Ever go to give a bum or panhandler a quick buck to ease your soul and go easy on yourself and forget you got no cash or worse, only have a $5 or higher? And by that time he’s been eyeballing every move from the median strip because that’s what he has to do. And he’s seen you lift up your right ass cheek because that’s where you keep your wallet and he starts your way then quickly eases his gait not wanting to seem too eager with one eye on the light. And you pull it out. And you open it up.
Leather wallets and money each have their own smell; dusty, stale and used. It’s from being handled, passed around and stuffed under our asses. What do we call beggars, panhandlers, these days? Bastards? Bums? Or “This Guy” as in “Jesus Christ, look at This Guy”? I’ve heard people say they never give them money, it’s like feeding a stray cat, it only encourages them and why hell they make about 60k a year. All untaxed. Nice work if you can get it.
I don’t think most people have what it takes to act in that drama every day. Sleeping outside is fun until you have to. And even if it is an act, do you have the guts to do it, the unbowed stamina, and the enduring courage?
I think of Nutmeg during these encounters. Nutmeg is one of my rescue dogs. Every time we pass a sewer trough that runs into a little tunnel she has to stop, go over and sniff it. She sleeps under the futon, hidden by the overhanging blanket, while my other dog, Addie, always sleeps up top. My boys and I say Nutmeg must have found shelter in the storm drains when she was a stray. On our walks she stops and sniffs every one we pass. She’s either remembering or casing them. Nutmeg is not human and humans are not dogs. They are both living creatures, though.
All I had was a $5. But I had committed. I was all in. I couldn’t finger my phone for the latest score, bombing or breach of civility nor could I gaze off into the distance beyond behind my sunglasses on this cloudy day. He thanked me for rolling down my window. I wondered how long my car horn would sound before someone pulled my head off of the steering wheel as a bullet cooled in my left temple. Thank you, sir, he said accepting my tithe, and handed me a small, orange piece of paper with writing on it. It read: IF YOU HAVE FAMILY PROBLEMS, PROBLEMS WITH DRUGS or ALCOHOL THEN COME!!! FIRST CALL ON JESUS, THEN CALL US. I didn’t smell it. It would be dusty, stale and used soon enough.