This afternoon a patchy gentleman came into our store
eager to share his heartbreaking tale of woe. Woe-ish, at least.
We could see some pep in the man’s step and a slight grin on his
face and when he opened his mouth, we four shared knowing glances.
We’d been down this long and winding road ten thousand times before,
but why not the man rant, eh? After all, he’d just bought a
television and Playstation 4 game console. Besides, he’s
a good dude … laughs a lot … kind of looks like Eddie Vedder back
when he was jumping off balconies into the waiting arms
of cheering fans clad in flannel shirts tied around worn pairs of
ripped and torn (and always faded) jeans bought at The Gap from Chris
Farley, David Spade, and Adam Sandler. Speaking of Spades, let’s
mention Marilyn Monroe and modern decks of cards
displayed on oversized t-shirts in the same stores you can find
a Kent State University sweatshirt covered in blood spots
and a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. reading from
a copy of Harriett Beecher Stowe’s most well-known novel.
What if we make a shirt with Bob Dylan nailed to planks of wood?
He and David Cross could laugh at it and scream, “Play your early
stuff!” Cate Blanchett could join them. Well … Cate and her cousin. Coffee
and Cigarettes? Great flick. Check it out sometime. Back to patchy
and his dilemma. “I’ve got a woman,” he said, reminding
me of Ray Charles and making me chuckle a bit. He looked
at me and shook his head, the grin disappearing from his face.
“She’s with some other guy, but she’s in love with me. She makes his
life Hell because she wants him to leave, but he just takes her shit.”
On one side of the counter, eight eyebrows raised. On the other,
one man pawed at his noggin like a dog full of fleas. About
his hair? Well … I just imagine it’s like what we’ve been told about
the cranial terrarium they found on Bob Marley when
he moved on from this odd, syncronicit-ous world we call “Here.”
Where? Earth. Terra. Whenever anyone tells you this place is
not real, just kick a rock and quip, I refute you thus.
Let me make one point very clear: I am not speaking badly
about the gentlemen in question. I am, on the other
hand, telling the truth. It’s what I do. Sorry. Please don’t sue me.
Back to the customer and his story. It was a long one.
He brought up topics ranging from blessings to American
Hand Egg, in his words. We’d call it football. In England they’d call
It Ye Olde American Football, or something like that. Maybe.
Who knows? Not the point. It was the patchy man’s tale about his
moment in court that stands out now, nearly five hours later.
“I got busted for three-point-six grams of shitty pot,” he said.
Once more the four of us raised our eyebrows to express our shock
and dismay at our customer’s tragic circumstance. “Thing is,”
he laughed … “I don’t have a record and quite frankly, I don’t have
a goddamned thing to lose at this point. I’ve got nothing and that…”
The man paused for effect. Had John Belushi been there he’d have
raised a single eyebrow. He wasn’t there, though. He’s dead. It sucks.
I’d liked to have met him. “That’s the way I want it!” Well.
Patchy was talking again. Only I seemed to realize
he was quoting Cool Hand Luke in his own weird way. “I gets it!”
he shouted. I laughed so hard I almost pissed in my filthy
khaki shorts. “You know,” I said, after regaining composure.
“’Sometimes nothing’s a real cool hand.’ Paul Newman taught me that one.”
The man touched his nose with his index finger and nodded.
“I was down at the courthouse today,” he stated. “I told the
Judge to give me whatever sentence he deemed necessary.”
“You didn’t!” we shouted. “I did,” he replied. “I told him, ‘Your
Honor, I knew it was wrong and I did it anyway, but
I have this thing with my neck called spinal stenosis. It’s where
my spinal column is too narrow for my spine. It pinches
the nerves all day long. When I crack my neck it sounds like fire
works going off in a metal trash can. I could file for
disability and collect a fat check every month,
but I’d rather bust my ass at work instead. I like to be
useful in life, even if it kills me.’ That’s what I told him.
And honestly, guys?” We all blinked. He continued his story.
“Ever since that girl left I have wanted to die. I mean it.
I would never kill myself, you know? But I don’t want to live.”
None of us knew what to say, so we just stood there silently,
no one making eye contact with anyone else in the store.
“Knowing she’s not happy? That makes it even worse. But today?
Today was a win. The Judge let me off with probation and
a fine instead of jail time.” He pantomimed wiping sweat from
his brow. “Whew,” he said out loud while flicking fake sweat on the floor.