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Sepia and the White Devil
4:50 A.M., Thursday, 7/13/17

I do not know her name.

According to my Crayon box, she is the color called Sepia, similar to what used to be called burnt sienna.

Her natural hair, in a woolen puff above the diadem she used to confine it above her ears, made her appear well over six feet. But when she stood she was not much taller than I.

Her face had the lines of a small Irish girl, the effect of her hair giving her the countenance of Cindy Lou Who from the cartoon The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

She "slept" cross-legged on the black, plastic bench under the bus shelter.

Her small breasts and slim belly were tastefully dressed in a pink knit top, laced to the collar, something my Grandmother LaFond would have worn.

Her shoulders were softly rounded under her white, knit shawl, precisely the kind of throw garment my dear grandmother used to knit, even after she lost her sight.

Her long, shapely legs were mostly covered by new, hemmed jean shorts that ran nearly to her knees.

Her feet seemed kind of large for such a pretty girl, her pink-painted toes visible in her heavy sandals.

As I approached, she raised her head from her tear-streaked shins and regarded me with some concern.

When I came to stop before the three-sided shelter and stood as far away as I could without stepping off the curb into the street, she turned her head with a sniffle, and resumed her silent crying, demonstrating yoga-like flexibility as she laid her cheek on her crossed shin.

At what appeared to be 20 years, she possessed a body which had not born a child, an astonishing act for a black woman in or around Baltimore.

A ghetto girl possessing her classic charms would have employed less than half the clothing and would display hooped earrings to her shoulders.

She clutched a small purse, hidden under the shawl that draped her bare shoulders. Nothing about this woman added up. It was as if a suburban white woman had been yanked out of a good housekeeping commercial from my childhood and placed in a postmodern African American body by some mean-spirited deity.

I scanned the perimeter out to a hundred yards and stargazed, able to see only the three-quarter moon behind scudding cloud in the southern sky and a planet I presumed was Venus, rising ahead of the coming sun in the east.

Her voice came in Standard English with a bit of a country drawl, “Sir, do you know the time?”

“Yes, miss, it’s five of. Are you waiting for the bus?”

“I’m homeless. Does this bus go to the hospital?”

“Yes, Franklin Square is the midpoint transfer. It goes through there going both ways. Are you alright? Have you been here all night?”

“I’m not injured, just exhausted. Those hoodlum boys on their bikes were cussing me and threatening me, calling me a B and telling me to take the bus out of here before they come back.”

“This is really the safest stop, with the police precinct across the street. Did they touch you?”

“They said they would—all of 15-years-old—smoking their blunts and circling me like sharks.”

“I wish you luck finding a place.”

“Thank you, sir,” she said as she rose wearily to stand next to me.

“Look, Miss, whatever you do, don’t use the stop down at the next light after dark. I’ve had boys and young men try me down there at least once a month.”

The bus was rocking towards us with Little Dave and the working adults headed out to earn their way.

She looked slightly down into my eyes as her cheeks shed a pair of tears and said, “Oh, they won’t leave you alone until you whoop their asses.”

“Oh, I’m getting kind of old for that business.”

She nodded at my cane and then my shoulders, “That’s what that cane is for, isn’t it?”

“Yes indeed, young lady, it is.”

The driver, dark and muscular with a whitening beard, said, “Good morning,” to both of us and we took our separate seats.

I glanced in the opposite window a few seats back, and saw her reflection behind me, four seats to the rear, wiping away her tears with a napkin from a small hand bag she must have had hidden under her shawl along with the delicate purse.

She was probably dry after crying all night in that heat. I had a Gatorade bought for my workout with Big Ron today. After taking it out of the backpack that Mescaline Franklin gave me three years ago, I checked my wallet. Yesterday, when sorting books donated by readers, I found four $20s in a history book and had placed one in my wallet.

I wanted to give her my email or phone number in case she needed help, but she would suspect me of desire, being smart enough to know she was the kind of black girl that older white men found attractive. Besides, she seemed to be without a phone.

I walked back and placed the $20 and the Gatorade on the seat between her and her handbag and headed back up front as she thanked me.

Fifteen minutes later, as she passed me to offload at the hospital, she stopped, still sniffling and said, “Thank you so much, sir.”

I returned, “Take care of yourself now.”

I wondered if I had done the right thing as I saw her walking across to the hospital lobby. I still don’t know if I did. However, as the bus driver held out his big hand to steady me as he banked over to the stop, worried that the cane denoted poor footing, I considered the fact that this world was designed to turn me into a hermit and her into a hoodrat hatching whore and that she and I are fighting the same enemy, a soul-eating monster that straddles far more of this world than our sweltering den of sloth and delusion. She still had some chance of avoiding her toxic purpose and I suppose, having failed to outpace mine, she, as sad as she was, represented a life not yet in ruins.

Skulker Jones: A Tale of Dark Deviltry at the End of Caucasian Time

Skulker Jones is the sequel to A Hoodrat Halloween and an urban horror tale of a failed man looking for a final saving grace.

Add Comment
LaManoJuly 13, 2017 7:36 PM UTC

Man Danger Zone alert!

She's not a panhandler, she COULD be real. LIKELY is real, but could be a very sharp grifter that got $20 off you the only way you would ever give a homeless person $20.

I mean, it's a huge world out there. Why is a worthy, decent girl finding herself sleeping under a bus shelter in the middle of Harm City? There are a thousand towns and places and people around this country where she could BE helped and show whatever worth she's got. She's probably seen TV, she knows that the whole world isn't a shithole like that ... five days walking, getting a ride from a church or something, and she's in a different world that doesn't treat her like that. Why isn't she on her way?

If she IS real, and you find yourself wondering about her and maybe sort of looking for her, and thinking of ways you could help her ...

... just be careful. Been down that road, burned hard, never again ....
KoanicJuly 13, 2017 4:26 PM UTC

It was designed to turn me into a hermit too, my friend.