ESSAY: The Poet of Rose Street

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Walking is still my favorite way to meet dangerous people.

I’ve only been mugged once. The guy looked like me. Exactly like me.

“I’m a writer,” I told him. As he breathed on my empty wallet.

“You can have the wallet, if you want.”

He sniffed it.

“Is it leather?”

I shook my head.

“It’s pretty convincing, though.”

He didn’t look convinced. He passed it back to me.

“Sorry about that,” he said.

My doppelganger walked away.

Probably to work on his novel.

*

Not everyone who looks dangerous is. I’m assuming.

I was standing at a crosswalk. None of the cars would stop. I’d been waiting ten minutes. The same people who hold the door open for you at the grocery store will try hard to flatten your skeleton with their cars.

“Hey,” said a guy behind me. A sunburned man. With a mustache.

“Can you guess what I have in this bag?”

He was straining to carry a large black garbage bag.

He was smiling.

I didn’t guess three Texas mickeys of rum. That’s what it was.

“I stole them from the liquor store,” he said.

“And stuffed them down my pants.”

“One down one leg, one down the other.”

“What about the third bottle?” I said.

He only laughed.

His eyes were like puddles of rum.

He laughed again.

He shook my hand.

Then he ran into traffic.

Tires screeched. But he made it to the other side alive. More or less.

“Next time you see me,” he hollered, “call me Buddy Boy.”

“Okay,” I hollered back.

Then I went back to waiting.

*

You can meet non-dangerous people, too, on a city walk. If you have time.

That’s how I met the Poet of Rose Street. He was an overweight guy who sat on the bench in front of the cathedral across from the ice cream shop. Every night. I sat beside him, sometimes.

Once in a while, the poet would pull a notebook out of his pocket and write down a word or two. It looked like poetry.

It might’ve been a grocery list.

I’m pretty sure he was homeless.

We never talked, really. We just sat there and ate ice cream.

One night, I saw a man run straight out of the cathedral, across the street and into the ice cream shop. He didn’t even check for traffic.

The poet pulled out his notebook, jotted something down. It looked like either ennui or eggs.

I leaned closer but he snapped the notebook shut. And picked up his butterscotch sundae.

I didn’t see the poet for a couple months. I was trying to lose weight. Then I did see him.

Only not on the bench.

He was on the news.

He’d called in a bomb threat at the casino.

I guess he was dangerous after all.

I never saw the Poet of Rose Street again.

I lost ten pounds.

*

I’ve spent half my life waiting at crosswalks.

There I was again.

I saw an opportunity…

I took one step off the curb. If I’d taken two, a cop car would’ve flattened my skeleton.

I didn’t get a great look at the back seat passenger. But I was pretty sure it was a sunburned guy. With a mustache.

“Buddy Boy,” I whispered.

Then I ran across the street.

                                                                                           

First published in Outlook Springs.

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FLASH FICTION: Hugs, Peggy

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I love, love, love, love, adore and love that Jack Dangerson. When he tilts his hat in Hey! Sandiego, I could scream. When he smiles at the end of Nearly the Last Tomorrow, I could rip my pillow in half. When he pulls out his gun in The Nursery Murders and says, “Not today, babies,” I could simply die of love.

My apartment has no wallpaper, but do you hear me complaining? For I’ve covered the walls with Jack. From his first flick, Afternoon Sex Romp, even if it wasn’t a proper Jack Dangerson pic, to his latest epic, Cactus in the Wind, I’ve got all the posters, overlapping, on the ceiling, rolled up in corners, my rabbit chews on them, so what, I buy new ones.

Anyway, I heard on Screen Scream that Jack is shooting a sequel to Old Yeller called New Yeller, which will hit theatres next summer. I couldn’t be more jazzed. I just have this feeling, in my heart, in my gut, I know, know, know this is going to be the ultimate Jack Dangerson flick. It’s got everything going for it. The director’s the guy who did The End II, which is generally regarded as the best film in the End trilogy. The writer’s the guy who does those hilariously sad antidepressant ads. The dog’s the dog that was shot to bits at the end of that stupid Hellhound movie. Awful, awful movie. But one seriously talented pooch.

I must’ve written ten thousand love letters to Jack over the years. I always sign them “Hugs, Peggy.” It’s my trademark. So what if he doesn’t write back, he’s gorgeous, he’s a Very Important Star! One time, his secretary faxed me a head shot with a blurry-looking signature on it. And what did I think of that? It was the biggest thrill of my life.

Alright. I read last week that they’re shooting a scene for New Yeller just a few blocks from where I live. The street’s already cordoned off, the trailers are lining up, I can see it all from my bathroom window. I am peeing my pants in the bathroom every day. As soon as they start shooting, I’ll be there. I’ll get as close as I can. I’ll get on the set, if I can. I have souvenirs from the last three Jack Dangerson flicks. The cigar knife from Bloodlips and Company. The blue parrot from his 3D remake of Casablanca. And my crown jewel, his wax double from Dream Museum. That one was worth the scar.

I love LA. I love, love, love LA. All this amazing, amazing stuff happening all around you. It’s like you’re a part of it. Even if you’re a total nobody, you’re a part of it. I wear my sunglasses every day.

Jack. Dangerson. What a name. What a tan. He is so, so handsome. So cute you could just … stab him in the neck with a screwdriver.

I can’t wait for New Yeller. I can’t wait another second. I have to, but I can’t.

I hope the dog can talk.