid was denim jeans with sandals. His chinless face was smooth and pale, he had a small mustache and his hairline receded.
“A Colt .45 automatic. You ever seen it?”
“It’s a pistol?”
“Yeah. You ever seen it?”
“Nah. I don’t really carry guns. I carry knives.” His lanky friend interjected without really hearing the question.
“Have you seen The Expendables? There’s a dude with a Colt .45 automatic…”
The one with the dog retrieved a nasty looking machete hidden in the deep recesses of his acid washed back side. He nonchalantly flashed it toward his friend. A silver and curved blade attached to a black leather handle with light green highlights.
“Woah. That’s sweet. You think that’s a knife? This is a knife!” He nasally repeated in a horrible Aussie accent as he chuckled.
“Yeah. No one under thirty is going to get that reference. It’s a stupid movie, anyway. I mean, it was okay…but it was bad, too.”
I hit downtown on a tranquil Sunday morning. It already being 11am and everything still closed. On deserted sidewalks, I dodged glistening pools left after the day’s prior monsoon downpour. The most upsetting aspect was the silence…the solitude. Years ago when I was in Tucson, the downtown area, especially around the Public Library, was abundant with homeless people milling about. Where have they gone? With any indication of the over populated shelter, there is no shortage of bored tramps, I find it simply weird there are not as many congregating out on the street. Is the government abducting them and hauling them off to desert concentration camps for liquidation? Have they been swept away by some unknown virus? Aliens? I simply find it odd, that’s all.
Anyways… I made my way through those echoing streets and over toward The Z Mansion. A historically hysterical château of baby blue that stages a hobo brunch every Sunday morning. Passing through ominous spiked iron gates, I entered the back patio covered in shady trees with about one hundred or less people milling about.
As soon as I entered, some crippled slob thrusts a leaking trash bag at me and gruffly orders me to “take out da trash, my leg hurtin’!” He obviously assumed I was a volunteer. Befuddled, I carried the dripping plastic bag out back, leaving a slimy trail in my wake across the hardwood floor of the stately manor. When I tossed the bag into one of three dumpsters in an alley, an ancient and pinch-faced nun poked her head out of a window and said, “Hey! That trash is for plastics and recyclables! Put the bag in the other dumpster!” She sneered and rolled her eyes at me like I was guilty of molesting one of her favorite choir boys. I hollered back up into the window, “Why you looking at me like that? Shit, this ain’t even my job, lady!”
After washing my hands in the co-ed bathroom (opens door to a wrinkled, smiling hag squatting with dingy panties around her ankles on the toilet “Oopsies! Forgot to lock it! Tee hee!” Slam!) I attempted to find a chair at the thirty or so round tables spread throughout the patio. I noticed a handsome young Latino sitting alone. I had seen him before at the shelter. A couple of days ago, he was outside in the fenced smoking area of the shelter toking on weed and ignorantly offered to a shelter staff member. Anyone that stupid should make good conversation.
“Hey…how’s it going?” I casually asked, brushing fallen leaves from plastic and aluminum folding chair.
“All right. This is my second time here.” He smiled taking a sip of lemonade offered by a prowling volunteer. He was elfish in his looks. Thin, aquiline face, a splash of light brown freckles across a thin nose. Jet black hair cut short on the sides and back but moppy on the top.
“Yeah? I recognize you from the shelter. You’re The Weed Kid.”
“The Weed Kid? Ha-ha…I’m now known as The Weed Kid?”
I divulged a humorous and detailed account of the gossip concerning his faux pa.
“Well, I thought…” Slam! A ruddy hand slammed a styrofoam cup of whiskey scented soda onto the table at me left. It was one of those large cups from a convenient store which held cheap fountain sodas or Slurpees.
I glanced up to see a drunk as fuck white man in his fifties towering over me. He stared out into the jostling mob. I turned back to that charming lad, “I thought you knew he was a staff member. The good thing is, nothing dire came of it.”
“Yeah, I got off with a warning.”
“You could had lost your bunk, perhaps…” Slam!
Again, the lanky drunk took a sip and slammed his styrofoam cup down onto the table. He began to wobble away.
I uttered at him, “You can slam that cup down all you want, it’s not going to make the ice any colder.”
“Wut?” He asked cross-eyed.
“Why do you keep slamming that cup down on this table?” I asked slowly and clearly as one who would attempt to confer with a retarded child.
He turned and inebriatingly lumbered back towards me, vainly attempting to appear menacing. “Cuz this is me and muh frens table. We went out ta smoke an we were sittin here first…”
I smirked and stated calmly with my palm out and up, “Man, that’s all you had to say. No need for b-movie dramatics.”
“I thought I told ya that…” Again, he was attempting to test me.
“No. You simply kept slamming your cup down while we were talking.” I said matter of factly.
“Well…anyway, get the fuck up an find anudder seat.” He interjected with a fist and thumb jerking up over his shoulder.
“Okay.” I smiled. “You want your seat?”
“Yeah.” He glared. His breath smelled of stale beer and Cheetos.
I smiled and nonchalantly got up and as soon as I did, I grabbed the plastic and metal chair and hurled it at the miserable fucking drunk. The metal leg and hard plastic back smashed into his chest and chin, causing him to reel back into potted ferns.
“Take it fucking back, then!” I shouted in pent-up fury.
The old drunk floundered akimbo in the plants as all hell broke loose. The Weed Kid faded into the crowd as several nuns raced out of their warrens and ordered me to leave or they would call the cops. I left. Fuck them. Fuck all those bitter, insufferable slobs.
I sat discontent at a nearby bus stop bench under the shadow of an awning. There wasn’t a car or soul on the street. The afternoon sun was bright and beat down through a cloudless blue sky. Next to me, silent and cool as a mannequin, lounged a boney black man in wrap around shades and straw fedora. He seemed very old as his trimmed facial hair had turned white with age. He clasped both ashy, gnarled hands onto the glass orbed handle of an ornate cane made of smooth wood.
I sat and smoked my last cigarette. For I was now broke without anything to my name.
After a bit, he rasped, “You smoke weed?”
“You got any?” I coughed.
“Yeah. Wanna smoke?”
We sat the remainder of the afternoon at that lonely bench smoking harsh weed and recounting lurid anecdotes of where we had been and where we were going. His name being Steve, explained his recent relocation from Buffalo, New York to Tucson in lieu of him being anemic and constantly being cold. That may be true, but other points of his narratives revealed a nasty crack habit and a mean spirit so I think he was simply escaping to start a new.
But, then again, aren’t we all?
Higher than shit, I thanked Steve for the smoke and, strictly from the case of the munchies, darted into a sandwich shop for a cheap hoagie. Afterwards, I ambled about Old Tucson taking snapshots of adobe structures inhabited by the ghosts of cowboys and indians...