Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

CUTE AS A BUTTON AND A COLD CHICKEN LEG

In Uncategorized on August 20, 2015 at 6:12 pm

semper fidalis

Way up in the far reaches of northern Bronx I got into a #4 train this early morning.

Last stop.

I had gotten a tip a storefront church in west midtown would be giving away pieces of frozen chicken; ten pounds of legs per needy beggar – first come first served – and I wanted my piece.

My cute as a button likes to cook and she makes a delicious chicken soup – especially with all the bags of free carrots and all the bags of free onions I get from the food pantries and her using her very special spices; very tasty soup she cooks.

And with the weather as cold as it is these days I have a readymade refrigerator; keep 10 lbs. of frozen chicken cold for weeks on my fire escape easy, no matter the threat of a NYFD citation.  I take my chances.

This early morning I quietly make my exit from our warm apartment, silently tip-toeing away from my softly slumbering cute as a button; she’s my girl.

You’d think at five  in the morning I’d be alone in this train car – or at least one of the very few passengers – and I can find some peace for a few moments – and some warmth – from the bitter cold this darkly early winter morning.

Such is not my fate.

Walking along the platform aside the train’s many cars I step into the middle car and I plop down onto my favorite seat; I like the blue single fold down seat at the front end of the middle car; the seat’s location sets me apart from most other passengers and keeps me almost alone on the ride downtown, and I have room to remove all my layers of winter clothing – there are many seats to choose from this early morning and I choose this seat; this is my favorite seat.

However I am not alone in this car – midway down this car is a tattered old man with a formidably sized pic sticking out the top of his knotted brown hair and he is suddenly animated and growling and spitting out

“I’m gonna to whip your ass.”

I ain’t paying him no mind as I remove my layers of winter coats and fleeces and pulling off my black winter woolen stocking cap, stuffing it all into my large shopping bag.

“I’m going to whip your ass!”

I ain’t looking at him and I sure as hell ain’t going to move from this car and move from off my favorite seat and no matter how ragged and torn he’s looking – if he smelled he didn’t smell bad enough to be sending any of his whiff down to my end of the car – at least not yet; all the doors are standing open as this is the last and first stop so there is a lot of air flowing through this car right now standing open on the elevated track – a fair amount of very cold air is whistling through this early morning.

“I’m gonna whip your ass!”

‘Yeah, yeah – any time.’  I am thinking; riffling through my shopping bag looking for my papers.

Do you believe this?!

I have to get – this is the attitude I have to stuff myself with – at five in the morning ?

I tell you this is a way better wakeup than coffee in the morning.

I am not sure ‘better’ is the correct word…

‘Stronger’ – yes; this forced interaction with another of God’s special slothful sooty snowflakes produces a ‘stronger’ early morning wakeup than a tall cup of a double espresso – much stronger; stiffens the spine.

“I’m gonna whip your ass.”

Fuck you!’ I am thinking and I get to wondering whether he really is talking to me or is he repeating a familiar phrase from his long ago-lost-malevolent-evilness-father days, and dark frightful struggling ghetto nights…

“I’m gonna whip your ass!  I see you looking at me.”

I ain’t paying him no mind and I ain’t his psychiatrist, though need be I’m definitely a soldier – I have to be in these environs – ready for any of the possible threats he is espousing and spouting, couched in his globby gross spit spraying; I’m ready for a tooth to be flying out of his mouth.

“I’m gonna whip your ass!”

I see no whip he has handy – perhaps all this possible fuss just a playful figure-of-speech.

A few people get on the train the doors close and we trundle downtown and I am thinking

‘What a fool I can be.’

After a few stops the car’s seats are all full with people though the aisle is still clear and I am staring off down the car’s length lost in an early-morning-daydream of walking into the new found storefront church and picking up ten pounds of frozen chicken legs when all of a sudden I hear a bellowing

“I see you looking at me!”

I look down from the train car’s light beige ceiling and I am looking directly at this monster.

You don’t mind me calling him a monster – do you ?

He might be God’s special snow flake this cold Thursday morning but he is big enough and ratty looking enough – with a big pointy metal pic of a comb sticking out atop his head that he seems monstrous enough to me, and I am going with that analysis in case all-of-a-sudden I am needing to slay a dragon this early morning.

“I see you looking at me!”

He seems to be bellowing this phrase at me, as a threat – I have been in this situation before and I know where it can go – I have been there; I have done that.

“I see you looking at me!”

All the other passengers have perked up from their normal slumberous morning routines and are suddenly acutely aware of me and him – or acutely aware of me and the monster; whatever description you prefer.

And I can see why he might be thinking I am looking at him as he is sitting way down in the middle of the car across the aisle from me agitatedly shifting his gaze, spitting threats; my back is to the car’s forward wall and my whole body posture is turned towards the rest of the car and at this distance from me I can see how he might be thinking I am looking at him…

But so what?

He definitely is a scene in this train car and he is certainly noisy enough and I am certainly looking at him now.

And then I figure ‘Fuck him’ and I busy myself with my papers.

But he ain’t letting it go and he gets up and he starts walking down the aisle, towards me –

And I ain’t paying him no mind and I can see out the corner of my eye he is getting closer…

And I say to myself – ‘OK…’

It wasn’t but a couple of weeks ago a few people got razor slashed – some in the face – sharply slashed in the subways by a person bearing a striking resemblance to this one.

“I’m gonna whip your ass!”

‘OK’, I am thinking and I see him rustling through his dirty ripped sweat pants looking for something –

A razor blade – a knife -?

As I say, this is a wakeup much more strongly brewed than a darkly roasted double espresso.

Now all the people in the car are really alert – and since they are all new to this car – newer here in this car than he and I – they are not sure what may have gone on between us two.

And I am thinking

‘No way this guy is going to attack me in front of all these people.  Would he?’

And now he is hovering over me and he is rustling into his grimy ripped torn stained sweat pants with his dirty grubby hands and blackened fingernails and I can smell the stench now – oh yeah – his putrid sour scent but I ain’t paying him no mind and I am thinking I am going to give this grimy sloth a chance – I am going to give him a hint at what I am prepared to do if he does not stop fucking with me and getting in my face.

I bend down rustling through my shopping bag – past my red fleece pullover and pushing aside my warm woolen scarf and passing by my heavy leather gloves and I pull out from my shopping bag my black woolen stocking cap with the gold and red and white eagled crest of the US MARINES emblazoned large on the front of the black stocking cap.

The stocking cap even says, inscribed in bold large red letters atop the embroidered outstretched gold eagle: US MARINES.

And I put that cap on and I pull it tightly down fully covering my forehead right to the top of my eyebrows and I turn and I look up at him; I face him.

I face him with seriousness – and maybe even a bit of hatred in my eyes for him bringing me to this place so early in the morning – as the US MARINE insignia emblazoned red across my forehead stares into his disgusting face with me.

‘Semper fi baby – we’re all going down.’

His dusky grody grooved furrowed pitted scarred face not inches from mine.

My right eye is twitching.

He stops – backing a step away mumbling unintelligibly – but mumbling nothing about ‘whipping any ass’ – and he pulls his dirty grody hand out of his filthy torn darkly stained sweat pants and tosses a bunch of empty paper candy wrappers at me.

I’m pissed but I let the paper-wrapper insult go brushing the flimsy scraps off my lap, colors fluttering to the floor.

He is backing another step away and he is turning unsteadily on his heel as our car jerks sideways rounding a curve in the dark tunnel lurching and screeching against an untrue rail as he grabs for the pole and almost misses.

He slowly shuffles back down the aisle, away from me; onto bothering someone else I figuring…

He had no reason to pick me; did he?

And I thank God for the US MARINE emblazoned winter stocking cap I found lying on a VA Hospital’s floor a few months before; and I thank God I am wearing this black gold and white and red emblazoned stocking cap today with the eagle’s gold wings outstretched, and ready; and while I am in a thanking mood, I thank God for the reputation of the US MARINES.

And with my breath calming and the metallic taste of bitter sharp fear subsiding .

Michael Welch

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