I sat on the sidewalk outside Mulvey’s. It was on the sunny side of the street, and I was getting warm. Mulvey’s had wide glass windows with white faced, eyeless dolls propped up behind them. The dolls were dressed up pretty much as I was, except my clothes were lived in, theirs were cleaner and brighter. You couldn’t tell if the dolls were male or female, except some carried handbags over the shoulder, and others had back packs on their backs.
People were going in and out of the store, stepping up onto the entryway step beside where I was sitting in the sun. When they pulled the door open and went in, the bell dinged. It dinged again when they came out and stepped down onto the sidewalk beside where I sat. Most did not notice me or pretended they did not notice me. Not noticing me was more honest and easier to take, but made me feel invisible. Pretending made everybody uncomfortable.
The easiest to take were the ones like the skinny blonde woman with orange cheeks and clotted eyelashes. She went into Mulvey’s about once a week. She is a socialite in Great City, and has her nails and toes done at Barbs. When I am odd-job landscaping at the golf course, sometimes I see her with her husband, a tall fellow who takes off his cowboy hat and hands it to her when he t’s off. She hands it back as they watch the ball drift off into the rough. Her father is a bishop up in the Benches West Development. She drives a yellow car that has butterflies painted on the door panel. She is usually wearing tight jeans, faded and torn across the knees. She walks like she knows she has something to show. But, like I say, she is skinny.
She parked on the street and did not put anything in the meter. I saw Dotty, the meter maid, coming. She’s a minor fuzz nut, but she’s not paid to hassle people on the street. Her job is ticketing cars. She pretty much sticks to what she gets paid for. I had thirty-two cents so I slipped up and dropped a coin in the meter, like I do for all the expired in a situation like that if I can. Dotty went past shaking her head.
“Save your change for church, Cupcake” Dotty said. “Blonde ain’t worth the dime.”
“Thanks, Dotty,” I said. “Money in a church plate doesn’t keep wolfs or meter maids or cops like Jerry off people’s backs.” Jerry is a massive fuzz nut we both know. Jerry does a lot more fuzz nutting than he gets paid for. Doty snorted and walked on, with her ticket book flopping in her left hand. I didn’t tell her I put a quarter in. It was all I had that would go in, the other seven cents was pennies. It wouldn’t have made either of us a better person to know that. I didn’t tell her it didn’t matter what the blond with clotted eyelashes was worth. She did not need fuzz nutting any more than any one else.
When the blond woman with the clotted eyelashes stepped up to open the door into Mulvey’s she had been a pretender. But, when she came out, before stepping down from the entryway, she stopped. She turned and looked above my head at something that is suppose not to be me, almost like she was a pretender. Her upper lip curled, and she said, “haven’t you got a job yet.” Then she swung her head forward over me and stepped down from the entryway and walked to her yellow, butterfly car. I did not tell her I had two jobs once upon a time. One of them required whiskey to tolerate. The other one I quit because someone with kids needed it more than I wanted it. Telling her these things would not make any difference to her.
The manager of Mulvey’s is Rick. Rick is a rolly-polly guy who seems to bounce everywhere except when he is standing still. If you watch him in the store, he is bouncing and dashing around, grinning at customers and helping his employees fit them with Trypli button down shirts and Sologo six-pocket hunting jackets. The other employees treat him like a dolty old uncle. They smirk and giggle behind his back. But it is kind smirking and giggling. You can tell they like working for him, and it is pleasant to see people who are liking what they do.
On this particular fall day he came out and stood in the entryway. He looked up at the mountains at the end of Main Street. He took a deep breath and let it out. He was not grinning at anything. The clock above the church was on 12:32, which was about his usual noontime visit to the entryway.
He looked down at me. “You doin’ OK today?”
“Can’t complain,” I said to him.
“You got it good.” He looked up at the mountains where the aspen were scattered yellow patches, like sunlight, in the dark pine and fir.
“Well, I got it,” I said. I did not say “good.” We both knew I meant something that was not quite good but that neither of us would give up if we had it.
“You eat yet today?”
“Olivia’s this morning,” I said. If I told him I ate scraps of a stale, leftover sandwich I saved from yesterday’s feed at the shelter, he would hand me a ten and tell me to go get something.
“That is probably a lie,” he said. He flashed his grin at me, but it was real.
“Not completely,” I said.
He went go back into the store and after a bit, came out with a paper grocery sack. He sat on the entryway step and opened the sack and took out a sandwich wrapped in wax paper. He unwrapped the paper and took out the sandwich. He broke the sandwich in half and handed me one piece of it.
He folded the paper and dropped it into the grocery sack. “Liars can’t be choosers,” he said. He bit into the half sandwich.
“Good sandwich,” I said.
We sat in the sunlight eating the sandwich. The clock above the church was on 1:03. He had a box with a straw in it. He held it out to me, and I shook my head.
He shook it at me. “I’ve drunk whiskey from a bottle around a campfire,” he said. “You think a saint sucking on a straw is going to make me any sicker than I already am?”
I took the box and sipped and handed it back to him. I did not tell him that I was not a saint. It would not do any good. He has called me saint for quite some time. It is something I have to endure.