This is a first draft, but since I haven't blogged in a while I thought I should post something. The summer has been a serious drain on me energy. I hope you enjoy this anyway. -Bill
Working in a public forum, I meet a lot of people. Most drift in and out of the store and barely leave a ripple in my water. Some become memories. A few just annoy me. There is something about a magic shop that acts as a magnet for every nut bag, jerk or loon.
A class of people exists solely to show me a magic trick. Well, we are not that kind of magic store. It is not the magicians; usually they understand and are content to hang out. It is the amateur who pushes to show a trick.
“You gotta deck? Gimme a deck. I’ll show you a trick. See if you know this one.”
Believe me, I do know that one and every other one they are going to do. As soon as they start describing the trick I can finish their sentences. Of course, they have to continue long past any time a reasonable person would’ve stopped.
Worse is the parent pushing their child to show that trick.
“Hey show him your trick. Do that trick. Here’s a quarter. Do your trick. See if he knows that one. Betcha don’t know this one.”
Really…I guess I got the job because I work cheap. (I don’t.) I might have a little experience with magic trick considering they are my job. If the Chinese ever need me to confess my secrets they now know what to do.
A second species inhabiting Navy Pier is the mall walker. There are several antiqued gentlemen and gentlewomen who visit the mall to pass their golden years. (Days?)
An older Italian man used to come into the store for a visit. This I found hilarious because, although in this country for many years, his English was terrible. He spoke with a thick accent, in a half English, half Italian vocabulary. Only once in a while would I understand a “Fuck” through the garbled talk. But he spoke on and on while I smiled and politely nodded. Until, he started calling the black people he saw monkeys and showed me a picture of Hitler he kept reverently in his wallet. I pulled the plug after that. Was my polite nodding an agreement to his racist ranting? I sure hope not.
Our most regular visitor is Ed. He is nearly 80 years old. Not a real deep thinker, but mostly harmless, and he has some interesting stories. At seventeen, he joined the army and served food on Navy Pier to the soldiers returning from World War 2. He was a drunk, a vagrant, and homeless for many years. He spent a lot of time in theaters, a cheap place to be sheltered, and remembers seeing many legendary performers live. He did a little time in prison again for vagrancy. He goes out to jazz clubs every Friday night, gets his drink on, dances a little, and brags about imaginary girlfriends. Ed was hit by a bus last year, but gets around as well as always. Ed is a survivor.
There is an anonymous man in a wheelchair that rolls by everyday and waves hello.
The other day an 80 year plus black woman, who has also anonymously limped by the store for the past couple of years, finally decided it was time to talk to the magic guy.
“How do I look?”
Well, a novel way to start out I think. She looks the same as she always has, as far as I can tell. I am unusually observant and notice much that happens past my store. The woman is average. Maybe a little shorter than average, but otherwise medium build. Medium brown skin tone. What I did notice was the limp and that one leg was considerably thicker than the other. She moves a little unsteady like she is always off balance.
“Um…you…you look fine.” I reply.
“Oh, I was just wonderin’. So I look okay, huh?”
“The same as you have every other time you walked by the store.”
“Well, I used to be 350 pounds.” She shows me the skin hanging from her arm. “I am going to the doctor and gonna get this fixed and down here,” pointing to her stomach, “this too. All fixed.”
Hmmm, I think this may be trouble.
“I’m alone now.” She continues.” My kids they all met someone out of state and married them. But I get along okay. My clothes, where I live they all think they’re new, but I go to the thrift store on North Ave. and the woman there she saves stuff for me and I go and buy it. And they all think I got me a new fur coat. But I look okay huh?”
I want to say, “When I am as close to death as you are, I should be so lucky.” Instead I say, “Fine.” It is taken as her cue to continue.
“I’m alone now, but I had a brother he was a boxer. Here in Chicago. But he never got scarred up. No. The women he had around him. They were like syrup. Honey.”
I will be patient. She is a harmless lonely old woman who needs someone to talk to. I nod my head. Smile. And generally ooh and aah in all the right places. Least, I can understand her.
“Well, I’m glad I look okay. I was a nurse in the war and I was giving the doctor a scalpel when a bomb went off and I looked up and there was no one around. They all dove under the table. I was there with patient. I still have a bullet in my leg. They never took it out. They didn’t want to show me the x-rays, so I called my lawyer Bernstein. He made them. I still got it in my leg.”
She lifts her swollen leg up to show an Ace bandage wrapped around it, slightly above the knee.
“But I’m not afraid to be alone. I lived with my mother. And she was alone, but I never saw her with no boyfriends. My brother he went with all the women. I’m okay. I go anywhere. You got to the liquor store over by **** and they will sell you. Give the cash. I put a silencer on my 45 caliber. No one comes up to me.”
“Gulp.” I gulped.
A family comes in the store and I ask if they need any help, hoping they do. They don’t. But they will just look a moment.
“Bernstein, he’s good. He won’t do a dirty deal. I go there and get some papers done. He won’t charge me. He’s got two sons and they’re lawyers too, but he says come to me. They do dirty deals. They are in the same building. Same floor. But he won’t have anything to do with them. He says, ‘go away, stay there.’ Yep, I had my last baby when I was fifty years old.”
“Wow.” I wowed.
“The newspapers came out. And the doctor he had to do a caesarian because he said my womb was too small. And he said I couldn’t have intercourse with a larger man because of my tiny vagina.”
“ ” I blanked.
I did the only thing I could. “Don’t you folks have any questions yet?”
The elderly woman turned and left in a wisp of an unintelligible mumble.
As she left, I quietly thanked that family. The mom, who was standing right next to the conversation, asks, “I was only half listening. What was she talking about? Her kitchen?”
I laughed, “Sort of…it was a little more… more anatomical than that. So do you guys do some magic already?”
Yes, another day in the store. I can’t wait until Wednesday when we’ll both be back. Maybe I should introduce her to Ed.