Tuesday, July 26, 2005


In this story we have Marcus, his beat up VW squareback, and a young robber. I'm trying to remember the car (it was a long time ago); I think it was dark orange, rust colored, but I can't be sure.

Marcus was out early one Saturday morning, in a bad part of town. And why? He was just passing through, taking a shortcut (the interstate wasn't finished yet, people actually drove through cities to get to the other side of them, so it's plausible, at least).

Well there was Marcus, stopped at a red light, minding his own business, when who should step up to his window but a robber. A young black kid with a gun, a gun pointing right at Marcus.

"Give me your money, right now," the kid said.

Marcus dug around in his pockets, came up a with a handful of change, maybe two dollars, maybe not even, and offered it to the kid.

"This is what I've got," Marcus said.

"What's this shit?" the robber asked. "I want your wallet, your asshole."

"I don't carry a wallet," Marcus said.


"I don't," Marcus reiterated.

The kid got a little flustered. "Everybody carries a wallet. Don't give me that shit."

"I don't have one."

"Where do you carry your license, your papers?"

"I don't have one," Marcus said. "I don't have a license."

"That's bullshit," the kid said. "You don't have any papers, any license, you'll get tickets."

"I know," Marcus said. "Look."

He bent over to the glove compartment and popped it open.

The kid stuck his head in the window. He was appalled by the mess he saw. The car was filthy. There were empty cigarette packs, candy bar wrappers, soda cans, newspapers, and more junk piled up everywhere. And the glove compartment was overstuffed with traffic tickets.

The kid pulled his head out of the car and stared at Marcus. "What's wrong with you, you crazy or something? I ought shoot you just for that. Put you out of your misery."

Marcus shrugged his shoulders.

The kid put the gun back in waistband. He maintained eye contact but bagan backing away from the car and down the sidewalk.

Marcus looked around. There on the floor, in the back, was a half buried basketball. It's been there since, since before Marcus joined the band, since before he started drugging, since before he smashed his ankle, since before he dropped out of college.

"Wait," Marcus yelled.

The kid was maybe twenty feet away. He froze. "What?" he says. "What do you want, crazy?"

Marcus grabbed the basketball and stepped out of the car. "I've got this, you want it?"

"That's all right," the kid said, and resumed backing away.

"Really." Marcus said, "Just take it. I don't need it. You guys like to play basketball, don't you? Here."

He cocked the ball and prepared to throw it.

"You are fucked up," the kid said. He turned and ran down the sidewalk, around the corner and out of sight.

Marcus looked around. The street was deserted. He bowled the basketball down the center line, a leisurely slow roll, and watched as it slowed and angled toward the curb. The ball kissed the curb, rebounded an inch or two, and stopped. Marcus got back in his car and drove away.

So it all came to nothing and that was that.

I never cared about about the truth of the story. I knew Marcus wasn't exactly George Washington in that department, and besides, I'd only heard it second-hand, so I wasn't about to track Marcus down and grill him on something he'd never tried to convince me of. And even if I had, and he had, that would only have been the half of it. We would never know what the two dollar robber would have to contribute.


The other night LZ and I went out to a late dinner. On our way to be seated we passed a table of people who looked vaguely familiar, but something was out of kilter. The couples didn't match up as I remembered. Then I thought, separation, divorce, dating, cheating, remarriage, business, whatever. I just nodded as we went by. I had no desire to know who was who, or why they were with whoever else, instead of whom they might be expected to be with. I just wanted to eat.

We were seated fairly close to our semi-acquaintances; I had my back to their table. The restaurant was emptying out, it got quiet enough to hear stray phrases, unmoored sentences....
And I realized one of them was telling a story.

"... and Marcus was driving a beat-up cherry red Chevette...." (a chuckle or two from the listeners)

"It was late, probably after midnight, who knew what Marcus was doing out there..." (the snarky drug reference, a knowing laugh)

"...then Marcus looked around, saw a dime on the floor...." (So the basketball had been edited out. I guess the implied racism that underlied that section had to go.)

"The street was full of people , but no one bothered Marcus as he walked back to his car." (a bit of mythmaking, compensating for the loss of the basketball)

LZ hadn't heard any of it. I didn't bother to tell her. She's got no use for Marcus, or for that past.

As they got up to leave, I heard one last bit.

"I'm, not sure, rumor has it he ran off with babysitter and is living in a cottage in Wales, by the coast, in one of those towns you can't spell, much less pronounce."

Not even close, I thought. But not a bad ending, considering.

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?