I Only go Because I Need

I looked at the clock on the tower behind the big church, and it was 11:32. It was five hours and twenty-eight minutes until they served at the shelter. I crossed Main and went up 2nd past the fruity tutti bar. Everybody knows me here and just scowl and tell me to move along. They know I’m not buying. I don’t mean anything to them. I walk on into the residentials. People were washing cars and mowing lawns and smoking cigarettes and pushing kids in a swing. They all watched me. I tried not to show much, but they all watched. I could tell. I can feel when I am being watched. I could tell. A child was selling lemonade and chocolate chip cookies.

I stopped and looked at the cookies. I had not eaten since yesterday at 4:42 p.m. Yesterday.

“You want a cookie,” the child said. “Two dollars.”

“I don’t have two dollars,” I told her.

“Well, how much you got?”

I felt around in my pockets. I pulled out some coins, nickels and pennies. “eighteen cents,” I told her.

“You can’t buy nothing for eighteen cents,” she said.

She was right about that.

“You’re right,” I said.

“Most people have more than eighteen cents,” she said.

She was right about that too.

“It’s the most I have had in three days.”

A man opened a door from a house, and he stood in the doorway.

Finally he said, “Hey, you, Cisco, what’re you doing.”

“Nothing,” I said. I did not tell him my name was not Cisco. I did not think it would matter.

“I seen some crazy spic stunts in my life, but shaking down a lemonade stand takes the cake.”

I shrugged and put the eighteen cents on the table beside the jug of lemonade. I did not tell him to got to hell. I shrugged and walked off.

“Hey, hey, you, you, stop.”

But I did not stop. He did not have anything to say that needed hearing. And what needed saying I would not say. If he thought I was a foreigner, nothing I said, needed or not, mattered anyway.

“I’m calling the cops. You, stop.”

“He didn’t take anything, Daddy,” the kid said.

But he did not hear what she was saying either.

“Filthy Mexican bum, go back to where you crawled out from under from.”

“He left his eighteen cents,” the child said.

“Jesus, these scum think they can just walk around and steal candy from kids. Jesus.”

“Hey, your eighteen cents,” the child yelled at me.

I waved my hand.

“You can have a cookie for fifteen cents,” the child said.

I waved again.

The man was fuming and he shouted, “You cheap bastard. Fifteen cents is all for a cookie? You cheap spic bastard. Jesus, the scum. . . .”

Pretty soon I couldn’t hear him fuming any more.

I should never have gone into the residentials. I knew that. There was nothing there but people with things they think you are going to take from them. But I go there because I hope maybe there is a kid or a woman or a queer or somebody who will see me without thinking I am going to slaughter them and eat them, somene who might sell me a cookie for 15 cents. Much as I need the cookie, it’s not the cookie. What I needed more than a cookie is somebody out there who doesn’t give a shit how much they sell a cookie for. So I guess the day wasn’t a total loss.


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