“Excuse me sir, I need to ask a favor of you”. Steve looked so disgusted and exasperated. The stranger introduced himself as Alex Haler. Alex proceeded to tell Steve a story about how he was attempting to raise enough money to buy a bus ticket, to see his daughter up north. Steve looked Alex square in the face, this homeless guy had very blue and very penetrable eyes. The kind of eyes that could not deny the fact that they knew and had seen things, things that most people don't, or might be too afraid to. Steve had smoked a half joint of skunk bud before he set out that morning and he was feeling full of himself. “Listen, Alex I work in some pretty shady parts of this shit-hole, god forsaken town, and I have awarded my hard earned cabbage to those with more honest stories of distress. For example, not too long ago while doing a little repair job in the heart of the local ghetto, I came across a woman in need. This woman who went by the name of Trish, was seven and a half months pregnant, and strung out on
crack cocaine. Trish told me her stomach hurt so bad, but not because she was hungry. The reason Trish had such bad abdominal pains was because her unborn baby was kicking like a mule because it was two days since mommy last smoked rock. God damn right I gave that honest bitch twenty bucks, simply for being honest. Now that was a win win situation. The baby's happy, crack whore mommy is happy, and there is one less begging bitch latching onto my ass. Steve asked Alex, “would you like to sit in my warm truck and make thirty easy dollars”. “Whoa, wait a minute here, I ain't no fucking flamer”. “I know your not Alex, I only want you to tell me your life story, how you came
to this pathetic point of it, and why. Wait a minute Alex, before you get in my truck, I need to see the other hand you've been hiding in that pocket. For all I know you could be packing a gun or maybe something that requires more calculating effort, like a knife.” From his coat pocket Alex extracted something, but it was not a gun, knife, nor a hand. Covering the stump, where a hand should have been attached, was a thick looking wool sock that had an intricately embroidered Christmas scene, Steve had never seen such fine craftsmanship. Alex looked at Steve with embarrassment, “It's part of the life story, brace yourself”. Together they sat in the Chevy's warmth and Alex began to tell his story.
Alex promised Steve the most interesting story that he has ever heard. Indeed it would be by far the best, and most interestingly unusual. Alex let out a long and painful sounding sigh, Steve could tell this story was told many times before, and usually fell on deaf ears. Alex began to tell his true tale. “When I was younger, a small boy in fact, I was the oldest of three sons. Myself and my two brothers were inseparable. When we were just small kids we were big into super heroes, saving people and the world. My youngest brother, David and myself were the true crime fighters, never having any problems with villain's blood streaking our imaginary gloved hands. We actually only wore towels as capes and our underwear. Back then if there were under-roos, we didn't have them, nor could we afford them. What we did possess was far better than any utility belt or other gadgets. We had something so seemingly simple, yet something most kids don't have today, an imagination. My younger brother, Gary was the resourceful one, keeping David and myself full, on stale cheetos and flat soda. Afterall, fighting villains all day was a calorie burning, exhaustive ordeal. I came to realize that my brother Gary would one day become most like all those villains, that as a child he elected to not confront.” Steve looked over at Alex and seen those blue eyes begin to tear up, but his voice never wavered. “As we all got older, Gary was always the entrepreneur. We all had paper routes, but Gary had a gift with being thrifty. I can't remember how many times he gave money to my father in the morning, before dad went to work. “Okay Alex, I've heard enough of the broken childhood, let's fast forward to where you lose your hand, Steve said insensitively.” Once again Alex continued with the unfolding of his tragic world. “Five years ago I was a professionally paid firefighter, and that is why I carry the sign. Back then I was under the care of a psychiatrist, who had finally gotten right the cocktail of medication I needed. A lot of times back then I got so frustrated, believing that if I removed myself from them, meaning everybody, I would be fine, with the natural saturation of my own brain chemistry. I was married to a wonderful woman, who bent over backwards to accommodate me. Gary had a rental house that he decided to sell. I was a handyman when not working at the fire station. My brother asked me to do some repairs at his house he was planning to sell. While working there I badly cut my right hand. I probably should have had a few stitches, but I knew I was a fast healer, hell most days I felt impervious to any physical or emotional pain, I was a rock. Days later we were doing some water rescue training at the fire department. I figured my hand was sealed up enough, that it would not break open. A week later I couldn't feel any sensation in my right hand. With a little apprehension I went to the doctors. I found out some very bad news, my hand would have to be amputated. It turned out there was an un-discovered bacteria in the lake we did our water rescue training in. This particular bacteria immediately reported to the CDC. The very first thing I thought of was how impossible it would be to smoothly shave my testicles with one hand. I am sure the inability to perform other tasks came to mind, but none seemed as important. The fire department was very supportive and offered me a cushy desk job. I knew I was still way too restless and young to compromise my need for physical activity. I became depressed and my wife left, fearing that I was not at all a viable source of income. Who would pay for all her tanning bed sessions? How could I now afford her lavish lifestyle, with her rather expensive tastes? It did not take long for her to shit can me out the door. One day I came home from a long walk, and she said, “stumpy you need to get the fuck out.” I no longer had wheels, because I had a stick shift, and you can't change gears with a stump. My brother Gary never even called me about my hand or the lack of it. My brother David left town to take a job with the Dade, Miami Fire Department. I quit my medication, because obviously I had no medical insurance. I did notice that being off the head-meds, I began to see things with a much greater clarity. I finally caught up with Gary, while he was sitting with one of his mistress's in a coffee shop. I just happened to be walking by, searching a dumpster behind an adjacent business, and there he was. I looked through the window and felt a measure of fear I've never experienced before. My brother had a pair of small stubby horns protruding from his head. Now Halloween was a long way off, and no one else seemed startled. I was the only person who could see my younger brother for what he truly was, a demon. Maybe it was the price he paid to sell the most cars for the month at the car dealership. I stammered in the coffee shop and screamed, “Holy shit, your a fucking imp bitch.” Calmly he replied, “your making a spectacle of yourself, crawl back into your dumpster and sleep it off”. “What are you going to do little brother, make it my permanent place of rest.” I tried to confront his wife, but she only said,“you really need to get back on your meds.” “I am the only person that can see this man for what he really is. Every time I seen him in town I would make a scene. He convinced all those around him that I was a bad alcoholic. I believe he actually has some kind of power that allows him to mask others perceptions. I had not seen him for like six months, so I went by the car dealership where he use to work at. A fellow employee said he moved to Charleston to open up his very own dealership. I pressed further, what kind of cars is he selling. The salesman looked at me and laughed, “the devil only deals in Chevy, you stupid fuck.” “Now every Christmas I get one of these really ornate stump protectors. I guess they are also some kind of mental blocker from seeing horns on the heads of anyone affiliated with a car dealership.”
Steve had a jaw dropped look on his face. “Man o man, if that is a true story, then it's some scary shit. Next time I see you on the street Alex, I won't hesitate to open my wallet. What an unsettling story, you've really got it tough.” Steve drove away, grateful he had the other half of that joint under his visor.