Love on the Avenue

It’s the middle of February, as I make my way home through the choking haze of garbage smoke from half a dozen backyard fires. The weather is warm for this time of year but, everyone on on the block is having a party, so they all had to find some crap to burn. I’m pretty sure that’s  a utility pole old Sweet T. has cut up and stuffed in his barrel. The creosote fumes rise up, adding to the aroma of the neighborhood, as it gets consumed by bright green flames from the bottom of the rusted steel drum.

Then she comes running out of the house. A half-drunk woman in her early twenties. Chasing after her two-timing want-to-be hood, of a boyfriend. I guess she looked at his text messages, again. She’s cursing his name while declaring how much she loves him, pleading for him to come back and throwing her shoes at him when he doesn’t. He’ll be back later tonight when no one else wants him. She’s the one with the job, and the car’s in her name. Still hasn’t figured out to just dump the bum and give the rest of the world a little extra piece and quiet on the weekends.

Walking on down near to the lime green house where Big Tattoo and his boys are dateless again on a Friday night. Can’t imagine why. What with there wife beater chic, and low-rent drug dealer mannerism. It wasn’t all that long ago when idle thuggery was a powerful aphrodisiac. I guess you got to change with the times. The only one I’ve ever seen with a woman won’t go near the place. Maybe the old lady that let them set up shop on her porch don’t allow female guests, not that aren’t relations anyway.

I see that the old grey house further on down, where the lawnmower guy used to live with his old lady and a one too many kids judging from the size of the place, is finally up for rent. The place has been empty since she suddenly put a steak knife through his stomach one night while he slept in his easy chair. I never heard much about them after that. Pretty sure they have separate residences now. Probably talking about getting back together again, you know, for the kids.

Still, I guess that counts as love around here, on the avenue.

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New Kids

Some things are different on the avenue.

Big Tattoo got out a changed man. Eyes sunken and hollow, he’s thinner now too. His skin yellowed from jaundice, just hanging in bags from his frame. I don’t know what happened in there, but he hasn’t fared much better on the streets. The old, white house they operated from got sold. New owners evicted the old man and painted the damned thing sea-foam green. No one’s seen hide nor hair of Mr. Squeaky-voice since. Sounds like he ran off with the product. Someone new set up shop in a house across the street. And everyone’s mad at Big Tattoo, he was supposed to keep them all in line. You can see it in his walk. The exhaustion of an old man still playing a kid’s game, just cause they never thought to get good at anything else. It almost hurts to watch it happen.

And the new kids are learning the ropes. They’ll skip school to  stand in shifts out front of that old abandoned house the corner. The one with the plates missing from it’s jalousies, wild grape vines overrunning the yard and pulling at the fence, peeling red trim around the windows. There’s one boy there now I’ve been watching grow up for the better part of a decade. You can tell he’s there on business cause he’s sporting two phones. The business line’s a flip phone burner. I guess the other line, a low rent smart phone, is for snapchat, and for telling lies to his mother. He’s on lookout, checking for the cops.

It’s not like they don’t know why he’s out there, or who he’s working for. They look him up and down as they cruise on by with slow intimidation. They’re too busy to roust him, he ain’t bleeding in the street. Not yet at any rate. They’re all still busy looking for who that shot the baby girl four months back. She lived, but they were aiming for her dad. He wasn’t so lucky though. Inquiries are ongoing.

Down the block the neighbor’s little girl is learning to ride her bike, while her brother hands out dead leaves  to passersby from the bouquet of them he’s collected from the parking lot of the funeral home.

The autumn air is growing cold and crisp, and I’ve taken to just sleeping in most days.

Trash Day

They were lined up before dawn again at that old, white house today. The desperate ones, that didn’t ration themselves out quite right and wind up milling around the street waiting for the morning delivery. The sun’s come up on the avenue. Now some old addict walks, bent near sideways, holding broken glasses tight to his face. He’s looking too casual as he searches. For the odd, stray pill dropped on the asphalt or maybe the lawn. I don’t think he notices as I pass him on my way home from the run down park where the bus picks the kids up for school.

They don’t bother me much most days, except when their memory gets fuzzy and forget that they’re not supposed to come up in my yard.

It’s more likely they’ll get violent with each other than with anyone else. Usual only ever gets as far as them yelling about who owes who what money, or who took that last dose. They all owe each other something it seems. Most days they keep it low key. They have to, or Big Tattoo will run ‘em off.

Too much noise is bad for business I guess.

The cops? They all know what’s going on here. They know about all the other houses in the neighborhood just like it. They’re not going to do a god damned thing either, not unless someone calls in a complaint. When that happens, they’ll probably just tell you that “It’s under investigation” and push some papers around the office. 

Who are they going to arrest anyway? No big busts to be had here, no feathers in a cap. None of the knuckle heads are ever have the stuff on them for too. No big stash is kept there. Operation’s supplied by a system of small timers and junkies on rusted out bikes; they do all the leg work. Some young punk with a voice like sandpaper runs the business end, and Big Tattoo keeps them all in line. Pretty sure the kids hanging out at the end of the street are lookouts. Ready to make that call, warning them every time a cruiser heads their way.

It’s not even their house. They just sling their shit off the front porch.

Place belongs to some poor old guy in his seventies. They offered him a cut at first. Social security wasn’t quite making ends meet, so why the hell not? It was just a little weed when it started. He probably should have seen it coming. Maybe he did. Hard to say, old fool is so drunk most of the time no one can really understand him. I can hear the fear though, when he mumbles at the night about how it’s his house. The sadness when he mutters about not seeing any money from them.

And they all know me and, they all know where I live. This is the nicest part of town we’ve lived in for years.

My bad knee creeks as I walk up stairs. Groaning when I realize, I have to make another trip down with the garbage.

It’s trash day, and it’s all gotta go down to the curb.