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Friday, April 20, 2012

Glen Never Came Back

Here it is, the end of the week already, and the excitement is palpable. Will the cops show up, next time, to stop the drug deal I watched last night? Will the cat upstairs ever stop screaming? Will my supply of tequila hold out?

And what about Naomi?

For answers to this and much, much more, let us consult the iPod, shall we?

As I do every Friday, I cling to the idea that the morning’s playlist during my commute has prophetic portents.

Why not?  Humor me.

Better by You, Better Than Me by Spooky Tooth*
The 59th Street Song (Feelin' Groovy) by Simon & Garfunkel
The Impression That I Get by the Mighty Mighty BossTones
Black Swan by Thom Yorke
Your Touch by The Black Keys
Ford Mustang by Serge Gainsbourg
Here It Goes Again by OK Go
Tukka Yoots Riddim by US3*

Someone from your past, quite possibly a hippie -- or at least someone without shoes -- will return.  That's the impression that I get.  Do not touch his Mustang, either the car or whatever you kids are calling things these days.  If you find you must touch that Mustang, I suggest the rhythm method so often employed by the Tukka youths.

I have no idea what that means.

Excuse me, ma’am? Would you have any spare change? God bless.

There is, of course, no such thing as “spare change”.  I have a spare tire, conveniently kept about my middle; and at one time had spare brain cells, judging from past behavior.  But spare change?

Scene:  the alley, two years ago.  In a seasonal battle involving salt residue, gravel and various bits of trash, I have once again entered the gardening ring.  The alley taunts me, yearly, a barren stretch of precious city ground.

I shall conquer it.

Dirty workpants, layers of long- and short-sleeved t-shirts, dirt smeared on my face in no doubt an attractive fashion, I have been clearing weeds and sundry bits of trash for one cold, windy hour when I hear a throat clear behind me.

It is a man: sallow, tired, he wears a filthy jacket wrapped tightly and belted with rope. Hatless, his dirty, dishwater blond hair blows in the wind.

He is a young man with old eyes.

“Do you have four dollars?”


He looks around, his face completely impassive. “I need seven dollars so I can sleep inside tonight. Can you give me four?”

I pat my pants’ pockets.  “I don’t have any money out here, and I’ve got all this to clear before the sun goes down.”

He stares at me, almost childishly.  “I need seven dollars,” he repeats.

“Well, I don’t have seven dollars,” I say, peevishly.  “Now if you want to help me with some of this, I can run into the house later and see what I can find. I know I can find around four.”

He looks away, his eyes following the alley. It is getting dark, and the wind is coming up.

I hold out the shovel.

He takes it.

“You turn it over,” I say, “and I’ll grab the weeds, OK?”  I smile.  “What’s your name again?”

His name, he tells me, is Glen.  He offers nothing more.

Ten minutes on, Glen removes his coat. I can smell him, a sour, sad stench screaming for a hot bath.  He isn’t yellow anymore, though.  He might even look a bit pink.

I ask him if he is okay.

He says he is. 

It is then that I realize, with Glen standing over me, shovel in hand, that perhaps my kneeling on the ground, blithely shaking the earth from the desperate roots of the evicted weeds may not be my brightest idea to date.  I picture the neighbors finding me with a shovel embedded in my forehead, the words “I just wanted seven lousy dollars!” spelled out in gravel and homeless weeds on the ground next to my body…

Glen, however, manages to fight the urge to beat me to death with a shovel and we are done in less than 20 minutes.  I run into the house while he waits in the alley.

I return with six dollars and a bottle of water.

“This is all I have,” I say. “Seriously.  I wish I had more.”

He looks at me, looks at the money.  He takes it gingerly from my hand, puts it in his pants’ pocket.  He puts his jacket back on, re-secures the rope around his waist.  I hand him the water.

He says nothing and walks away.

“Come back in the spring, Glen,” I call after him. “There’s always work to do.”

He doesn’t say a word. 

Glen simply walks away. 

* My picks of the picks.  Honestly, I like all of these...


R. Jacob said...

At least he worked and you paid. If Glen was smart he would stop by for his daily labor and spare change. I dare say lunch would be served!

Shelly said...

You're a good person, Pearl. A mighty good person.

SherilinR said...

it's nice when they're willing to do a bit of work for the money they're asking for. we have to work for ours.
i'm glad he didn't bludgeon you with that weapon you handed him.

Simply Suthern said...

He wernt humming "Working in the coal mine" while he was shovelin?

We have a guy here that had a White shirt printed so he didnt have to hold a piece of cardboard.

Bodacious Boomer said...

Maybe it's just me but I don't believe that I'd be handing a shovel to someone who's just asked me for money. Not if I was alone anyway.

I might hand them a pair of gloves to use though.

Tom G. said...

You're a good person. A very kind, big hearted, slightly insane person who is comfortable handing weapons to sketchy looking people and assuming a vulnerable position, just to see if you can get away with it.

I knew you were a thrill seeker, but please stick to the #10 bus when you want to live on the edge. We'd sure miss you around these parts, and if you weren't here who would pull the weeds?

BamaTrav said...

I forgot to thank you. My name is not really Glenn. Today I am gainfully employed back in my chosen field and thriving once again. You were lovely that day, I do remember that.

jenny_o said...

Heartwarming and heart wrenching, all mixed together. Good that you came out physically unscathed. Poor Glen.

SparkleFarkle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SparkleFarkle said...

Our brain cogs mesh in similar ways in that I, too, would have played out every imaginable crime antic a hobo might have in mind as he $4 dollar-wantingly hovered over me. Yes indeed, I would have fork over any moola I had. While others would tell me "One of you is born every minute," I'd blame my charitable move on being sensative and caring about him and his sitchiation ("I hear ya, bro. Can I get you a shower, as well? Can I invite you to our upcoming Maypole family festival, dance and feedbag? Here are the keys to my car, too. Not to worry, she's all gassed up," etc.)

Pat Tillett said...

Yeah, I wouldn't be handing a implement of destruction (especially a sharp one) to this person. As a matter of fact, I'd probably be thinking I might have to hit HIM with the shovel. You are a nicer person than I! Great story Pearl...

Jadzia@Toddlerisms said...

This reminds me fondly of my late Grandma Jessie, who lived near the railroad tracks and got a lot of "hobos," in the vernacular of the time, at her house. Because somebody had put one of those "kind hearted woman" kitty cat drawings near her place.

And she was a kind-hearted woman who always found something for the men to do before she fed them fried chicken and lemonade in the backyard.

In sum, I think you sound like a kind-hearted woman. : )

Leenie said...

Well, thanks for the reminder. Most people are basically good. Honesty is worth a lot, and thanks also for the intro to Tukka Yoots Riddim. I DO LIKE IT, Sam I Am. That coming from one who cut her teeth on Feelin Groovy.

TexWisGirl said...

glad you helped him on that one day - and vice versa.

esbboston said...

If I had a dime for everytime that has happened to me, been in a situation where I had given someone a shovel and then been at their mercy, lower elevation, and they were known sociopaths, then I would most likely have 37 cents. (Thirty seven? I adjusted for inflation, as aLL good novelists do.)

Dr Max Tunguska said...

You are far more trusting than I am. I have always assumed that everyone is trying to get something for nothing.

OK I'm cynical beyond redemption.

Pat said...

You are brave. And good.

fishducky said...

You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din--I mean Pearl!

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

They don't usually want to DO anything for the money... I'd say you were brave beyond belief and lucky.

Andrea SunnyDays said...

I'm ashamed to say, I would have probably been a bit afraid of Glen and I doubt I would have gone inside to get him the money.

We all want to help the poor, but it's a whole other thing to have the situation in front of you instead of writing a check.

Chantel said...

Kneeling before homeless men holding garden impliments is not something I'd list on your resume, darlin'....but it lands solidly on the good list. Long live good hearts and working hands.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

You were a very lucky lady that day.

Daisy said...

I find myself wondering what his story is. What happened that brought him to the street? Does he have any hope of things getting better?

I'm always aware that loss of my pension or some unexpected disaster could mean living on the street for me too. And nothing is totally certain.

Thank you for your kindness Pearl

NotesFromAbroad said...

I love how you thought to make him work for his money and how you managed it all and how you only thought about the shovel implanted in your head afterwards.
My husband would be the one to tell me that First Thing ..." waddaryoucrazy??? Tell him no and get in the house !"
love you. Happy Friday. C

Glen said...

what can I say? I really needed 7

Symdaddy said...


Stalk, stalk, stalk!

vanilla said...

You did good. But be careful.

Linda O'Connell said...

Entertaining angels unaware... this time you were the angel.

River said...

You have good instincts Pearl. There must have been something in those old eyes that showed he wasn't a killer. A slightly crazed glaze would have seen you going inside "to look for money" then locking doors and windows until he went away.

Cheryl said...

I must be too old to recognize your iPod playlist (I lean toward Elvis tunes) but I get your move to help the man earn the money he needed. I've done the same thing and wondered if the beggar would rather have knifed me in the back than give me a hand.

bill lisleman said...

well that made me nervous just thinking about it.

Hey I gave you a shout out today. I guess you can't hear that far away.

the walking man said...

Some of these comments have made me sadder than the sight of Glen ever could have. What a angry mad prison cell people constructed for themselves.

Susan in the Boonies said...

Glad you got a little help with your project, and Glen got a little work.