BY MARK KODAMA
Copyright is held by the author.
IT WAS an outrage — an absolute outrage. “God damn you!” I shouted. “Who the hell do you think you are anyways?”
Everybody was staring at me at the McDonald’s. And those that were not staring at me were pretending not to look at me. The manager, dressed in her maroon uniform, came over. “I told you, you could stay for 30 minutes.”
“Yes, but I still have not finished my coffee,” I said.
We locked eyes and then she looked away. “Another 10 minutes. I need space for my customers.”
I finished my coffee, gathered all my papers and then put them in my suitcase and left.
I left the parking lot full of SUVs, cars, pick-up trucks. If these snobs were really somebodies they would not be eating here.
I used to drive a Mercedes Benz. That is when I was a lawyer, when I had a wife and children. It seems like a dream — maybe it was a dream.
“Hey, watch out, buddy!” yelled a driver. “You want to get killed or something.”
I glared at him. The driver shook his head and then rolled up his window.
I felt my face. Was I the same man I used to be? I could see my reflection staring at me in the window. My face was red sunburned leather. My clothes were shabby. My hair was long and unkempt. My salt-and-pepper beard was wild. To my former family I was as good as dead.
“Harry! Harry! Did you get the car fixed?” A large heavy-set woman muttered under her breath. “Do I have to fucking do everything around here!”
Harry. Whose Harry? Oh, that was me. I looked through the garbage dumpsters in back of the McDonald’s for something to eat.
A heavy-set middle-aged black man with a broom came running at me from the McDonald’s. “Get! Get!” He hit me in the back and head with his broomstick.
I grabbed the broomstick and struck his face hard with my fist. He fell to the ground. I picked up the broomstick and he ran into the restaurant. “You crazy,” he shouted.
“Do that again and I will kill you,” I said.
Ah, that hurt. I shook a tooth loose. I better leave before the cops come.
I always liked the public library. The quiet. The cool smell of musty books. I used to go to the one by the Pussycat Theatre downtown with my brothers and sister when we were small children.
I wonder how my wife and two sons are. I wonder if they would see me now that I am out of prison. Well that was many years ago and another life.
I sat in the corner at looked at William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. Does anybody read anymore? I wonder. Oh, look Cool Hand Luke. Loved that that movie.
“Harry, did you finish your book report on Marco Polo?” My mother’s voice. Oh my gosh, I forgot about that one. “It is due tomorrow. I will type it for you.”
“I didn’t read it,” I said.
The librarian came over. “I told you before. This is a library. You must be quiet.”
“Yes, yes,” I said.
It was getting dark so I left the library to go to my rented room. I checked out As I Lay Dying.
“Sorry about the noise,” I told the librarian. “Sometimes I talk to myself.”
I used to take my boys to the bookstore when they were young. That seemed like such a long time ago — it was a long time ago. Those were the best days of my life.
“Nathan did I ever tell you about Alexander of Macedon and his horse Bucephalus?”
“One day, a horse trader came to Alexander’s father King Phillip. He had a wild black horse with a white patch on his head. None of Philip’s horse trainers could handle the horse. So a teenaged Alexander told his father that they were incompetent.
“ ‘Do you think you know more than your betters?’ Phillip asked Alexander.
“ ‘I know how to handle this horse,’ Alexander replied.
“ ‘How much are you willing to wager,’ ” Phillip asked.
“ ‘The price of the horse,’ ” young Alexander replied. With that Alexander ran to the horse. He turned the horse’s head toward the sun for the horse feared its own shadow. He talked soothingly into the horse’s ear then hopped on his bare back and raced like the wind into the sun and then back.
“When Alexander dismounted, King Philip wept with joy. ‘Go find an empire for yourself Alexander,’ Philip said. “Macedon is too small for you.’
“Nathan did you like that story?
Boy, it is a little nippy out. The wind blew right through my clothes, chilling me to the bone. The trees were now starting to shed their leaves, their red and orange leaves carpeted the ground. Winter would soon be upon us.
“I’m ashamed of you,” my father told me. I was a child again. I sat in the back seat of the station wagon and wept bitter tears. I had climbed a fence and sat in the car at baseball practice.
Suddenly there was the blaring of a horn. “Pay attention!” shouted an angry older man “You are going to get someone killed.”
I gave the angry man the bird.
He blared his horn again. “Ya bum! You are nothing.”
I waved to him. “Nothing can be a pretty cool hand.”
That night I read my Faulkner.