Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Greed Makes The Con

One of the long time street people, “wino” to the older generation, before the euphemisms all became politically correct, is shuffling along, following a well fed, another euphemism, gentleman down the street. He’s shuffling along, off the edge of the sidewalk, as if he believes that he doesn’t deserve to be on the same level as the well fed gentleman. The well fed gentleman is strolling along on the sidewalk, laughing at everything the street person has to say and not looking in his direction. To any observer, it would seem that the street person is telling the other, one funny joke after another.

“I’ll tell you George, when we were young, you were the person who’d ask me for help,” the street person says as he stumbles, recovers, and continues, “and, and I wasn’t ashamed to give it to you either, no, I was always the first to step up and help you,” he kicks at a stray dog that wanders too close, and continues again, “Remember that time that the kid down the road from you wanted to kick your a--? Well, I was the one who made him leave you alone and he never did bother you again after I had a talk with him…now you won’t even help me out with enough for a bottle?”

George begins to whistle as he walks.

“I ain’t shi---n you George, I will pay you back as soon as my GA check comes in. I’m expecting it on Saturday. What’s today, Monday or Wednesday? I don’t know, all I know is that I’m telling you the truth this time, and how much do I owe you, about fifty bucks?”

George walks on.

“I’ll give you sixty bucks when I get it if you lend me enough for one bottle, George. Please?”

George glances at the street person, at the passing vehicles and at the store windows, where it seems that everyone is watching, and thinks, “I hope they don’t believe that I’m friends with this guy. Where are the police when you need them? This is getting embarrassing!”

“Come on ‘Bro,’ lend me something? Listen here, I’ll tell my ol’ lady to pay you back when she gets her lease money next year. How does that sound? She’ll do it too, I promise.”

George sees his destination about one and a half blocks further on, and picks up the pace, hoping to outdistance the street person, but he is matched stride for stride.

The street person notices another street person walking along with her head down, on the opposite side of the street, going in the opposite direction. He waves and hollers, “Julene, wait for me by Big Bear Alley, I’ll be right back! I’m talking to my friend and he’s gonna help me out with a jug! Wait there!” he says, signaling and waving his hands.

“I’ll sign all my land over to you when the B.I.A. building opens up tomorrow if you help me out George.”

George slows his pace, breathing hard, because he’s so well fed and because he’s not accustomed to strenuous exercise of any kind anymore, and asks, “You don’t have any land left, do you?”

“Yes I do. I have two hundred and eighty acres. It’s out by Four Horn Lake and I’ll sign it all over to you tomorrow, if you help me out today, I promise,” states the street person emphatically.

“I thought you’d sold all your land that time you moved to Washington?” questions George.

“No, no, I kept half of it because I wanted to give it to my boy. He’ll be turning eighteen, next month, I think. I wanted him to have some place to live if he ever wants to live in the country.”

George stops and turns to face the street person.

“Phew, phew, I thought you’d never stop George. I was about to quit you right back there,” says the street person, relieved and smiling.

“Huff, huff, huff, now you’re not lying to me, are you?”

“Cross my heart, I’m telling you the truth. Do you think I’d lie to you? H—l, I’m doing my best to help you out and all you can do is ask me if I’m lying? Humph. I should just walk away right now and you’d miss out on some good land!”

Breathing hard, George asks, “What would your wife and son say if you were to give me your land? Wouldn’t they try stopping you?”

A vehicle horn sounds and George smiles and waves to someone driving by in a 2008 Chevy Avalanche.

“That’s my wife. She’s probably checking on me to see where I’m at. I’m supposed to meet with her for lunch, and I was supposed to be there about thirty minutes ago. Do you see what happens when a person meets up with a good friend on the street?” he says, condescendingly.

The street person spots a snipe nearby and picks it up. He places it between his lips and asks George for a light.

George says, “I don’t even smoke; so why would I carry a lighter?”

The street person angrily throws the partial cigarette down and begins to walk away.

“Wait! Wait! Why don’t you come with me and I’ll write a check, but first I’ll get you something to eat. You’ll get your drink my friend, I assure you, you will! If I have to take your land off your hands, I think that you should receive more than a, what did you call it, a bottle?”

The street person stops and walks back to George, but this time he steps onto the sidewalk and proudly brushes some of the street dust from the front of his coat. Smiling, and obviously satisfied, he puts his hand out, expecting George to shake.

George fearfully hopes that the street person hasn’t seen, as his face uncontrollably wrinkles and takes on a look of total disgust. “I sprained my hand this morning, and I can’t touch anything with it, because even a simple touch causes the worst pain. Let me give you a rain check until tomorrow, after you’ve signed the land over, ok?” George says.

The street person says, “Listen, George, you don’t have to feed me, I’d probably lose it if I ate today anyway. Why don’t you just write a check and give me some money now? I’ll meet you at the B.I.A. office bright and early tomorrow, and I’ll sign every acre over to you. After all, you’re helping me out today, aren’t you?”

George says, “Yes, absolutely my friend!” as he scans the street, hoping that none of his friends have seen him standing with and talking to the street person. “What would they think, he thought?”

“I’m really hung over George, so if you could get me the money right away, I’d be thankful,” says the street person, and then he asks, “Is there anywhere close by where you can cash your check?”

George looks around and says, “As a matter of fact there is, I can cash one right here,” indicating a small clothing store located about ten feet from where they are standing, then walks and enters the business.

The street person waits outside the door, smiling and greeting everyone who enters or passes by.

“Twenty five dollars, man, I thank you George! You are a friend indeed to the needy street people and I’m going to let everyone know that too! I’ll bet that the next time that you run for council you make it in!” laughs the street person as George hands him the money.

Before parting company, George asks, “Now you’re sure that you’ll be there at eight in the morning, promise?”

The street person swears up-and-down that he will be there on time and they walk separate ways.

George looks back before entering the restaurant and sees the street person talking to another, before they cross the street together and enter a local liquor store.

In the restaurant, George excitedly relates his good fortune to his wife, telling her to keep it to herself and not to say anything to anyone until everything’s final. She shares his excitement and they begin to make plans for the land’s use.

The next morning finds George exiting the B.I.A. building, angry and feeling like a genuine fool, after waiting for over an hour for the street person to show. He hasn’t seen hide-nor-hair of the man and he’s late for work.

At the same time, the street person is walking along the sidewalk, following a local merchant who is out enjoying some nice, fresh, spring air. To any observer, it would appear that the street person is telling the other, one funny joke after another.

-- Calvin Tatsey © 2008