Whatcha want me to say?
Whatever you like. For example, what did you do today?
Same damn thing I do ever day.
Which is what?
Kept from starvin, thass what.
I see. Tell me about that.
Because it’s interesting.
Don’t wanna talk about it.
OK. Then you could talk about how we met.
Ain’t we always know each other?
No, of course not.
Sho seem like we always
no business bein on that corner. Heart a the hood. Them peeps like to bash yo white head in an pick they teeth wit yo finger bones.
I went there a lot. Nobody ever bothered me.
Thass jes cause you lucky, man. An cause you look like the po-po.
I do not.
Hell you don’t, federale. Got cop eyes an shit.
If you say so. Can you please get back to the story?
Now why you wanna rush me? Sick a me already?
Oh, no. No. It’s just that this tape recorder may conk out again soon.
Shoulda went digital, homes. Po plannin on yo part ain’t make no emergency on my part.
Yes, that’s true. Take all the time you want, then.
‘Sright, man. I’m goin to paint the scene for ya. Take my sweet time. Tell a nice long story about
scavengin, a’ight? Jes sweepin up the scraps a the consumer economy. But it’s dangerous sometime. Like when my boy C.G. et a sandwich out the BK dumpster and it fucked him all up inside. Coughin up blood all day. See, BK pour bleach in they dumpster so can’t nobody
really goin to put all this in yo book?
I’m going to try, yes.
Ain’t got no stories a yo own, that it? You a scavenger, too.
I suppose that’s one way to look at it.
What do you mean, stole your spine?
Ain’t I speakin the Queen’s English? Old lady put somethin in my tobacco, knocked my ass out. Cut me open, took out these two vertebrae, this one an this one. ‘Swhy I gots to walk with this old stick to this day.
What did she do with them?
Fuck if I know. Never seen her again.
But you just said she was on the bus with us. That’s why you brought her up.
Look, man, you wanna argue wit me about shit you can jes fuck off. I ain’t got time for bullshit.
That’s not true. You have nothing but time.
A’ight, you got me there.
ride back an forth all night long when it was cold. An it was always cold, know wha’m sayin?
Yes, it was quite a harsh winter.
Now that ain’t no lie. I ever tell you about a brotha froze to death for want of a bus to ride on?
No, I don’t think so.
Sad story. Mothafucka froze to death.
wake up under a tree, an it’s jes like I’s awake but I ain’t really, know wha’m sayin? An I climb the tree, a’ight, an then I look down an I see myself wakin up. An then I look up an I see myself in the tree lookin down at myself. An one a me say, “Who you?” An then the other one a me say, “Who wants to know?”
But that was my dream. I just finished telling you about that dream.
Then we be havin the same dreams. Whatcha think about that?
back a the bus, my what I like to call my domain. So I holla atcha an commence to deliver my sales presentation—
Oh, is that what it was? A sales presentation?
Man, first you say hurry up, an now you interruptin. Goin to gimme some a that coggintive dissonance, know wha’m sayin? Less jes say I was hawkin my wares.
I believe the technical term is scalping.
My boy Laozi, he say, One truth, many names.
I suppose so. Anyway, wasn’t it the Charming Atrocities reunion show at 7th Street Entry?
A’ight, check it out. Now I’s goin to interview you.
First question. What side you on?
Can’t answer a question wit a question.
I don’t have enough information—
Wrong. Next question. True or false?
Wrong. What yo face look like before you was born?
Oh, I know this one. It’s a ko—
Wrong. What number’m I thinkin of?
Wrong. What sphinx a cement an aloonum bash open they skulls an et up they brains an imagination?
Thass right. One point. Whass the next question?
Are you almost finished?
Wrong. What now? Who now? When now?
Those are three questions.
Wrong. Why you wanna write bout me? Whatcha tryin to prove?
front a the drugstore where I got my prescriptions, playin that plastic flute ever day. She couldn’t play for shit. Kept everbody way from the store. An I say, Gimme back my spine, bitch, or I’s goin to put a spell on you. An she say
face get all wrinkle up an start puttin on some a them Masterpiece Theater airs. “I muss direct yo attention to the fact that them tickets yo’re endeavorin to exchange for currency are clearly marked complementary.”
Come on, I do not talk that way.
Shit, you talk like you the only person that ain’t a idiot.
I didn’t mean any disrespect.
Don’t need no respect, homes. I charged you double my regular price.
when I washed your feet?
What about it?
They were in bad shape. Have you ever had gangrene?
They look lots worsen they is. Think the feet’s bad, ain’t seen the teeth.
Actually, I have. I even gave you money for the dentist. But you didn’t go, did you?
tryin to get inside my head so you can put me in yo fuckin book. All them doctors do the same thin.
That’s not fair. I am not exploiting you.
Hell you ain’t. You never done shit jes for helpin me. Throw yo money at me so I can come over an rub it on yo swoll-up conscience. Thank you for the shiny pennies, massah. Yessah, I’s goin to go to the dentiss, cause I gots to have a fine white smile, so you can looka me an see all the good you done. Matta fact, I’s goin to step up right now an help you help yoself to some mo that nice warm fuzzy feelin. Ain’t I been talkin to you a good long while now? Less see some mo them Merican dollars.
too cold tonight for no art pour l’art
had enough of this piece-of-crap machine. I only hope this recording makes some sense. Thank you for talking to me. Will you
Matthew Falk lives in Bay City, MI, with his wife and two cats. His stories and poems have appeared in Cardinal Sins, The Tridge, O! Tempora, and Bartleby-Snopes.