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Distilled Spirits: Ch. 12 — Glenn

October 8, 2013

What is Distilled Spirits?

Episode 3:  “Drought at the Fountain of Youth”


          Glenn’s favorite taco truck sat near an alley off Canal St.  The generator was running and tinny Mexican music played from somewhere inside—maybe it set the beat for Victor and his brother to throw together the fastest and cheapest tacos on this side of the harbor.  Every other week they crossed the bridge and charged double.

“How are you still hungry?  Jesus,” Geno said.  “We had dinner and you ate all my popcorn.”

“Just wait,” Glenn said, walking up to the truck.  There was no one in line.  “Taco—carne asada.”

“God, what a shit movie that was,” Geno said.

“Wasn’t that the point?” Sidney spoke while looking up and down the sidewalk.  The neighborhood theater was a few blocks away and it was near midnight, but Canal St. never truly died down.  “I mean, Plan 9 from Outer Space—what did you expect?  Hey, Geno—run a screen, will you?”  Sidney walked down the alley with his hands in his pockets.  “I’m gonna piss behind this dumpster.”

Geno nodded and took his position—blocking any view of Sidney—he checked e-mails on his phone.  “Who’s your team for the World Series?”

“Damnit, don’t talk to me,” Sidney muttered.  “Concentrating here.”

It was a regular night in Tortilla Flats—most people had work the next day and they all were trying to forget it.

Out of one bar, televised football sounds spilled onto the street with a drunk college student getting tossed.  Next to that, an erotic bookstore / coffee shop was still open, followed by a Mexican bar with the same playlist as the taco truck.  The opposite, west side of the Canal was made up of trendy restaurants, wine bars, and crepe trucks, but the later the night got, the more the clientele on both banks intermingled until they were just a milling mass of loud people with full stomachs and heavy eyelids.

Monday’s are the denial stage of the week in New Portsmouth, Glenn had always figured.  Nobody wants to admit that the weekend is over.  That fourth day is when weekends turn into benders, when cause meets effect, and when the decisions of Friday can finally be fairly judged.

“I heard you went out with Scar on Friday?” Sidney asked.

“Are you finished back there?” Geno said.  “Jesus, how’d you make it through the movie?”

Sidney came out from behind the dumpster, still zipping up.  “So?  You met her on Friday?”

“Wait,” Glenn said, taking the last bite of his taco and using the small paper plate as a napkin.  He bit his lime and tossed it in the trash.  “We are calling her Scar?  You told me—”

“We’re not calling her Scar,” Geno said, starting down the street.  “Let’s go.”

“Not calling her that to her face?” Sidney asked.

“At all.  It’s Scarlett.”

“When are you seeing her again?” Glenn asked with a grin.

“We’re not dating,” Geno said.

“But you are going to see—?”  Glenn had to dodge behind a parking meter to get out of reach.

Geno glanced between the two of them and sighed.  “She’s showing me some tricks on the piano this week.  And I’m—I’m helping with her application to music school.”

A block from 15th St—the cross street that Sidney lived on—a bacon-wrapped hotdog cart was up and running.  The smells drifted for blocks and somehow the cart hadn’t run out of ingredients yet.  Glenn eyed the sizzling meat and then glanced across the street: a man was shuffling down the sidewalk.  He recognized the figure hunched over his cane—a grocery bag of what looked like street litter clutched in the man’s hand.

“No way,” Sidney said.  “You can’t possibly eat more.”

“Did they feed you in Colombia?” Geno asked.  “What about Suriname?”

Glenn ordered a hotdog and the small woman quickly put one together on a bun.

“You read my mail now, huh?”  Glenn said, handing the woman a few bills.

“What do you mean ‘now’?” Geno said.  “So it’s true?  You really leaving in two months—you’re going to Suriname?  What the fuck is in Suriname?  That’s still South America?”

“What’s this about?” Sidney asked.

Glenn wrapped the tinfoil around his bacon hotdog to keep the cold out and slipped it inside his jacket’s pocket.   “A new housing project I’m helping with,” he said.  “And good weather.  Hey, guys, I gotta take care of something tonight.  I can’t stay over.”

“Geno brought the N64 over,” Sidney said.  “Thought I was hosting the Tri-Gameathon this month?”

“Save it for the Halloween party,” Glenn said.  “You and Caitlyn are doing it this year, right?  I’m still finding candy corn in the weirdest places.”

“Yeah, we’re doing it,” Sidney.  “Sure you can’t stay out?”

Glenn shook his head and watched his friends turn down 15th street.  They would probably practice Star Fox all night—that was the one game Glenn could consistently beat them at.

The shuffling man—Crazy Man Joe—rounded the corner and Glenn quickly caught up.

“Hey, hey—Joe!  Wait up a sec.”

Joe stopped, straightening his back.  He grasped his bamboo cane with two hands, just below the point.  His beard had grown out more and was greyer than Glenn remembered.  “I’ve seen you ‘round the kitchens,” Joe said, coughing  “The shelters, too.  I remember the beer you got me, kid, if that’s what you wanna know.”

“No,” Glenn said, “that’s not it.”

The homeless man looked back blankly.

Glenn didn’t know what to say.  He took out the bacon-wrapped hotdog and forced it into Joe’s hands.

The homeless man laughed.  “I haven’t had one of these in . . .”  He put his nose close and sniffed.  “Smells spicy.  Fresh.”

“Listen,” Glenn said, walking beside him.  “I know some people at St. Anthony’s.  I have—I can help you out.  I’d like to.”

Joe started unwrapping the hotdog.  “You help plenty of people.  I’ve seen it.  People know you.  You don’t need to do nothing.”

“How have you been feeling?” Glenn asked.

“Kid, I had a mother,” Joe said, taking a big bite and swallowing.  “I had a wife too.  Don’t need to be watched over.”

“What happened, then?”

Joe paused before taking another bite, then wrapped the tin foil around the hot dog again, pocketing it.  “Leave me alone okay?  I don’t want your help.  Hear me?  You don’t know when to quit.”

Glenn stepped in front of the man’s path.  “What happened with your wife?”

Joe leveled his bamboo cane at Glenn’s chest, pressing it against him.  The point poked through his jacket but it didn’t hurt.  “You’re a different one all right—I’ll say that.  But I don’t need this at my age.  And you don’t need it at yours.”

“I can—I can get you medicine, you know.”  Glenn took a step back but the cane stayed.   “I can get a doctor to see you.  I know a few.”

“Special treatment, huh?”  Joe reached for the pocket containing the hotdog but stopped himself.  “The shelter’s give me what I need.  Don’t need nothing else.”

Glenn pulled at the hair on the back of his head but couldn’t find any words.

“Don’t follow me, kid.  Don’t follow me,” Joe growled.

Joe started shuffling past and Glenn stepped out of his way.  The man’s cane rapped the sidewalk every other step, the sound growing quieter and quieter until it couldn’t be heard at all.






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