Tommy sits on the curb, facing the door to the coffee shop. As I pass by he takes the cigarette out of his mouth and yells like a chainsaw, “Hi sweetheart.”
He’s drinking a “sodie” if he can afford it, or a free cup of water from the shop. I wonder how many red plaid shirts he owns. It’s a midwinter treat when he dons the matching pants.
Townies say he’s in his fifties. A shitload of bad choices has added a couple of decades and subtracted several teeth. Sitting on that curb takes up a chunk of his day. I don’t know what he does with the rest of the time.
A couple of years ago he won ten grand off a scratch ticket. For the better part of two months he seemed to avoid his usual perch. You’d see him around town — on the bench outside the post office, sitting by the entrance to the 7-Eleven, walking his cowboy walk up and down Main Street — not any spiffier than when he was broke, but always with a sodie in hand.
Then, one day, having come to the end of his grand tour, he returned to his post, smack dab in front of the coffee shop, smoking butts.
Ena faces the ground, her neck permanently bent at ninety degrees. She can’t lift her bald head. Her view is all grass and asphalt and pavement. I wonder what she thinks of my boots. In conversation, she turns her face up and to the left. A sideways glance that appears mischievous.
I don’t know what she carries in the plastic grocery bags, but I’m sure it’s all useful. She claims she is an alien. Her last name is Starshine. Why would I doubt it? I’d guess her age, just like Tommy’s, to be somewhere between fifty-five and infinity.
One day at the coffee shop, rather than change and crumpled bills, she handed the girl behind the counter a debit card with the embossed name Deborah Smith. She said it was her “real name.” Planets collided in that moment. And, just for a second, the world skipped a beat.
She’s never used that card since, and no one mentions it. Her name is Ena Starshine.
Before the final straw, the day he raged at the patrons and got kicked out for good, Harry the crossdresser used to sit at the table nearest the counter and talk to June while she worked.
He once told her that his dream was to own a family of mannequins — reasoning that if he put his energies into dressing them, he would kill his own urge to dress like a woman. Someone told him that urge was sin.
Driving down the street, I passed by Harry lying face up on someone’s lawn with a bag of golf clubs beside him. Eyes closed, he held a cardboard sign on his chest with the word “Bethhoven” written in thick black marker. When I circled around to see if he was okay, he was gone.
Harry has great gams, and looks fabulous as a dame, even when he has a beard. When he’s dressed like a guy, he’s a mean motherfucker of a senior citizen. But when he’s Dorothy, complete with Toto in a basket, I kind of believe in hitchhiking to the land of Beethoven where a guy can have his very own mannequin family.
Photo by HTO (Own work (own photo)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
Mannequins photo by Martpan (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.