NO NEED FOR THE DEVIL
NO NEED FOR THE DEVIL
Harry rode a bicycle everywhere he went. It had been built in France and was now adorned with two bumper-stickers, reading “Free Tibet” and “Go Home Yankees,” respectively. Once, being the minimalist that he is, Harry tried his luck at a unicycle, believing that two wheels were far too egregious a privilege, and became fairly proficient. He gave it up after having attempted to jump down a series of stairs and thus forever extinguishing the possibility of offspring. Harry installed a motor in his bicycle the following week, which cost him two-hundred and six dollars. This highly expensive and mobile investment was, at the moment, parked un-chained outside of the coffee house where Harry was presently conversing with his three friends, all content to sip Lone Star and debate the possibility that Communism really was the best possible political structure. His long, blonde hair fluttered carelessly in the breeze beneath the bill of his backward-turned, powder-blue cap as he laughed, exposing a palisade of pristinely polished teeth.
Harry had been raised in an Austin suburb by two parents who worked in the same high school. His mother taught History and his father was the four-time award winning band director for Travis High. His father played the Bassoon so Harry, in an act of adolescent rebellion, learned to play the guitar. His father, who could also play guitar (which was unbeknownst to Harry until had already purchased and flaunted guitar beneath his father), taught his son the rudiments of the instrument. As it turned out, Harry presently had it with him at the coffee house. He pulled it out and began to play. He was very good.
“I talked to my shaman today,” said the female friend in her long blonde braids beneath a woven cap. “He cleansed my soul.” He had cleansed her soul not unlike a nineteenth century psychologist would have cured her of hysteria.
Her shaman’s name is Carl.
Carl is, overall, not important.
She spoke excitedly and carefree; nasally in a sing-song voice. Her name is Hayley. Hayley was stoned. Hayley’s father was a bridge foreman. Her mother is dead, the victim of a drunk-driving accident. Before she was dead, Hayley’s mother was a stock broker and thus a proficient gambler. She won eleven-million dollars in the Texas lottery. Neither Hayley nor her father presently hold jobs. Hayley danced to Harry’s music, spinning in circles, her arms outstretched like a child playing airplane.
Someone came out of the coffee shop with a banjo and began to play with Harry, accompanying his slap-back, finger-picking rhythm, bobbing his head and tapping his foot. Harry ceased playing with an exasperated sigh that smelled of raisins. The someone walked away, dejected and Harry, having won, put away the guitar, as to not invite any more unwanted interruptions.
Peter, in his dreadlocks and red t-shirt bearing the simulacrum of Ché Guevara, picked up where Hayley had left off. “It just makes sense,” he said in his urbane, rakish way. He lit a cigarette. “Why should one have while another has not, you know?” He dragged and puffed once, then threw the cigarette aside. Lit another and repeated. As far as anyone knew, Peter had no family, and had made the Dean’s list all four years of college. He thought of himself as an artist.
Peter currently holds no job.
“I don’t get all this liberal nonsense y’all ‘re always talking about. Y’all need to watch the news or somethin’. I mean…” This came from Bristol, the cowboy who had never ridden a horse.
Bristol hung around.
“But how can you argue with Lennon?” Hayley asked him. “It’s so simple: all you need is love.” Hayley was mistaken in her assessment of the conversation.
Harry brought the conversation back around, shaking his head and smiling. “It’s not that simple, Hayley. It’s Vladimir we’re talking about, not John. But beautiful insight nonetheless.” He kissed the freckles on her arm and she smiled again. “Oh!” she said, “birds!” She wondered off to harass some birds bathing in a puddle.
“W’ll then why don’t you ‘splain this to me again,” said Bristol becoming irate. “Maybe I j’st don’t g’t it.” Bristoll’s lower lip was full of tobacco, impairing his speech only slightly. He spit on the ground and fidgeted with his Stetson. Bristoll had a crush on Hayley, who, upon returning after having frightened away her avian friends, commented that the brown stain Bristol had created on the cement looked remarkably like America. It did, in fact, resemble America, even splattering to form some of the Keys.
“Basically,” Harry said, rubbing his forehead with the tip of his fingers, “what’s mine is all’s. It’s the way Jesus wanted it.” At Bristoll’s confused-face cue, Harry went into greater detail, explaining the devils of ownership and evils of possession.
Harry, overall, did not understand Communism.
The conversation went on like this for several minutes.
The conversation was overheard by Penner.
Penner wrote poems; the kind of poems Harry and his friends like to talk about. Poems about life, his life, solitary life, homeless life. Poems that would never be read by Harry or his friends. He wrote them in a leather-bound journal his sister had given to him years before she died of neurofibromatosis. It proved he was once young and loved.
Penner went out to a bar every Monday night when the club sold fifty-cent liquor shots. He got drunk and danced on the floor, tumbling in his ten yard radius of avoidance. Drinking, dancing, laughing until the tears came. He liked the songs that featured the harmonica; the novelty songs the DJ played on Monday nights for the frat boys who could two-step. Penner played the harmonica and wore a crushed fedora. When those songs played, Penner pulled the harp from his pocket and played along for a few notes, then winked at a revolted lady and danced some more, grinning. Completely aware of himself and his situation, though not inclined, on Monday nights, to show it. He would jig until his legs were too tired. Sit down, fall out of his seat and, forgetting that he had been sitting, begin to dance again.
He was sipping water, presently indoors at the coffee house, next to an open window directly across from Harry and his friends, scrawling his scrawny wrist across paper, listening to the kids that dressed like him. He was writing a poem:
A car makes love to a parking spot outside the window
I watch like a voyeur.
The car shutters and falls asleep.
The driver lingers too long
to keep my interest.
I turn my attention to the horizon;
a horizon that broadens as the sun sets and
the lights, the city, turn on.
Interrupted by a train
Click-clacking on tracks.
Moaning like a rape victim.
There is dignity,
even in that.
I am her austere intimate
both glad and offended
and I comfort her as she cries
knowing I will go nowhere.
I am alone.
Surrounded by Abrahams
happy to surrender their sons.
I think about God
His escape of time.
Is that something I wish:
His elusion of time?
As if earth is nothing
more than a wristwatch
with which He winds time,
backward and forward to His own whim.
The eternity of the past.
The only thing that will never change.
I see a cricket on a ledge.
A bird sees it, too.
I see the bird.
Does the cricket?
The bird catches the cricket
up in its mouth.
Was the cricket
Do insects feel
The cricket feels nothing,
Did God see the cricket
and the bird?
He said He provides for the sparrows,
but what of the cricket?
Harry’s phone rang, causing Penner to look up. Harry pulled the phone from his pocket, inserted the earphones into the earphone-jack, and spoke loudly, holding the phone far away from his face. “Yeah… Yeah… Yup… Ok… See you then…” He hung up without saying goodbye. “George is on his way,” he addressed the group as a whole.
George is, overall, not important.
Penner stood up. It was Monday night and he had engagements to attend to. He shrugged. He looked around and located the bike he had seen Harry arrive on—the one with two bumper stickers on it—and proceeded to mount it. Harry saw him and stood up, outraged. “What do you think you’re doing, old man? That’s mine!” Harry leapt out of his seat and over the balcony, and shoved Penner to the ground, rendering the notebook, unnoticed, from his pocket.
“I’m sorry,” Penner said penitently. He politely guided the bicycle into its original parking space and lowered the kickstand along with his head. “It’s just that,” he explained, “I overheard you all talking and must have misunderstood. I thought you had no need for the Devil.”
George came to pick up his friends. Penner’s notebook was run over by his Volvo.
©2012 This work is the property of the author.