On The Boulevard

On The Boulevard: The Dumpster

It was 3:30 in the morning. Simone and Dum-Dum sat at the entrance to the alley-way watching the late night traffic on the boulevard. Dum-Dum reached into his trousers and took out his stash bottle of Maddog 20-20, uncapped it and took a long pull on the jug. Rivulets of red ran down his whiskered chin. Simone tapped him on the shoulder and motioned toward the bottle. Dum-Dum thought about the long, dreary night ahead without liquid warmth and shook his head. He took another hit off the jug. Simone stared into the street, looked back into the alley and saw the dumpster. He fingered the blade in his pocket. With what passed for a thought to a ravaged wino, Simone withdrew the shank from his pocket, unsheathed it, and in what seemed to be one fluid movement, grabbed the jug of wine from Dum-Dum and plunged the blade into the old man’s chest. He steadied the bottle and stabbed Dum-Dum again, again and again.

The passion slipped away. There was a death rattle that issued forth from DumDum’s throat. Simone leaned back and took a long pull from what was now his bottle, wiped the blade on the other wino’s shirt and put it away. He rifled the dead man’s pockets for cash and smokes. Half a pack of cigarettes and two buck. Great night. He sucked on the bottle again.

He carefully placed the jug by the wall, grabbed the body by the feet and dragged it towards the dumpster. At the dumpster he paused. He examined DumDum’s shoes with care and pulled them off. Checked to see if they fit. Too damn small. Disgustedly, he tossed them into the dumpster. Hefted the frail body, and there was a thump and the rustling of garbage as the body disappeared into it’s metal grave in the dark alley.

Simone grabbed the jug and took one last pull, draining the spider. He looked at the bottle reverently and, like the symbolic handful of dirt thrown into a new grave, he tossed the empty jug into the metal tomb. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Simone casually meandered down the boulevard. Sweet wine dreams drifted through his head. He disappeared into the early morning dark. The sun was just tipping over the horizon as Jake and Anna wheeled their shopping cart down the boulevard, both of them keeping a keen eye out for deposit bottles. They arrived at the entrance to the alley and saw the dumpster in the light of the dawn.

Jake signalled to Anna, winked and made his way down the alley to the dumpster and peered in. He saw it. A case of empty beer cans. Couldn’t quite reach it so he climbed into the dumpster. His foot struck something soft as he reached down for the cans. Something was in his way. He rolled it aside. Dum-Dum’s blank eyes stared up at him. Jake paused for a minute. Looked down the alley to check on Anna and then rifled the pockets of the dead man. Shit, empty. He reached for the cans, rolled the body out of the way. Using Dum-Dum’s face as a stepping stone, he climbed out of the dumpster. He hefted the case of cans and smiled as he walked toward Anna. They had enough deposit cans for a jug of wine. It was going to be a great day.

On The Boulevard: Angels In The Snow

“We save things when it is perhaps ourselves we mean to save from extinction, from time; we hold on to what we have lived, hoping to stall the hangman.”Dan Woods.

The frigid wind whipped Bobby’s face as he pushed open the door of the package store. Sleet beat a staccato rhythm on his skin and he clutched the bottle tightly against his body. His worn winter coat was no defense against the biting cold. The temperature had plummeted into the sub-zero zone as the day wore on. The sky darkened and the city became a neon freezer. Bobby ducked into a nearby alley and took a long pull from his jug. He walked down the boulevard as the storm came in, the powdery snow blanketing the city with a vengeance. As Bobby trekked the boulevard, he saw Anna moving slowly toward him, laboriously pushing her heavy shopping cart through the freshly fallen snow. He greeted her with a nod and a toothless grin. She stared blankly ahead and moved her lips soundlessly.

A few days past, or was it weeks now? It was hard for Anna to remember. She had been roused from her chemical stupor by the feeling of weight and wetness. Her long time lover and partner, Jake, was lying across her body, the odor of stale urine had been overpowering. She rolled him off of her. His face was frozen into a horrifying grimace. Jake was dead.

The screaming had started in her head. Anna remembered being taken away in the haze. The screaming would not stop. They stuck her with needles, strapped down in a windowless room, her tongue swollen from Haldol. She choked. They gave her Cogentin to alleviate the muscle-stiffening side effects of the powerful tranquilizer. Her screaming had shaken the psych ward. One day her vocal cords simply wore out. She could no longer scream out loud. Thinking Anna had finally come to grips, they gave her a bottle of pills and sent her home to the streets.

Anna walked past Bobby. He was like a ghost in the night. Something wet and cold peppered her face. Her lips moved bu no sound came out. The screaming still echoed in the stripped corners of her mind. She found herself hoping Jake would come back soon. Bobby walked past and shook his head. The snow was getting deeper, soft powdery fluff. He remembered when he was a child. This was his favorite kind of snow. He used to lie down and make angels in the snow. Bobby moved down the boulevard, occasionally taking a tug from the bottle. He felt so overwhelmingly lonely. He could no longer feel his feet; he seemed to be walking on wooden blocks. He rubbed his face and stared at his reflection in a darkened store window. There were white blotches all over his cheeks. He shivered violently and almost dropped the bottle. His fingers were numb.

He moved into the alley to get out of the biting wind. The thought of a shelter briefly crossed his mind, but he cast it out of his mind immediately. They wouldn’t let him finish his bottle there. He felt so tired. He sat down in the snow that covered the floor of the dark alleyu, held the jug between his palms, and drank deeply of the liquid relief. His fingers no longer ached from the cold. In fact, he could no longer feel them. The wind howled, the snow fell and the temperature continued to drop. The snow piled up around Bobby and he began to feel a new warmth. He remembered when he was a child. This was great stuff, this kind of snow. Bobby used to make angels in the snow. He stretched out, extending and moving his arms and legs in his head. The bottle vanished in the snow. He felt so wonderfully warm. He dreamed he was making angels in the snow, and like the snow, he drifted. He lay still and the snow covered his face. Bobby was an angel in the snow.


On The Boulevard: Just A Working Girl

“Their eyes stay open. Nothing can carry them into the sleep they want. Over and over I prepare the potion to take the sisters into the other world. They can’t get enough of obllivion.”from the poem Snow White published in the book “Resurrection” by Nicole Cooley, 1996

Dawn felt for the door handle. She could feel the john staring at her. There was no way she was going to meet his pig eyes with hers. The money was in her pouch. She opened the car door and stepped out onto the boulevard. She heard the car pulling away and spit twice in rapid succession but the foul taste lingered in her mouth. The boulevard was quiet. The sun was just peeking over the horizon. It was just past 5:30 in the AM. Dawn was having trouble getting rid of the feelings, the heroin just wasn’t working like it once did. Maybe she should up her dose. No, no, not again. It was hard to keep up her nine bag a day habit as it was. If she increased it, then it would mean one more date a night. She was having trouble dealing with those creepy, night-crawling johns now. The last thing she wanted to do was to add one more to her agenda. She felt tears coming to her eye corners, rubbed them away. She wished it was as easy to wipe away the hollow ache in her chest.

Dawn saw the newspaper truck pull up and dump its load in front of the smut and tobacco shop. She passed the pile of papers and looked at the front page. It was the 7th of August. The old feelings came like a mighty flood. For one thing, it was the anniversary of her grandmother’s death. She headed toward the old stone church and twisted the Rosary that hung on her wrist.

As Dawn entered the church, she smelled the incense. It brought her back to when she was younger. She remembered attending Mass with her grandmother. She would sit and watch the pomp and ceremony in quiet fascination. Those were happier days. It seemed that, all of a sudden, her grandmother began to experience rapid weight loss. One day she had been rushed to the hospital. She had never come out. Dawn’s life had changed from that day on. She was placed in foster home after foster home. She remembered the strange smelling stepfather coming in and touching her private places in the middle of the night. Then there was the running from place to place, bus station to train station. No matter how fast and far she went, there was no way to get away from the feelings that felt like they were stabbing her heart. Then she came to the big city. There was the man who whispered; the heroin, the heroin, and the feelings retreated into the dark night of
her dying soul.

Dawn was sitting in the rear pew. She heard a noise and looked up. A priest was walking towards her. She sat still and watched him approach for a moment. She wanted to stay, to talk to him, she felt the tears coming. Then the panic slammed into her like a locomotive. The priest was a man. If he pulled down his zipper he would be like all the others. She was crying, she was running, she was flying through the door of the church. Dawn ran down the street. Her high heels twisted her ankles as she ran. She was dope-sick. Her feelings rose from the burial ground. Tears blurred her vision. She was gutwrenched with the agony of her long submerged awareness. She didn’t see Anna pushing her shopping cart, mumbling to herself. She didn’t see the garbage on the boulevard. An alley cat jumped quickly out of her way as she ran.

She wasn’t running fast enough, her feelings were keeping the pace. They passed her. They overwhelmed her. She saw the alley. She rounded the corner and entered it, ran past the dumpster, and she was hidden by the dumpster from the street. Dawn sobbed those deep cries wrenched from the depth of her gut. She fell to her knees next to the dumpster and clutched the rosary tightly. She was praying to a God that she did not understand. She prayed for the soul that was dying daily within her. She was crying into the sad empty morning. A fix, she needed a fix. She knew it was the only birthday present she was going to get.

Her body was wracked with convulsive crying as she remembered that her grandmother had died on her birthday. Yes, it was her birthday today, a celebration of sorrow. After all, she was just a working girl, only time for a fix and a prayer between the johns and the tears. How fitting a present for a working girl on her fifteenth birthday. Dawn kneeled in the shade of the dumpster in the alley. Nearby, a tattered alley cat cleaned it’s paws with a rough tongue.