Jun 21, 2007

The panhandler's vaccuum

The three fans in the pizza shop, the two with working light bulbs and the one with the broken one, were turning at three different speeds. The air stayed the same. The air was stained with the smell of mozarella and sasauge and five flies flew reepeated routes around the room. They went up around the fans and went down to land on the thick sweaty shoulders of the black woman sagging in her halter top.

It looked like it might rain, but it wouldn't.

The clouds covered the sky and the ground gave up steam and every one was walking around as close to naked as they could. The dry cleaner had his button-down shirt unbottoned down to his navel. Kids crossed the parking lots in flip flops and bare bellies. A clerk had his white T hung over his neck. Every one was stripped and sweating except the panhandler.

He was wearing a faded flanel jacket. He was wearing gray wool socks, socks flopping over the tops of his Nikes. He had a woodsman's hat with flaps down over his ears. The bones in his brown face all showed and all the joints in his skinny frame were jerky and he looked like he could shiver even in the hundred degrees. Maybe heroin. Maybe AIDs.

Now, in the winter the man asked for change. In the spring he had a squeege and a towel tucked in his waist band and a bucket and he offered to wash windows. Th bucket was dry though and when someone would say No, he would follow with Spare change? In the summer, wearing his blue gray jacket with the stuffing slipping around inside, he had a vaccuum.

The man had a vaccuum and a screw driver and he was bent double, standing on the half-shaded sidewalk, leaning over the old battered Hoover and dismantling the plastic pieces, opening up the insides to air.

He took out the attachments, two hoses with different shaped mouths. He took off the brushes, wrapped up with dirt and hair and dog hair and carpet threads. He took out a black rubber pulley. He took out a wheel. He took out a bigger wheel. He laid them all down on the side walk. They were laid out like a schematic. Like he was piecing out the vaccuum for something. He put them all out, set them down in a spaced-out arrangement that took on the shape of some unknown, unfathomed machine and he leaned over them, like he was trying to read.

I don't know where he got the vaccuum, what he wanted with it or what he was doing.

A kid walked by in a billowy white T. He looked at the panhandler and the arranged pieces of a former vaccuum and he said, Spare change? and smirked. The hunched-over, heavily dressed man didn't look at the kid, he just fished a couple of quarters and a couple of dimes out and gave them away and went back to dismantling the machine on the hot sidewalk.