Notes From a Dive Bar XXVI


Leaving the bar, clink goes the lock on the gate.

But who can sleep? Not Mac, who helps sweep up at closing. He lives in a hotel with cockroaches and other bugs that go crawly in the night. On to his chest. He sleeps with cotton wool in his ears. His neighbor, a Russian woman, she’s a roach catcher, an executioner, she dismembers them, a collection on her shelf, trophies she shows to Mac when he goes to her room for wine and horror. She said one of the roaches was pregnant. Mac thinks she is sad.

Earlier, someone gets stabbed. Down the block. Near the pizza shop. The cops brought yellow tape with them. Small wound, back of the neck, the police ordered slices of cheese and looked at the sidewalk. Mac and I are walking along the street, three sets of cops troll by looking for the suspect, looking long at me and Mac, maybe some pizza between their teeth. We don’t fit the description.

Mac peels off. I pass the strip joint, and from the shadow comes the best smile with few teeth. So much warmer than Hollywood-set ivories. The great American smile. The space station sees it gleam from orbit. Mine is not too bad. But it comes out in darkness only. Smiling in the night, behind the strip joint with the man who lives there, owner of the best smile ever. He smiles through the pain. His leg mangled. Hobbled. Been that way for years. Everything he has is in a shopping cart. A good one, bumper size, solid plastic frame. He keeps it close. People try and steal stuff from his basket.

Always, he’s reading a pocketbook paperback. Goodies and baddies inside. No bells and whistles to distract his reading, no phone. Just the cops annoying him or the buzz from his streetlamp reading light. He has no image to upload. No selfie to stick. No contract, and no need to care about Apple selling plastic fruit for a happy sweet addiction.

Apples are good for the smile, I say. And give him one, a Washington, not a Jobs. He smiles, warm, broad-like, beautiful. He offers his thriller, thumbed and used like all good books. I give him money, go home, no insects in bed to welcome me. The bed is soft. And the street is hard.

Twitter: @alanblackwriter

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