I was sleeping in this mission after being discharged from the psych ward at DC General, and some hophead stole my cash from my veteran’s disability checks that had piled up while I was so rudely and unjustly incarcerated. So I dropped by my best buddy, Arthur, who lived in two side-tilted Dumpsters at the edge of inner Washington, DC.
“You got any cash?” I asked.
“I want to visit my mother.”
“She write to you?”
“Not yet. But she needs me. Came to me when I was inside.”
Mother was in Eureka, California. At least her spirit was, and her ashes were, too, in an urn in my older sister’s bungalow; I hoped they were out of reach of her two young children by her second husband. My sister refused to see me, but Mother cared that I came to visit. I slept in a cardboard lean-to near Route 101, and I could feel Mother in the air, even when it rained.
“I need money,” I said.
“Work the monument,” Arthur said.
“That’ll take weeks.”
“Hey. You might get lucky.”
I cleaned up best I could in the restroom of a discount trade mart, and headed on down to the Potomac River.
I put my cardboard sign up on an intact discarded painter’s easel: “Crash site. Tours. Flight 63. $1.00. Kids free.” I waited.
A few folks dribbled by but they gave me wide berths and blank stares. After an hour three ladies came up – I’m blessed, from my mother’s side, with a right-on feeling about people – and I knew at least two of these broads were trouble: cranky oldies who were dressed, one in brown the other in gray, like spinster twins, in ankle-length dresses with long sleeves, probably from a Midwest town too small to have a library. These were women who cut their own hair without looking in a mirror. But the third was a girl, maybe nineteen- or twenty-years-old. She had even-edged shoulder-length hair and a round face like one of those angel paintings by Italians you see in the gallery near the toilets in the museum on a free night. She wore this short skirt that didn’t cover her cute little knees – all puckered with dimples and curves like little midgets laughing. And she moved as if she had no weight. Her name was Gloria.
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