Friday, August 22, 2008


She sat on the couch with her feet propped on the table and a gigantic mug of coffee carefully nestled in her lap, supported by the folds of her kimono. She smiled as I came into the room and gently rocked her legs at the knees as her eyes followed me. I blushed and she sipped, and no one said, "good morning," because it was understood.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

RiverMannonite pt. 2

Marcie was surprised to see me that Wednesday. I slipped off the 25 and wandered into the Mission Valley Center mall, watching her from across the walkway as she worked for a few minutes. I walked in and waited by the counter.

"Hi, honey," she said, annoyance painted on her face, but curiosity and concern in her voice. "What brings you here?"

I smiled and hugged her, but she let me know there would be no smooching in the store with a tight-lipped glare. She whispered, "Our regional manager is in the back with Amy. Knock it off."

I decided to pick up a candy bar and whispered my apology as I let her go with a touch of the arm. She watched then returned to the register and counting out Maia. I went to the candy bar area.

Skor, $100,000 bar, Payday. I remember thinking of how capitalistically named candy bars were. I also considered the "Toffee Fay, it's too good for kids" campaign, obviously designed to pique children's interest.

By the time I had thought over the social engineering behind candies, staring at each one and finding fault with all of them, I was no longer in the mood for a candy bar. I wanted a soda. However, I was beginning to regret my logic as critical thinking and political science classes as I considered the misdeeds of the various soda companies.

The door entry ringer announced a new customer and I looked up to see a dirty, thin man of perhaps 30 walk in, hunched and his face down. I looked to Marcie.

"That's him," she mouthed, pointing over her head as he walked, and holding her nose, then sticking out her tongue, then holding her hand to her throat and making a "choking face" to emphasize her point. She rolled her eyes and glared at his back as he made a beeline for the feminine products.

I understood. He stank.I don't know if it was her obvious discomfort, his sullen look, or my own simple sense of trouble-making humor, but I decided to join him.

I looked over my shoulder at Marcie and she covered her face, shaking her head.

I sauntered up to him. "Nice stuff, huh?" I asked.

He ignored me and stared, mouth a little agape at the Tampax "easy-applicator" tampon box he had selected. I picked up a package of "super duty" CVS-branded maxi pads and looked at them for a minute, shaking my head as if in agreement.

"These are for the real bleeders, aren't they?" I asked, showing him the box.

He looked at me with the stare of a man unsure. I showed him the package and he dropped the Tampax to take it, which I picked up and replaced on the shelf.

"Real bleeders?" he said. "These are for blood?"

His breath smelled like he had eaten swamp rat stew and his body odor was noxious. He read the label and turned the box. "Where?" he asked . 'Where does it say for blood?"

He put the box back on the shelf and looked at me as if I had kicked his dog. He spoke again, a distinct hint of German in his voice. "You are a liar."

"No, no," I said. "These are for women to wear when they have their monthly periods."

He walked to the back of the store with a wave of his hand, as if to dismiss me. He began touching the cheap bras and I shrugged, walking back to the front. Marcie looked livid.

"Frank, knock it off," she said under her breath as I put a diet coke on the counter. "I am so embarrassed. Just please go home."

She grabbed the phone and looked right past me. "Hey! You have to pay for that!" she said as he flew out the door, bra clutched in his hand, ignoring her. She spoke into the phone.

"A guy in a black wide-brim hat and a vest just ran out with a bra and didn't pay," she said. "Yes! YES! That's him. Oh, thank you."

She took my money and shook her head. "Go home," she said. "I'll see you later."

Amy came out and waved a hello to me as I started to head for the door. "Marcie, did he just leave here with a bra?"

Marcie nodded.

"Okay, that's it," she said. "He is not stealing from here again. You called mall security?"

Marcie nodded, "They said they know who he is and they know how he'll try to get away."

Marcie darted a glance at me and Amy shook her head. "Okay, well, I will be at Mall security."

I decided to follow her and see what could be seen, but it turned out I didn't have to go far, and neither did she. There he was, on his belly, two fat security men, one Black and one White, holding him down as he spit and struggled next to their parking meter cart.

The bra was a few feet away, on the asphalt, grimy. RiverMannonite looked up at me, hateful and angry, "Stupid English! Now look! Look what happened!"

Suddenly, much of this made sense. But there were questions, and as he was hauled away, I decided to surprise Marcie with the answers.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Characters: RiverMannonite

Marcie's proximity to the river would, she said, almost always create a "parade of urchins from crazytown." She said that lovingly, and she was generally not very concerned at the number of homeless and uncommunicative drifters who floated in and back out through the doors of her CVS store.

There was one exception. Marcie was not comfortable around one person in particular, though she was able to make light of him. I only saw him once up close.

She had been calling him the Riverman for a long time. According to her, this was the young man who had been in an altercation with Otto. He always wore the same thing.

She told me about him it in lieu of explaining why she was tense one evening. Of course, I knew he was the source of the tension within a minute, as she sometimes did not directly answer me when I asked what was wrong.

"SO, this guy came into work, and he's kind of one of our freaks. He has a black hat with a brim, a vest with hooks and a collar-less, filthy white shirt," she said. "He wears old-fashioned spectacles and he stinks. And he's perverted."

"Perverted?" I asked. Marcie was not one to pay too much mind, which meant he was a bad case.

"Yes, but not like a flasher or anything," she said.

"Does he ogle you?" I asked.

"A little, but that's not what's perverted about him," she said. "He does that to everyone. You'll think I'm crazy if I tell you."

I shook my head. "No, I think you'll be fine. Tell me."

She leaned in close and spoke in a hushed tone. "Okay, so he comes in every once in a while and he walks around the store, then he goes to the women's section and looks at all the feminine hygiene products."

"Okay, so he looks at the douches and the napkins and tampons?" I asked, somewhat dismissive.

She grabbed my arm and pulled me a little closer.

"He gets off on it," she said. "I watched him stare... STARE at the Tampax  boxes one time for three hours, looking at the drawings. He started at the drawings on the maxipads, too, holding them in the light. He spent an hour smelling the box, looking at it, shaking it..."

I began to understand. "Wow, that's a little kooked."

She nodded silently in agreement. "He also plays with the cheap underwear and the bras we have in the back," she said. "And he touches everything. Then, he leaves really fast, every time, and he kind of gives me this nasty smile when he leaves. It's SO GROSS!"

I laughed and she began to crack up. "You know he's going to find a bathroom for a private moment," she joked. "Ohhh, seeexy... a tampon, oh yeah. Ha!"

The stress melted off her, but she was not completely relaxed. "He always smells like the river, too. The whole place stinks when he leaves like rotten water."

She started chopping onions and paused. "He gives me these totally nasty looks, too, when I watch him," she said. "It sucksthat he's started to come back in again. Ugh."

So I decided that I would have to lay eyes on him, and perhaps send a nasty look of my own his way. I would also find out there was more to this character than a fetish, homelessness and a lack of hygiene.

Monday, August 18, 2008

What a bummer, but also an opportunity

So, today Marcie received her renewal for a driver's license in the mail. I have come to expect the endless entreaties for aid from the animal charities, the cancer materials from Kaiser, the Komen information and the book clubs, magazine renewal appeals and requests from NetFlix.

How is it that the state cannot figure out she is gone?

It hit me very hard today to read their little reminder for her to send them money and renew her license. But then it struck me. I could have a nice, new copy of her license, renewed past her death, with a clear picture of her from a healthier time.

I just may do it and then write a report about it. It would help the state deficit, too, I imagine.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hard Listening

They listen so they will not feel
the pounding.
I pass them by.
Their ears are sealed.
Every voice they hear is a choice,
and never their own,
and rarely is it one they love.

I listen so I can still hear
the whispers
that pass them by.
My ears are clear.
Every hint of you is so choice,
as you were my own.
and remain the one I yearn for.