© Nicholas 2004 - 2006


I practically ran right into the side of the bus my eyes were so blurry with tears. I looked up and gulped. The 96! I could ride out to those Edison Lakes. I could hide beneath the trees. Nobody'd find me there. I'd be safe. I wouldn't be where he could come up behind me.

I turned and looked down where I had run, no sign of him. I raced up the bus stairs and slammed my two quarters into the change thingie and stumbled my way to the back seat. The driver barely kept from slamming me into the posts and seats he started out so fast. I plopped in the corner and drew my legs up so my knees were by my chin and sat there shivering and shaking and trying to get my breath and sniffling through my snot and tears.

Why'd he have to be there! What'd he mean he prayed to see me again? You were supposed to pray on food and for peace and stuff weren't you? Not pray to see some pile of dirt like me! Why do I feel so squishy on the inside? So full of fear and shivering? The dog didn't make feel like this. The garbage truck did though. Man, that was scary. Mom hitting at me made me afraid, but it was different than this too. I realized I felt all quivery. I want to hear him say "Hey Paul." I didn't want him to see me. I want to see him again. I don't know what I want.

"Don't touch me!!" I screamed at some guy who just sat beside me and reached out. He jumped back up and looked at the whole bus of people in front of us all staring right at him. He quickly stepped forward and pulled the cord. He got off at the corner.

I finally heard what he had said. "Can I help, son? Do you need help?" Poor guy, trying to be nice and I exploded all over him. Well I ain't his son and at least I didn't puke on him, so tough shit mister.

I look up and some lady's looking at me. She quickly looks away when I see her eyes. I huddle up some more and pull my knees more to my chest. I close my eyes and try not to see his face on the corner, try not to hear his voice saying, "Hey Paul," try not to come apart inside.

I'd burrowed into the leaves and needles under the trees and read another chapter of Artemis, but I didn't have a clue what was in it. I couldn't concentrate on the story or think anything beyond "Hey Paul." Well that's not exactly true, I wondered if Mom was looking for me in line again, waiting to beat me up some more. I wondered if she even remembered me after the terrible things she'd said. I wondered if my shirt would still stink after I'd kind of washed it in the lake. I wondered if Manuel and Carlota would notice I didn't show up.

Nah, shit, what the hell would they notice for. Just a punk kid with a couple of bucks. Wouldn't make a difference in the business and besides, the last couple a times they had fed me free. So they'd have more food to sell if I wasn't there.

Mom too, she could sleep in the women's dorm and see her friend and not have to worry about keeping up with me. She said I was a pain sometimes and caused her lots of trouble. At least she didn't have to worry about that no more. I hope she found her stuff and maybe knew I didn't steal it. I wish she hadn't hit me. Wonder how she was going to get her second cup of coffee now without my tray?

"I'm sorry Mom, I really am!" I said up to the tree.

'Course all that was mixed in with "Hey Paul." And "prayed to see you." And "Wait, come back." And my brain being some kind of silly putty and bending all around. My stomach a big fish flopping every time I heard that voice inside my head. My dick getting hard and poking against my jeans and then shriveling up and almost disappearing. I looked in my pants once when it was all scrunched up and so small you almost couldn't see it. It hurt to get so tight, my nuts were aching like. And then one time it tried to poke out in between the buttons and I thought it was going to get pinched off. I thought about taking off my underoos and washing them too, but seeing Hulk made me laugh. Yeah, strong boy me, a hundred pounds of muscle. Shit more like 50 pounds of dirt and one stick sometimes poking out.

I must have fallen asleep, cause where it had been getting dark, now it was getting light. The birds were so damn loud! Geesh, I'd never heard anything like them. Squawking and making all kinds of racket. Some seemed to be right above my head. There was like a rainstorm of chirping and peeping. It came in waves, louder when the tree shook a little and then almost quiet for a few moments, the loud again.

I finally spotted where it was coming from. Looks like a momma bird was coming in with food! When the babies saw her they would make the racket and when she'd fly away they'd quiet down until she came back again. Funny, that's like just the opposite of in the shelter. There the babies would squawk and squawl when the mom's went away and be quiet when they were near. Wonder if I had been like a baby bird or baby boy? Wonder if Mom was looking for me?

God, I'm hungry. Maybe momma bird would feed me too. Hehe, no, don't want to eat no half chewed worms.

Damn! He gave me money! I dug in my pockets and pulled out the wadded up crinkled mess from where I'd shoved it before I saw his face.

Oh God! Two fancy twenty dollar bills. And some kind of hard paper cardy thing. Said SBC with some kind of fake Nike swosh on it. Wonder what that meant? Hey! One of them yellow sticky notes on the backside too! I read the note scrawled on it. "Paul, use this if I can ever help you. Call the number on it, I will answer the phone. Eric"

Hmmmm, yeah, that's like a phone number on the front, and a bunch of directions on the back. Like I'd want him to see me like this, sprinkled in leaves and pine needles. Like he'd want to help me all covered in piss and puke and snot and tears. At least I had some money, I could get something to eat.

Damn digging in my pocket made me find my hard as a stick boner too. I needed to pee real bad and maybe the other too! What was I going to do? Hey, maybe one of these buildings had a bathroom. And a clock! I'd see what time it was. I stuff the card down in my left pocket, covered the book back up safe and pushed the money deep in my right pocket past my boner. Uhg, I needed to pee!

I looked out from under the trees and didn't see nobody so I crawled out quiet like. Well, not too quiet I guess. The mother bird was making a racket like I was a cat or something after her babies. I grabbed my shirt from the branch I had hung it on and slipped it on. It was kind of stiff like, but least it didn't look like puke no more. Not really clean, but not dirty either. I walked around the building pretty quick. Geesh I could just pee in the bushes I guess, but the other? Wonder how the Indians used to do that?

Boy, must be early, there's no cars in the parking lot, building probably all locked up. Hey no! The doors just kind of magic opened! Not like the grocery story where they swing out, but like in Star Trek, they kind of wooshed to the side! Cool! Wow! A lot of plants in this building. Geesh! It must go up like a million feet. Wonder how they wash those windows way up there?

I kind of sneak along the edge of the plants and get deeper inside the building. Shit, if this were downtown there'd be cops and guards and stuff. Nobody here though. Hey, there's the elevators, sometimes the bathrooms are close by, at least at the buildings where Mom and I went to try and get that food money. YES! There's the bathrooms. I race across and into one of the stalls. Wow, I can see myself in the floor its so shiny.

God that feels so good to pee. I'm just wiping myself and getting ready to pull up my pants when I hear the door open. Shit, I pick up my feet a little in case he's looking under the stalls. Then another time the door opens.

"Damn, first coffee piss sure feels good," I hear one say.

"Yeah, almost as good as the first beer piss of the afternoon!"

"Hey, did you read about Old Samuelson in the paper this morning?"

"No, the partner with the big fancy office?"

"Yeah, that's the one, poor sod. Picked himself up a randy coke head prostitute yesterday down on Canal street. Bitch has his pants all open and sucking him when she pulls a knife and stabs the bastard!"

"No shit!"

"Yes shit! Then she grabs his wallet and jumps out of the car right in front of a cop car and gets popped real good! Dead in seconds! Can you imagine though? Explaining to the cop right there why some bimbo jumps out of your car to commit suicide and why you got a steak knife poking out of your chest and why your dick is hanging out and covered with saliva?"

"Geesh! That would be hard to explain. Think he came when she sucked him? Or when she stabbed him?"

"Knowing that tightwad, it was when she got popped by the cop and he thought he'd get his wallet back!"

There was a bunch of laughter and then the sink running and the door opening. I hoped they both went out. I gotta get outa here before everybody starts coming to work. I peek under the stall and don't see any feet so I quietly open it and rush over wash my hands and sneak back out through the lobby. Just as I turn the corner of the building I see the bus coming. Shit I can't make it to the corner. I'll just run to the street and see if it'll stop for me.

Great! It's stopping. Hey, it's the driver I ate lunch with.

"Hiya schoooolboy," he drawls. "Whachya doing way out here of a morning? Hey you didn't let no John pick you up and just dump you dijya?"

"No, I came out yesterday to see the lakes and kind of fell asleep and missed the last bus back. I camped out under some trees. Uh, I don't have no quarters..."

"Jus' sit yo ass down boy, you be making me late here." He sounds mad, but he's smiling, so I sit right behind his seat.

"So Paul, you gots no school today?" he asks.

Damn, he remembered my name! "No sir, we got a special holiday again."

"Told you not to Sir me! Now you be careful you going with any'a them John's now. Boy as good looking as you get hurt real bad sometime."

"Hey, I don't do that! Just a quarter or two on the corner, but nothing else! Promise!"

"Good," he smiles up in the mirror. "Here we at the mall, here's your transfer now, you be good schooooolboy," he hands me the ticket. Geesh! I hug him quick and then jump off the bus and wave goodbye as he starts up again.

The mall is kinda dead this early, but open. There's some people eating breakfast in the food court and I see some ladies walking around. They go clear to the corner near the doors and then turn and go around. Looks kinda like their using the mall as a race track? Wonder if they get betted on by anybody eating here? Wonder if walking is helping them? Wonder if they got kids at home they hit and scream at?

I go up to the MikeyD's and order a breakfast burrito and water. Won't be as good as Manuel's I bet, but I sure am hungry. I take out my twenties and separate one and give it to the pimply faced kid taking my order. I watch as he pulls some funny brown pen outa his pocket and marks the bill. Then he looks around and shoves the bill in his pocket and pulls a five dollar bill out. Suddenly he's giving me three dollars and some change! Hey! What the fuck?

"Hey, where's the rest of my change?" I ask.

"Right there kid, here's your burrito and water, get the fuck outta here!"

"Hey! I gave you a twenty! Where's my change?"

"What's the matter here?" a lady comes out from the back.

The pimply kid says, "Punk here trying to say I cheated him!"

"He did!" I explode. "I gave him a twenty and he put it in his pocket and giving me change for a five!"

"Like right!" he says disgusted like. "I'm going to risk my job for a twenty? Look at him, he's just a street kid dirt ball trying a scam in the morning!"

"Look kid," the lady says, "He wouldn't want to lose his job for a twenty. If he made a mistake by accident we'll know in the morning. You come back tomorrow, if the drawer's wrong when we count it I'll give you the money back. That's the best I can do."

"But he stole it! It's in his pocket!"

"Look you want to come back tomorrow? Or you want me to call the security department now!" she growls.

Shit, half my money gone and nobody will listen! Just look in his pocket dammit! No, they're not going to believe a dirt ball like me. I grab my burrito and go sit down and eat it. Pimply face has a shit eating grin he keeps looking over at me. Bastard, I'll see he gets his!

I hang around the food court most of the morning. The mall gets kind of busy when the big stores open, but then quiets down again. Hey, there's pimply face coming out the side door to McD's. I watch and follow. Don't know what I'm going to do, but I'm going to do something. He heads outside to the parking lots. I follow a long ways back, but close enough to see what car he's going to. Old red beater! He's smoking some kind a funny looking cigarette. Must be like recess or something cause he's not driving away, just listening to some music and smoking. He smokes like two of the cigarettes and then gets out and heads back inside.

I work my way over to his car. Want to see what he has might be worth twenty dollars. Dumb shit, he didn't lock it or nothing. I open the door and geesh it stinks! Not like cigarettes either. Damn, that's pot! I smelled it where the guys were smoking at the shelter once. Mom smacked me and told me never to do that shit! I looked in the glove box and there was a whole baggie full of some funny looking dried up grass stuff. Bet that's his stash. I stuffed it in my pocket and then looked around and got out of his car. Hey, I got a great idea! One of Mom's boyfriends once got me an old bicycle and fixed it up. He showed me the little tongue thing inside the tire hose thingie. I looked around at all the cars. Damn, there's one! The special kind of cap that lets you take the tongue out! I quick twisted it off the car and went back to pimple face's. I slowly worked my way around staying low and watching out. Soon all four tires were flat as flat! He'd have a big ass shock when he came out from work! Guess I better not show up tomorrow to see if the drawer counted right. I knew it would, he'd put a five in and gave me change. Bastard!

Just as I was about two rows away the security car came driving by. Didn't see me, never see dirt, even when they are supposed to. Well, didn't get my money back, but he'll be sorry he took it!

I skipped around to the bus stop and used my transfer to head back downtown. Wouldn't work that corner again, but I needed more quarters.

Not a very good day, but I made enough to get a hotdog from the cart and then I found a little alley place with a tiny like flower garden so I settled down and thought I could spend the night there. Maybe I could go see if Mom was in the shelter line later on. Must have napped again. Geesh that was getting to be a habit. Wonder if that meant I was old? Heard someone say at the shelter the thing they missed most was taking naps in a bed. Well I guess flowers are a bed of sorts.

I looked down the alley and didn't see no one, so I eased out of the flower nest and walked down toward the shelter. Yep the line was there and not moving yet, but no Mom. I walked back to my flower bed and curled up beneath a bush. Damn crybaby, little tears trickled down my cheeks to water the flowers all around.

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