21 June 2012

To Dance With a Bear

Sizzle-wet and sweating drops and drops of precious salt-fuel skin tears, Oleg is a man of action. A man of action and a man of many, many words. “Babble-dee, babbe-dee,” he says and snakes his way past the sugar cane and asphalt.

“Oleg,” says the toothless lizard of a suntanned, defrocked crossing guard, “you got 'dat Slim-Jim you said you's bringin'? I's hungry and I needs my Slim-Jim.”

“Mitty, I left the Slim-Jim back in my office.”

“You mean yer car, slickweed?”

“Yeah, my car.”

The toothless lizard moves from cheek to cheek in his not-so-lofty perch, making a sound like a sunken ore-freighter shifting on the lake bottom.

“Oleg, I smucker you on de puss if'n you don't gimme somethin' right now. Ha!”

“Ha, Mitty. You need to move along and find a new place to sit your sorry ass. I don't have any Slim-Jim or anything else for you.”

Mitty the toothless lizard looks angry and he lifts his middle finger with the dirty nail. This dirty-nailed finger he places on his nose, thumb in mouth and eyes rolled back in his balding, toothless lizard head. If his eyes could pop, they would. His stare is dry and the crumbs of dirt in the corners of his eyes are bits of pop-tart and chocolate jimmy, vintage 1972 through 1977. The golden years. The salad days. The age of wine and roses. Summertime of youth and of Chico and the Man.

His crumb-y eyes blink.

“Precious Oleg,” he says through a productive cough and sputum on the lip, “you 'member how that one little kid done sucked down de' whole packa' pop-rocks and den sucked down de' whole bottle a' soda? He blowed up'n his stomach stuff went ever'wheres. Shit, it was awful.”

“Mitty, that's what they call an urban legend and it isn't true, and you know it. That little kid became the governor of a state or the manager of a Lumpy-Burger in Missouri. He was fine. Those pop-rocks don't blow up your stomach.”

“You sure 'bout 'dat?”

“Absolutely, Mitty. Now get going, OK?”

The sound of a shifting sunken ore-freighter echoes across the parking lot. Oleg and Mitty the toothless lizard stare at each other. Mitty shifts again.

“Bring it tomorrow, you got it?”

“Sure Mitty, whatever.” Oleg identifies the eye-crumb as being from a Zagnut Bar he ate in the autumn of 1976. Precious and unique, but grotesque in its own way. Oleg smiles, and then wrinkles his brow.

Toothless lizard with the balding skull and eye-crumbs creaks to his feet, shambles, disappears. Goes to the liquor store across the street and later in the alleyway pukes up all the spare change he had begged over a salt-soaked morning. Spare change looks like malt liquor in the afternoon light.

Sizzle-wet and sweating drops of action and precious memories like razor-cut lines on a tainted face, Oleg goes back to work and wouldn't even miss the $1.29 for the Slim-Jim.

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