Stateville Speaks

Stateville hobble-hopped his mangled body into the lobby searching for coffee or maybe a pitcher of ice water with slices of lime. Coffee today. Stateville slung a golden mug from his ribs and poured a brew. He noticed a line. He loved lines. He hobble hopped over. He liked to join bank lines especially when he had no money to give or take. “They pay well in this joint? Slave you much? Boss you all day long?” Stateville passed through life as perpetual job seeker, traveler, lost soul, wise man, kid eccentric, elderly beggar, philosopher, clown, worker. Today he joined a line for workers behind a woman with purple and orange plaits cascading from large skull, one of several dozen people in line from the neighborhoods. “They want those who can talk is what I hear. Mhhmh. Not just anyone can talk, you ask me. There’s the war, elections, the weather, family, land, God. God is good to talk.”

“‘No gods no masters’ – no ma’am.” Stateville peered over his golden cup. “No god ever offered me a job. No god ever built me a home, offered me bread, gave me a lift, took my hand, led me anywhere but here where I am already. What do I need what don’t exist for? Fairy tales are fine but – is what is – all gods are make believe. Is what is. Far as anyone knows. Now, you got a great story? Fine, do tell. Story is not god. Story is signs and story is what is. But God no.”

“Mhhmh. You won’t get far without God in your life. You got to believe.”

“I believe in democracy not theocracy. ‘No gods’ – I tell it straight – ‘no master’.”

“Peoples need faith in the higher order.”

“In the holy clouds? In the sacred sun? The magical moon? The wondrous wind? Faith bores my brain. Intuition intrigues me. And facts. Intuition and facts is all my brain can handle.”

“A puny life if you ask me.”

Stateville puffed out his chest. He flapped his ears ahead, past the purple and orange plaits of his queued up companion to the front, to the receptionist. Soon enough he stood before her.

“Qualifications?”

“I can talk. ‘You can talk’ they tell me.” Stateville stuck his knobby twisted legs forward one by one. He curled his arms to show an absence of biceps. He turned out empty pockets of trousers. “My disqualifications precede me. But I can talk and think and tell it true to life. On the best of days.”

“Tell it true, that so? And what is truth?”

“The best we can know at the time.”

“Truth changes?”

“Not that I know, see. Truth, you got to always be on its trail. It eludes you even imbibe it in.”

“Education qualifications? Work experience? Resume, vita, transcripts?”

“The street of life. The world of pain, prison yard, train yard, my momma and daddy’s yard, yardbird. Yard sale, yard of the universe. The yard of life knows me well.”

“Any school yard is what I’m asking.”

“School yard sure, almost forgot. I sat in the seats. Worked the halls and closets. They don’t let you drive no busses, see.” Stateville shuffled side to side, showing off a variety of limps, a double and triple limp that seemed to possess him. Legs with length and twist issues both. Depending on the day, one leg shorter more twisted than the other, more brittle, less resilient. Which leg depended on which day, which weather, state of mind. Stateville shuffled, golden mug aloft to show off his balance in infirmity and tossed out a little dance at the end.

“You ever seen anyone as qualified as all that?”

“And you can talk.”

“Is what they tell me. Ears first. Converse like a gentleman, gossip like a hound. Ain’t that how we get around?”

“Mmhhm.” The receptionist marked carefully a slip of paper, then fixed it in the hand of Stateville, and nodded him along like she had the others.

“You ever wonder what qualifies the qualifications?” Stateville held out his hand to the receptionist. She grasped it. “Propinquity.” Stateville winked, then blinked. “That a new one on you?”

“Familiarity. The near at hand. The close by. Proximity.”

“So you can see I’m your man.”

The receptionist examined the line, the rough, the gentle, the funny, the downtrodden and up-and-coming. “No gods, no masters? That’s you, correct?”

“That’s me.”

“Good for you. I’m sorry though. I hate to be the one to tell you. No job.”

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