things to know about the people parked along the road that runs through Humboldt Park: part 21
Over the last year, I wrote a series of 20 stories called things to know about the people parked along the road that runs through Humboldt Park. Today, I woke up to an actual news story saying Body Found In Humboldt Park. It was found in a parked car. Guess that means the final chapter (part 21) has been written for me.
I’m not happy for it, but I guess I’m relieved?
things to know about the people parked along the road that runs through Humboldt Park: part 20
The woman who broke my window was younger than you’d expect looking at her or hearing her loose-wound screams. She threw her purse—filled with buffet shrimp, compacts, and a bundle of unknowable keys—through the left side window, the driver’s side in a normal vehicle, but in my jeep, issued by the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works, is a just rubber tread floor where my sandwiches usually get warmed by the heat I keep on high. The cheese is always a perfect goo by noon.
They never fix things quick in this city, so I’m here before my shift this morning with my wool toque pulled down, wearing my half gloves. I have a pen in my hand and am writing different tickets to the people in my life.
- Guy Manmamma gets Parked in no parking zone for the way he went so fat in the living room he refused to pay any money toward each month. His skin grew into the sofa I’d bought and hauled up myself. He’d yell out for me at dawn, saying, I need to see all your topaz jewelry and your sweet little ass and to feel your palm against where time has rubbed my hair down to flesh.
- Parked in fire lane goes to a woman I’ll only call Janet. I traced the vein that rose in her temple when she got angry all the way along her body until it ashed out varicosely on her smooth calf.
- Howie Rapp, my dad, gets Parked in the roadway. On my third birthday, he went away on business. When he came back I was twelve. He had a tattoo of a suspension bridge across his brow and was yammering about how one of side the bridge represented who I was and the other side was who he knew I could be. The drop off the bridge was a sheer, sure death in eyes and nose and lips, all of which were woven onto me as well, just the same as his. A lightbulb of blood shattered in him when I was only a quarter way along that bridge (he had marks of progress gunned into his flesh each year), a senior in junior college, attractive but not pretty, lipstick and coffee equally staining my teeth. I’m another quarter along now, but there aren’t markings anywhere to prove the distance I’ve come.
- Sophie, Sophie, Sophie, the girl I was given years ago, is Blocking another vehicle. While still so young, she went stiff as a board, living rigor mortis, and refused to grow. She’s a tiny shelf for clothes and scents and make-up, cheaply made, and costing next to nothing to buy. One day, I’m sure, her muscles will give up and go gummy and she’ll run away like I’ve longed for so long, but for the law.
- Earl Parcival Scott’s sarcasm gets him Parking in unauthorized lot, the way he’d cuss over the fence each time I had guests over and was in the middle telling them about this dream I had once where hummingbirds covered my body. They were needling in and pulling out nectar the color of orange juice. A man in beekeeping gear came along, grabbed each little bird, and placed it in a burlap coffee sack from Panama. I woke up laughing, I told my visitors over Earl’s lawnmower-like fuckfuckfuck, but had to pee so so bad. I kept laughing, more, more, until I dribbled just a bit out and onto the mattress and I said,Janet, I think you’ll never know anyone as filled as sweetness as me. Then we stayed in bed all day watching court shows on the TV we had mounted on the ceiling.
Soon my shift will start. I’ll submit these tickets I’m writing at the end of the day in a stack with all the tickets for the vehicles I find, numbered and insentient, poised illegally. People will return to these vehicles and take the tickets in their hands, never realizing how wrong they’ve been.
things to know about the people parked along the road that runs though Humboldt Park: part 19
The gorilla drove a Chevy, several years old, with a rash of rust infecting the area just above the wheel arches. He’d park in the road that runs through the park in the early mornings and puff cigarettes with the windows closed. The car would fill with smoke, reminding him so much of forest mornings, fog all over everything. He’d lean back and think of the soles of his beloved’s feet.
On my bike, I’d pass him and think, “Why is that guy wearing a gorilla mask?”
And he was wearing a mask. Gorilla mask over his gorilla face. The rubber was cheap but it covered all the scars they’d given him back when he was first brought here.
After a while, he’d hug the steering wheel and tug on his rubber neck, trying to tempt it off. He imagined her hands climbing his body. He wondered what she looked like now—whether time had finally worked her bones down to nothing whole, just vitamins for vegetation.
things to know about the people parked along the road that runs though Humboldt Park: part 18
It seems counter intuitive but you actually get a better cross breeze when you have two windows open, just the front, instead of all four and the sun roof.
Monday mornings I sit here next to the brown reeds and sick minnows in the pond. I wait until the moving air makes my oolong tea cool enough to drink and then I begin to undo the bandages from my head.
things to know about the people parked along the road that runs though Humboldt Park: part 17
This morning, the sun and humidity worked together to give the effect that something had just been blown up.
A man curled around a pine to my left, suddenly there like he’d metamorphosed from a stick bug to a human, right on the spot. His walk gave the impression he was trying to tamp the grass back into the dirt; the whole time, in his pocket, there was the smothered clink of something like sacks filled with $37 worth of mixed coins being thrown into a casket—bad luck in some cultures but not ours.
“What weather!” I yelled at the man.
He looked at me through my back seat window where I sat waist-deep in my things. Then he coughed like a coal miner, bent back and back and back until his hands were out over his head behind him and his whole body was formed like a bridge over where a chipmunk was inspecting the red perimeter of a cardinal ground into the blacktop.
Some people live for sound and show. They empower drama internally and throw it out into the world. Me, I just care too much about the weather, like a father coddling a kid while my mom mashes me into a glass of tomato juice, full pulp .
things to know about the people parked along the road that runs though Humboldt Park: part 16
Waiting here for these kids, sorry, my kids, to be done with soccer practice. I mean goddamn, who plays soccer in middle of summer anyway?
I’m in a minivan. It’s the 3rd one I’ve had to buy.
My wife tricked me into making these little ball-kickers. She baked up the Pasta Primavera she knows leads to me just, you know, get to be hotter than Mumbai and harder than Stonehenge, ha. Oh man. And then she had a time with her pinking shears and those rubbers. I saw what she was doing, but man, by the time the food was working through me, I would have humped a fire hydrant if she’d brought one to me.
While I’m here, I may as well trim my goatee, right? Goddamn right. So I’ve got my scissors out and I’m looking in the side views, pruning the thing back.
It’s something I used to do in private. Now I’ve always got these kids, sorry, my kids, running around, banging on the doors, really smashing their knuckles like you’d think they got weather stripping for bones, saying Come on out you chickenshit motherfucker.
I don’t have any privacy anymore. But thankfully I still got my goatee.
things to know about the people parked along the road that runs though Humboldt Park: part 15
There are strings leaking out of the window. The battery has been going all night and is still going. I’m lucky, I guess you could say.
My sleep is better with the strings.
The plastic is many colors. Dirt brown, flag blue, green. I stick the edges into the window and roll them up. Inside, when the light’s immature like this, it’s like someone shook up paint cans and poured them through the sun roof.
I brought back a woman I met, so both seats are down. She’s a woman about my age. Her hair is an ugly dry gray and mine’s gone. That’s how I know. This woman is naked to the waist and then nakeder below that. But she has socks on, red socks washed down to pink. Her legs are crossed at the ankles.
The plastic plays over her body in a sick way and I can smell it alive in the sun and I want to throw up. It’s heating up in here and I throw up, right on the woman. She wakes up and says, “It smells like throw up in here.”
The woman falls back asleep right after saying that, reaching her arms over her head. Suddenly it’s a test of wills:
- Will she sleep longer? Or
- Will I be able to watch her sleep longer—the smell of plastic warming, the sound of strings going, kids and cars and the world starting up, the smell of throw up, the throw up on the woman, the smell of the woman—and not throw up again?
Her name is Jerrita. A man wrote a song about her once, another man wrote a rhymeless poem, several numbers have been written on soggy placemats at the restaurant she works at, and a cop wrote a ticket she never paid. She has knuckles like a my grandfather had, black hair in the coulees, and my throw up in her head hair. She could use a brush, so I brush her but I have no brush so I use my hands, my fingers, the tips of my fingers. The strings go and I’ll let them go until they go silent as ash and we need a jump. Then I’ll wake the woman and send her to find someone.
things to know about the people parked along the road that runs though Humboldt Park: part 14
Thank god the cops didn’t tow me. Even though one woke me up with a nightstick.
I’d climbed the hill after the celebration fizzled out the previous night and everyone had returned to the homes they keep in the park’s buffer. It was my first time here and I killed the light when I pulled in, lifted the trunk door and extracted my canvas mummy bag.
The streetlights still had a glow to them, barely there, like a cigarette leading you through fog. But I was tired and I slept heavy, my pores absorbing the dew, filling me and leaking out some so that I woke covered up by a water skin.
And back to that cop and stick - he said chingchongchingching and jabbed me in the fat. I said, Huh?, all drunk with tireness and he shook his head and said wingwingwoooong. He squinted eyes next and said aaaaahhhhyah.
Just then, a bunch of geese began landing, hot on the trail of old crepes and fries, and in doing so loosened the mud from their bowels right on the officer’s head and shoulders and some too on his thick heeled shoes.
He said, Shit, shit shit.
I said, Got that right, got that right, got that right, in an accent as clear and American as the national debt stuffed into a musket and shot, dinging off the Statue of Liberty and right back at whatever person would be fool enough to attempt a thing like that.
things to know about the people parked along the road that runs though Humboldt Park: part 13
I am a dog.
You wouldn’t be able to tell this if you were only looking at my demeanor, but it’s true.
The window of the driver’s side is down and I’m sitting here, the rusty fur of my ancestors hanging down over my scissor-sharp ears, staring at myself in the side mirror and turning to regard you slowly when you pass. It’s humid today and the moisture weighs the tongue out of my mouth. My owner—we’re not friends, never were—is out running like a moron, chasing a ball from one side of the court to the other side of the court.
Later we’ll go home and I’ll nap on my back, growl in my sleep and gnash my way through falling dreams, all my legs going like punching against the water of a strong current you know will sink you.
I’m gulping back yawns right now, trying to keep the boredom contained within me. It’s the curse of my kind to appear this gentle.
things to know about the people parked along the road that runs though Humboldt Park: part 12
Some guy, talking his way into a girl’s heart, saying, “You know how sad and depressed I can be.” She’s heard this before; has to scrape the last time out of her mind to fit this time in. She gets it. So she’s saying, I get it, it’s ok, her thumbs plunged through a circle of fray at the cuff of her sweatshirt. Her voice is high Midwestern in kind. Plays on your nerves like a saw.
They’re scanning the road through the park, empty now for hours, the light burned out of the sky, the surrounding neighborhood weighed down by fierce, fearful dreams that would betray every word in the mouths that move in waking.
"I’m a fuck of every kind. A fuck-up. Fucking scared. I’ll fuck you over. Is that ok? I get it, why you’d not want anything…"
I do though, she’s saying. I want it. You. I want you. Know that.
"But I. Fuck. I," he goes on. Scans her. Filters his thoughts through whatever cortex handles these things. There are pants there, underwear under, he thinks, and then below those layers, there…delicious and dark as a truffle.
She’s waiting, toying with the royal danger of saying I Love You.
things to know about the people parked along the road that runs though Humboldt Park: part 11
It was dark when I drove to here and it’s dark now, but the other end of the slope. I imagine night always as bottom part of slide, a puddle of sand you go into with your face, then stand still. Your face buried in the sand, looking at it so close that you can’t see nothing. How and when you get to top of slide again I don’t know, but then is when it’s morning.
What I’m doing in this park is sitting in the grass. I have a letter opener that I’m killing dandelions with. I’m cutting some yellow heads right off or slicing middle of the spine or stick or whatever you call it in English. I dig the letter opener real far into the earth sometimes and lift the veins out.
I leave mountains of dandelions here. And then more there. Dead ones and some that will die soon.
The city don’t hire me to do this. Nobody has been hiring me in many years. I stay here though, until all are gone. The park is 25 acres big. The snow will fall on me, probably, that’s months away. I’ll be here still.
There are the people I’ve known back home, here too. And I think of them and I work at the dandelions, cutting heads and spines and veins. It, I feel, will take a very, very long time.
things to know about the people parked along the road that runs though Humboldt Park: part 10
The news isn’t good, the news isn’t good, the news isn’t good, the news is bad, the news isn’t good.
I have the paper folded out in my hands, but I can’t find the concentration for it. There was lightening inside my house all night last night and I tried to hide from it, but how can you hide from lightning when it’s in your house, coming out of the ceiling, finding you even when you hide.
Earlier, I assessed the damage, recording it in a small notebook and in my head. There were burns on the rug, burns on the tables, burns on the insides of my thighs, burns on the sink. I called the police and the fire chief and the ambulance but they said it sounded like the lightning had stopped and I should sleep.
But I couldn’t sleep. I went to the porch, bent down to get the paper, got into my car, drove here, to the park, in the rain. I’m skimming the news, looking for something, the pages moving like ripples on water.
things to know about the people parked along the road that runs though Humboldt Park: part 9
The game of Patience is going bad. The suits are a mess and her finger on the screen is awful at dragging the cards where they need to go.
Most mornings she’s in less conspicuous places. Taking a fragile doze below a side street elm or sitting in a gas station parking lot with her hands wrapped around buffed Styrofoam and coffee inside it from Honduras or somewhere.
The Jeep they gave her for doing her job has her sitting on the right side. Her head’s over the screen like the charge of two magnets in the same direction. Suddenly the phone screen switches and she’s sees it’s a call from dispatch—an emergency; car double-parked, serious at this entryway into rush-hour.
She hangs up, pulls a few more cards into place with her tongue out and stomps the pedal, still looking down.
At times like these, she wishes she had a siren.
things to know about the people parked along the road that runs though Humboldt Park: part 8
"I’m so scared of dying."
"Do you think about it?"
"I’m convinced that it thinks about me.”
"There’s these lottery tickets."
"Stacks of them. I don’t know."
"On the dash, everywhere."
"There’s mounds of dust from them. Lots, everywhere."
"You see it most at this time of day."
"I squeeze my cell phone so tight I think I may break it. Even now."
"Like, its insides would, like, squish out like guts. And the call would get disconnected."
"It would cut my hand. I’d bleed acid."
"I never win, ever."
"Guess buy more tickets. Find a nickle."
things to know about the people parked along the road that runs though Humboldt Park: part 7
Randy sits in his Pontiac. The day is nice, but his eyes are like a screen of flood over the high sun.
There had been no warning and no precedent. His right arm had just started numbing. First in the shoulder. There was a roll of pain, like a truck going over a speed bump loaded heavy, then no feeling at all. It wormed around the elbow, melted to his fingertips. Such coldness. In time, Randy lost the last thimbleful of sensation, though the color was good.
The nerves had been scraped by a voracious beast of accumulated chemicals. The blood was evaporated out of his veins.
They said, “Some folly of science,” with their shoulders up, and released him.
Randy will sit here until the sun globs behind the amphitheater. Then he’ll go home and busy his remaining hand.