Corner of Main and Paradise

The man stands on the same street corner near the wire garbage can every day. He never sits or squats or leans. He is a pole, planted on the corner like a reminder of something. The four and five and ten story fringes of the city huddle above the storefronts. Some windows are arranged and curated, but one contains a toaster, a nightgown, and bowls for cat food, unmoved for a decade.  In another a retro TV/VHS combo is showing a movie: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. It can’t be heard.

The standing man is either black or Asian or some mix, it’s hard to say.  He doesn’t beg, though occasionally someone will drop some coins at his feet, and he will pick them up, put them in his pocket. When anyone speaks to him, he looks at them, shows interest as if the words are important, when the speaker is finished, he looks away. He’s the Zen master of this street corner. Every evening at five he disappears, comes back the next day with clean clothes. He always wears khakis and a t-shirt. He cycles through his shirts. One says Prometheus. One says South Street Drums. One says Got Milk with a question mark.

A neighborhood man buys two cups of coffee every weekday morning, one for himself, one for the standing man. It’s a kind of joke.

People in the coffee shop like to ask the man who buys the coffee why the man is standing there. When he says he doesn't know, there is the comfortable routine of making up a life for the standing man. It's performance art, or he's afraid to cross the street, or he's waiting for someone, or he's planning a robbery or a shooting. He is an alien spy. He is God keeping an eye on us.

Whenever the neighborhood man gives him the coffee, the standing man bows.

The coffee man did an experiment. For a while, he got the standing man a different flavor every day: vanilla, hazelnut, mocha, but the man shows no preference, says nothing.

The standing man eats no lunch. No one brings him any.

A car drives by, a silver Enclave. Someone hangs out the window, throws something at the standing man. Even as it leaves his hand, the thrower is reaching behind for another, his fist reloaded by his hooting car mates.

It’s the Got Milk that gets hit and the question mark. The second egg misses by a wide margin. A woman walking nearby yells Hey at the offenders. The one thrown at her misses too.

The man will stand there. He is not angry, does not judge. He watches. The egg will dry to look like a Rorschach – a leaf, or a spider web, or the face of Jesus, and that night he disappears, comes back the next day, gives them another chance.

March 1, 2020

Dawn Abeita

Dawn Abeita writes fiction in Atlanta, Ga. or wherever she happens to be. Most of her work explores how quirks of personality and everyday evils impact people’s lives. Her work has appeared in a number of literary journals, including American Fiction, Fiction Weekly, Cortland Review and Four Way Review. Her novella “Pine” is available on Amazon Singles. She earned her MFA from Warren Wilson College.

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