Dogs 2007

FRED
(7/15/07)


I was
walking
the streets
no job in sight
a week left
on the rent
and no
fucking clue
whatsoever

my typical
state

blocks
up ahead
in the gutter
I saw a ball
of some sort
maybe a basketball?
maybe something
I could sell
in the neighborhood

as I neared
I noticed
that the object
was not round
exactly
and the color
wasn't uniform
just more trash
along the
roadside
no doubt

a half
a block away
I could see it
for what
it actually
was

a head

just setting there
upright
facing traffic
apparently
none
the worse
for wear
no blood
no exposed
tissue

I walked
up to it
looked down

how
could this
be?

"what's up
besides you?"

said
the head

"uhhh...
not much
just trying
to make it"

"I know
what you mean
brother
it's a crazy life
and the rules change
every minute
or less"

an extreme
dizziness
overcame me
a feeling to which
I was accustomed
due to constant
lack of food
but
instead
of hunger
I felt a bit ill
in the pit
of my stomach

"got
a smoke?"

it asked

"uhhh...
yeah
I think
I've got one left
here somewhere"

I scrambled
in my shirt pocket
for one of my last
three cigarettes

"here
you go"

"you'll
have to
light that for me
son
I'm not good
for much
these days"

I lit it
and bent down
to put it
to his lips

he puckered
and retrieved it
took a heavy drag
smoke coming out
from the base
of his neck
like a reverse
smoke stack
then
shifted the cigarette
to the corner
of his mouth

"the name's Fred"

"Fred?"

"yep
Fred the Head"

I bent down
as if to shake
some ethereal
hand

he looked up
raising his eyebrows
intimating a shrug
and I
straightened
back up

"I'm Paul"

"pleased
to meet you
Paul
you look
a bit down"

"you know
no job
no car
no license
no woman
just
the usual"

"look
on the bright side
you'll have them all
again someday
and at least
you'll
be able
to do something
with them"

I sat down
on the curb
beside him

"so..."

"wanna know
what I'm doing here
propped up
in a gutter?"

"well
yeah...
I mean..."

"one of them
tragic
industrial accidents
you know"

"but how...?"

"don't
ask me
just woke up
this way

even the doctors
were at
a loss"

"that sucks
Fred"

"oh
it's not so bad
really
it would've
been worse
the other way
around"

"so
your body?"

"oh
mangled beyond
all recognition
don't worry
you won't be seeing
any headless body
sitting
down at the bar...

at least
not mine"

"how long...?"

"oh
year's now
I've gotten
used to it
not too bad
once you adjust
lot's of things
not to worry
about
any more

no more
broken shoelaces
smelly armpits
fallen arches
itchy balls
bad back
beer gut...

hey, Paul?"

"yeah Fred?"

"would you flick
that damn fly
off of
my ear"

"sure thing"

"thanks
there are
drawbacks
but you know what?"

I leaned down
to hear better

"I never
have to worry
about the little head
doing the thinking
for the big one"

he gave me a wink
and laughed
from the bottom
of his...
neck stump
I guess

"can I take you
anywhere
Fred?
home?
hospital?"

"don't sweat it
kid
my wife
will be along
to pick me up
in while"

"wife?"

"oh yeah
the insurance
paid off big time
and she lets me
pick my spot
when her lovers
come around"

"sorry
Fred"

"oh
don't feel sorry
for me
I've never had it
so good

but before you go
how about
another smoke?

no more
lung cancer worries
you know"

"sure Fred"

I lit him
another
and stood up
to head
on my way

"Fred?"

"yeah kid?"

"why
the street?
why not
a cool place
somewhere?"
"same reason
that you're
out here
right Paul?"

"yeah
I guess
I see
what you mean"

"it's where
life
is really
happening"

"you got that
straight

take it easy
Fred"

"it's the
only way
kid
it's the
only
way"