By Sean Wilkinson
A simple errand: Walk from Maple Street to Monument Square with CD of images to drop off at Kinko’s.
I leave Maple Street, walk up the hill, and decide to avoid someone I see lumbering towards me from the distance, so I cut through Asylum’s parking lot, walking past a group of ne’er-do-wells smoking a blunt in the alley.
Oh, nice. I’m being yelled at. And accused of being homosexual, no less.
Oh. I know him. Hi, Leon.
I call Megan to tell her about our explosion story being corroborated by another West Ender, pass Steve on the street and wave. Megan doesn’t pick up and neither does her voicemail.
I walk past the Civic Center and it smells like horse shit. There’s a bunch of hay and trash on the ground and an entire parking lot is full of RVs. There’s a Ringling Brothers trailer parked on the street. I fantasize a little about working to prepare a circus for showtime and what a crazy bunch of people must be in those RVs right now.
At Kinko’s, I’ve already walked past the front desk when the tired-looking old man sitting there throws a “good morning” at the back of my head. I half-stop and decided to just pretend I didn’t hear him. At the counter, a slightly younger old man trudges by, eyes down, and mumbles as he walks past, “I’msuresomeonewillbewithyoushortlysir…”
Some boring-looking woman in front of me is getting election postcards printed. Something about a pickle. She’s asking about postcard rates. She asks the goateed counter clerk what he thinks of the cards. He says, “Well, there’s an awful lot of white space… if you just put something in there, like a little dash of color, something to fill it up… a flag, maybe…”
“Oh, yes! Yes! A flag! That is perfect! Let’s put the flag on there and call it good!”
“Yeah. Yeah. That will add some… color… plus, it — you know — kind of goes… with the whole… the whole… theme… of the thing…”
Way to sell it, Junior. You’re a regular Saul Bass. Hurry up and help Soccer Mom run for office so I can drop off this CD.
I give the CD to another associate who seems fairly awake. He looks for the job ticket for five minutes while I wait. He can’t find it. I try to call Megan again, but she is working in the bakery. I at least get voicemail this time.
“Hey, hon, it’s me. I’m at Kinko’s. I was just waiting for the guy to find the job, but I guess he can’t find it, so I was wondering if you called already. I guess either way, I will just give him some info on it and you can call back when you get this. Yeah. That’s best. Umm… oh, also, so I heard that this other guy saw the explosion, too. He said there was a loud clap of thunder or something, which woke him up, and then he saw the big green flash — round — over the West End… just like we saw… so we’re not crazy… that was really happening. Um. Anyway. Hope you’re having a good day. Give me a call. Bye, baboes. Oh, and call Kinko’s, too. Bye.”
I am a bad voicemailer. I ramble.
The guy takes notes while I tell him what I know about the job. I can see his cigarette package in his breast pocket. I figure that’s probably not kosher with upper management. It reminds me of Mrs. Nuhall (Mrs. Uhaul, we called her) and her leisure suits in 4th grade. She would bend over our desks, smelling like smoke, checking our work. More than once, her cigarettes fell out of her leisure suit pocket. Once, they fell right out of the pack, scattering all over the floor. I also remember how she told us not to use Q-tips to clean our ears — nothing smaller than our pinky, supposedly. Then she asked for suggestions of things to clean our ears with. I raised my hand and said “Q-Tips.” She said “No.” I asked, “Well, what are they for, then?” Later she told us about dead skin and how we all are constantly sloughing dead skin all day, and how in her closet there are lots of dead skin flakes. Instead of feeling unified with my fellow humans for having dead skin, I pictured a horrifying image of a closet full of Mrs. Uhaul’s dusty blue leisure suits, covered in white flakes, mounds of dead skin like snowdrifts below the pant legs.
I leave Kinko’s.
I decide to stop into Zarrah’s for a coffee, a change of pace, on the way back to the office, but the line is literally out the door. I turn on the ball of my foot and walk on, through the parking garage, back down past the Civic Center.
I pass the circus caravan again and slow down this time. I want to catch something in the act: an elephant wandering across Free Street, a clown smoking a cigar, something. Instead, I just see a circus security guard in a camp chair, guarding the entrance to the parking lot where all the RVs are. He has his feet up on a bucket and is reading a biography of Chyna, the female WWE wrestler. I think, “Wow. That is some hardcore carnie shit. I wonder if circus folk are called carnies? Circuses are a carnival of sorts, right? I guess they’re just Circus Folk.”
I think about trying to get into the behind-the-scenes area as a reporter. Just bring in a camera and a notebook and a tape recorder, write something up forThe Bollard. Then I remember that I was going to write the piece about the smack boat this weekend.
I walk down the hill and see Steve again, with a white paper box from Artemisia in his hand.
“Hey, how are you, Sean?”
“Good, man. Really good. Hey, the circus is in town.”