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Meat-Puppet on Frayed Strings
A Glimpse at Life Beyond the System: 3-4:30 P.M., 11/27/16
Originally titled, ‘Bone-on-Bone, Baby!’
Saving Face While Losing Your Ass
The other day I walked to the dollar store. No, to say that I walked is to polish a chunk of coal and call it a diamond.
When I need to get somewhere I wear boots.
When I am walking to lengthen my seizing leg and hip muscles I wear sneakers and waddle like an undersized gorilla who has forgotten how to knuckle walk.
Having finally reached the store and in the process of checking out, I spotted Ellen in front of me, hobbling out the door with her groceries. I did not say hello, but remained hidden under hat and behind beard and sunglasses and she failed to recognize me.
Ellen and I had a history. She had been my scanning coordinator for those four years when I waxed wroth as the Ghetto Grocer. She was a pitiful sight, suffering from advanced arthritis and two poorly installed knee replacements. Her every step is agony. I recall finding out that one of my meat cutters stole her pain pills from her desk while she was on the floor and seeing red. I tried to lighten Ellen’s day—which I weighted heavily with work according to my function—with a, “Good morning, Ellen.”
To which she would invariably respond, “What’s good about it, Bossman? I can tell you what’s not good about it, bone-on-bone, baby! But what would you know about that, Mister Supperboss—I can stock a whole trailer with one hand behind my back while I fire the assholes that are supposed to do it?”
With this standard rhetorical response in the form of a Jeopardy answer, or by way of some lesser, admonition such as, “What’s good about it, Bossman, we have a nigger for a president—any more good ideas, people?” I would find myself urgently needed elsewhere and march off at a pace that infuriated her.
As Ellen headed for the bus stop, and I recalled that I would have to walk by her, I resolved not to suffer the slings and arrows of this long-suffering bundle of matriarchal misery and instead hobbled off down the back streets, which cut, and end, and go up and down hill and extended my walk into an agonizing experience—anything to avoid the verbal barbs of this cronish creature.
As I backtracked up Richard Street, a mere two blocks of hillside alley, my left side twitching, my head swimming with nausea, I saw the fairest little fairytale house that ever stood in the shadows of hell. This tiny, two-story, turquoise blue house, with painted wood panel face and a slate shingle roof, was not as wide as my 14 foot room and only twice as long. In gay contrast to the gray hell two blocks away, everything about it was quaint and adorable, reflecting the cozy paradise nest that each of the handful of women whom I’ve been very close to have expressed as a desirable goal in life, to wonder away the day in a cozy, forgotten niche in this sick, savage world—the house I uniformly failed to provide.
Before this house I stopped, mouth agape, and stood unevenly, shifting my weight and forgetting how badly I wanted to vomit. I half expected that this house was a delusion thrown up from the childish portion of my subconscious. One would not be surprised to see stuffed animals bustling about behind the windows and discussing dinner on the tiny step porch.
Walking away, up the tiny dead end street, onto a slightly larger, two block-long, dead-end street, in the hopefully insane Christmas garden arrangement that is this hillside in Hamilton, I felt lucky to have seen the house.
A week later, I trekked upon the same therapeutic path, knowing that the heeless sneakers would have me in agony, and that pushing my range of motion by heel-walking on the curbs and other seemingly retarded ambulations, would be a good prelude to a stretch of the hamstrings on my return to the old plantation house that sits atop this house-clothed hillside. The blue dollhouse was there again, an object of meditation, a tiny, pathetic quest in my late afternoon exercise of this body rebroken—part of another mend toward a once-again arrogant state.
As I walk by the Black Lives Matter Racial Justice sign of a militant neighbor of the oppressed kind, it occurs to me, as I heel-toe childlike upon the curb, that although I am less connected to the great thing I hate than most, that I exist in an uninsured, unindebted, non-aligned state that boggles the mind of my friends and relations, that I yet dangle by a few frayed threads that connect me to those who yet dance in the crooked play of an inauthentic life. While lucky to be able to experience life without a safety net, I still teeter on the margins of the stage, have not fallen into homelessness, for instance, like the lost souls who now make homes of Baltimore County bus stop shelters rather than endure the dubious charity of the City which feeds them with one hand and unleashes its black dogs on them with the other.
Today, autumn seems the season most fitting to host this wakeful walk.
Not yet beyond The System, I can see with an uneasy clarity the cold reality beyond its steaming pens.
As I stretch on the porch the sun goes down and the cold sweeps in under a cloud-crowded sky, the sinking sun barely getting the last word of the day. A squad of young enemy bucks, jackets over their heads, saunter on by, glancing up onto the porch as I stand with one foot on the deck and the other on the railing, trimming my fingernails with the skinning knife Ishmael gifted me.
As I enter, I actually walk like a human, the muscles of my lower half temporarily functioning as they once did. Once inside, my roommate, waiting for my return nervously, apologizes for the heat being out, seemingly concerned I’m going to take my rental pittance elsewhere. This man is owed a great deal by the younger gimp at the base of the stair, who he gave a home to when others shunned his weird dollar.
“It’s fine,” I said, “I already showered,” looking up at the vault over the stairwell, looking like a grim, gray palace, a good, warm place to repair the remains of an interesting life.
Thriving in Bad Places
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Add Comment
Sam J.November 27, 2016 7:49 PM UTC

I got a good laugh out of that. James the primevil warrior, devourer of flesh, hiding from the "matriarchal misery".