Brother Hobo, Brother Hermit

by William Walsh

I wander. It’s what I fucking do. It’s an imperative, the sum of the job description.

When you’re alone and it’s quiet, you can picture yourself anywhere in the world and you don’t have to move a muscle.

I play the fucking harmonica.

I miss my radio. It was a gift from my mother.

I can go into any fucking Cumby’s or any fucking White Hens and nuke a can of beans. But it doesn’t taste as good as a can of beans cooked over a dirty fire in the woods. Nobody gets that.

Coffee in the morning. But water only for the rest of the day. A few eggs each week. A few buns. Carrots. A potato. Can’t stomach beef anymore. Chicken tastes like eggs to me but not as filling.

I’m dirty, sure, but I make an effort to keep my face and hands clean.

I’m skinny but not too skinny. Being skinny gives you energy. It takes less energy to move a skinny body.

I served my country. I have money in the fucking bank.

My brother sends me a check every month. And he pays the taxes on the house since our mother died.

Dogs bite more now than they ever used to. They don’t just bark anymore. They chew your fucking ass.

The test I took at the hospital scored me as an introvert. The counselor said no score was better than another. But the extrovert score was a higher number. The counselor said that introverts are physically drained by interaction with others, while extroverts are energized by interaction with people.

I’m not homeless. I’m not an alchy. I’m not a fucking psycho. I don’t steal. I do steal food sometimes, mostly from gardens, farm stands.

I don’t dislike people. People have been good to me. I’m not afraid of people. People haven’t done anything to me that hurts. I was a happy child and nobody hurt me. I saw people hurt other people, I’m sure. I almost remember seeing people hurting other people. Adults hurting children and children hurting other children. A gang of children hurting one child. But I was not in the gang of children and I was not the child being hurt.

I was a soldier in the only American war in the twentieth century that had no war brides. I don’t know of one man who served in Desert Storm who brought home a wife. Say what you want about the Vietnam War. At least it produced some marriages.

When I was young I wanted to marry Miss Lacy, from the Ampersand Public Library. She was beautiful and knew where every book was shelved. But she moved away before I grew up, before I was old enough to marry her. Not that she would have married me.

I prefer to ride with a companion. Not always easy. Women don’t breakaway anymore like they used. Used to be you could hookup with some fed-up woman and if the timing was right she’d breakaway with you. Still happens but not so much anymore.

The girls I liked when I was in school were the shy ones. It’s hard to ask a shy girl out on a date when you’re shy too.

My brother was always timid with girls. I don’t think he’s ever gotten his dick wet.

I don’t feel like I’m alone. It doesn’t feel like I’m hiding from people or keeping people out. I don’t keep the doors locked. I used to answer the phone when it was working. I think on some days that I would really like a visitor. But who?

I keep score with every man I meet. I don’t always win. But I win more often than I lose. Bump into me at the package store, you better say excuse me first. If you don’t, then it’s on. And you better know that I don’t fight fair—I fight to fucking win.

Talking to yourself is like prayer. I pray all the time. I pray for my family that has passed and I pray for my brother. To come home safe again each time that he leaves.

I lost my two front teeth last winter. Not sure how I fucking did it. Either I fell on my face or somebody punched me in the face. It happened when I was drinking. I only fall down when I’m drinking and the only time I get punched is when I’m drinking. I thumbed a ride to the fucking VA in Brockton and got fitted for a partial plate. Then about a week after that I was out drinking, showing off my new smile, and I got so drunk I vomited. And I vomited up my new teeth without realizing. Right down the shitter.

I cut off my beard for the summer and I will start growing back again late in the fall.

The only straight lines I like are train tracks.

I have always saved everything. I have always been sentimental.

You can catch crabs from a prostitute who is shaved clean.

Since I don’t meet many women, every woman that I meet seems special.

 

Ampersand, Mass., by William Walsh

A full-length collection of short stories.

Print: $14.95

Ebook: $1.99

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