It was not always that way. In early days, Eric had almost been a friend, before he flipped out on Davey, before he went off the rails and went crazy-smelly hobo.
Eric being lamentably single, Davey invited him to a class he was teaching full of women. Eric had mentioned the previous night over beers “I still want to get married to a woman and have babies”. Davey a little shocked at this one, Eric having no job, 50 years old, and it was questionable whether he even had a place to live. Maybe he lived in his 88 Honda? Davey asks “Um, Eric, women your age are too old to have kids…” and Eric drains his beer and remarks “Oh no, I want to marry a young babe. 26 would be perfect” Davey again a little shocked that somebody that old smelly and sickly would be thinking a young woman would be dying to get married, but who knows?
So, the class. Eric does not show, which seems wonderful because Davey is regretting asking his smelly almost friend along to join himself and the 5 women students. Buuuut, slinking in a half hour before class ends is Eric, all smiles and apologies. And beer breath. Eric makes no friends in that room when he announces loudly “there are a lot of pretty young babes here”. That earned him stares, open mouthed shock, and the married young mother of 2 he asks on a date never comes back to class again. From that day forward, Davey avoids Eric, but it proves impossible.
One July day a month later, Davey is at an outdoor café sipping the soy latte with two old pals from school, back in his life thanks to facebook. They happen to be single, too. Casey, as a matter of fact, counted as Davey’s first crush in 6th grade, never realized or acted upon, funny to talk about now. Anyway, having the cup with Casey and Sally, who HAD BEEN a girlfriend in 8th grade, here comes Eric with his wild mushrooms. Davey warns his friends, but no, like a great toxic gas cloud, Eric descends upon the table…which the 3 old friends quickly vacate. The wild mushrooms represent the closest thing Eric has to a job. He gathers them in the woods and sells them to restaurants, or more likely, trading them to restaurants for lunch.
One day biking on a trail through the woods, remote and miles from home, Davey spies a familiar looking bike off to the side loaded down with junk and…mushrooms. 20-30 yards away into the trees as Davey speeds past is that familiar hobo and mushroom expert, glaring back out at the trail, with, as Eliza puts it, that “psychokiller stare”. For some reason he stopped wearing his glasses and his naked gaze has psychokiller written all over it. Two @@ staring fiercely out at you as he strides into traffic or marches up to you on the sidewalk, nearly nose to nose, chest to chest, or stepping on your dog. Psychokiller or just a hobo who lost his glasses and can’t see for sh!t? Maybe both.
Eric calls Davey, who has forgotten to check the caller ID. An excellent invention, caller ID, and worth using. Eric’s cat, sadly, is sick. Eric’s cat lives in Eric’s pit of a studio, where there is a lot of junk crowding the walls, the floors, the ceilings, every surface stacked with junk. Maybe a fun playground to cats, though, with the canyons, crevices and great mountainous heights of books. Rodents love the place and the cat has always lived peaceably with them.
Ayway, at age 16-17, the cat went to the vet. After many puzzled pokings and proddings, diabetes and a horrible tumor are discovered, a CAT scan is ordered of all things. Davey manages to ask “Um, isn’t that in the thousands?” and Eric the nearly homeless, smelly hobo agrees “many thousands”. Davey asks delicately, it not being his business, “Um, the cat is elderly, would it suffer more to go through treatment?” and Eric, missing the point, says confidently “Oh, who knows how long this cat will live” never acknowledging that nearly homeless jobless hobos may not be able to afford such superb care for their cat…
But the bigger surprise comes with “I’ll need you to cat sit” an appalling idea, and Davey sputters a “!!!” and Eric explains “I am going to China with my fiancé”. Again, Davey sputters with disbelief “!!!” and Eric is like “She is giving me a year for a tryout. Then she wants to get married and have kids. But first, we go to China this summer and then next May she graduates from college”, Davey wondering who this desperate or crazy woman might be….
Legend has it, to use a cliché, that Eric was all Eliza’s fault. She has apologized many times in recent years for the crime of being nice to a smelly almost-hobo. It all happened at the bus stop.
Baby Eliza, according to her mother, was famous for smiling at and trying to hug every smelly hobo they walked past. Adulthood has not changed her a bit, except for the hugging part. That’s just how sweet-natured she is, but just like opurple gum on the sidewalk in the summer that you step upon and can never entirely get off the bottoms of your adidas, Eric is hard to shake off.
Eliza had seen this guy every day waiting at the bus stop, eventually learning that his name was Eric and he was looking for a job, which Eliza tried to help with. Eric loved applying for jobs, applying for THOUSANDS, 4,302 since 2009 at last count, but he was even better at ruining his chances at actually getting a job. Whether it was wearing his only smelly outfit, his psychokiller stare, or his usual answer to “when can you start?” being an angry and affronted “I’m pretty busy for the next few weeks…” Eliza introduced Eric to Davey, who, at first, did not fully realize the danger. This guy was worse than the purple gum on the bottom of your sneaks. He was like the bastard step-child who saw YOU as his path to the good life. Or, at least, free beer and burritos.
Ask anyone around the neighborhood, and they all knew Eric. Not his name, of course, but his ubiquity and bizarre behavior. “Oh, you mean the guy who always walks in the middle of the road? What is UP with that, is he trying to get killed?” to “I was going out the EXIT at the PO, and this guy, and he does not smell good, is coming IN the EXIT. Sailing straight through like going in the wrong door is his special right and privilege, but he was talking to himself and the look in his eyes…well, you weren’t gonna do anything but get out of his way. He is the kinda dude that defines ‘go postal’” and even “I was biking down on the edge of the park? And there is that guy down there, in the poison ivy, plucking mushrooms off a log….”
Davey’s on a park bench, amazed at the beauty of the first fine March day. Sun everywhere! It had been a long winter, but it was usually a long winter. He spies a loping shadow coming across the park his way, Davey takes quick evasive action, moving to another bench behind some trees, but its impossible. Eric is everywhere, plunks himself down. “Oh, hello Eric” which earns a grunt and wild eyed stare, as Eric makes himself comfortable. Davey tries sliding as far down the bench as possible, that smell! But Eric moves closer still. So much for eating a snack in the sunshine, kills his appetite.
Pigeons are near, and Davey reaches into his pocket, pulling out a muffin in a napkin, figuring the pigeons will have an appetite. It looks pretty banged up and stale anyway. Pulling a pinch off the top, Davey is tossing it to the birds when long snaky fingers snatch half the muffin out of his hand, Davey turning in disbelief, watching muffin disappear into that mouth, with its remarkably clean and straight teeth, tongue extended licking the fingers clean. At least part of Eric is clean and healthy, big surprise, but what kind of person snatches a stale muffin out of your hand? Pigeon food? Davey is wondering whether he should resume crumbling the last half for the pigeons or offer it to Eric when the long snaky fingers, damp still, snatch the last of the muffin, and like the cookie monster, it is GONE before Davey can even decide: pigeons or almost-hobo? Pigeons weren’t quick enough it seems….
Davey never was able to shake Eric that afternoon, and as they leave the park and stop at the crosswalk, a garbage truck rounds the corner. It’s a red light for them, and the truck is moving quickly, but Eric is even quicker, stepping straight out into the street as it comes their way, glaring at the truck with the usual psychokiller stare, daring it to hit him, back down or fight like a man. The truck slams its brakes with 6 inches to spare, the driver leaning out and screaming the usual insults, but its Davey who is all shook up as Eric comes back to the sidewalk.
“Eric! You could have been killed, why do you always do that? Walk into traffic??? You’ll get killed!”
“Two fifty” is all Eric says, seemingly unconcerned.
“Two fifty???” Davey wondering if that is the numbers of times Eric has escaped injury.
“I figure a broken arm is worth a quarter mill in a lawsuit, 2 broken arms or legs? Worth a mill”.
Davey finally getting it, he WANTS to get hit, then sue.
“Its my retirement plan….”
WRITE TO ME! email@example.com Come see me! Open studio HERE! November 25-26 (11-4 each day); Aurora Art and Design, daily until 12/24; Cooperstown Art Assoc. daily until 12/24; Ellis Hollow Community Fair, 12/10; December 10, Little Red Wagon at the Space at Greenstar. All material on this blog unless stated otherwise is copyright Gary Edward Rith 2016
Friday, July 29, 2011
The true story of Eric the almost-hobo....
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