Sunday, December 7, 2008

Couches on Curbs

When the young man appeared at the counter at The Coop it was ten minutes before closing and the owner, Joe, had his back turned, already scraping down the oven. He'd heard the door open and close and called to the patron that he'd better order fast. And then Joe turned, saw the disheveled skinny kid. A moment later, Joe peered over the counter. The young man was completely naked.

"Where your clothes gone to? You okay, kid? Are you high, man?"

"My name is Abel. Can I have a slice of pepperoni pizza?"

Joe looked at Abel carefully. Glanced outside. Two college school kids who'd finished their slices were smoking and snickering. One was on his cell phone. Joe looked back at Abel. He threw some pepperoni and cheese on a couple of slices and put them in the oven. When he turned back, Abel was just standing there, silent tears washing lines on his dusty face. The snickering kids had gone. Joe took off his apron and tied it around Abel's waist. Joe knew better than to speak.

When the pizza was ready, Joe gave it to Abel, who ate voraciously at the stand-up counter. Joe went back to scraping down the oven and turned it off. He heard the door open and shut, and turned to watch Abel walk back into the darkness. He looked up as Abel passed, and for a moment their eyes locked. Joe had been thinking of his uncle, who had bought a gun and a slice of pizza, ate a few bites, and then blew his brains out. Joe was just a boy when he'd found him. (To be continued....)

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