Monday, May 16, 2011

Dimes and nickels

He scurried across the parking lot and around the building; right after the woman on the previous shift bolted for home and left me to stand watch over the gadgets and geegaws that make radio magic.

He had a half-empty cigarette pack in his hand and I thought, "This is it." I grabbed a pack of cigarettes, a lighter and went out after him.

He looked up from the ash container as I came around the corner, smiled harmlessly as I lit a cigarette and tried not to inhale.

"Just getting the spares," he mumbled then pushed two half-smoked butts into his flimsy, little paper box.

I nodded. I wasn't stopping him.

Up close, he seemed taller and poorly fed --a scarecrow stretched too far on too little straw.

"Hey," I said, as he walked away. "I'm not hassling you, but I see you over across the street most nights when I leave. I guess that makes us neighbors here. My name is Bill. What's your name?"

He smiled an ancient and ruined smile with teeth like collapsed pillars then said, "Elsa."

"Eldon?" I asked.

"Elsa," he repeated then slunk away, across the street and under the poor shelter he'd chosen.

I watched him go then went to the urn and dropped two cigarettes, unburned into the can --for later --a kind of neighborly gesture maybe.

Inside, I looked up the name Elsa. It's a girl's name, a derivation of Elizabeth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Elsa took the place of Aqualung in Charleston. He's one of the very few who wont bum money or cigarettes for any reason. Many know him as "Top Gun"