The Hobo Art Memoirs
Aloysius P. Hatfield idled near the park, thoughtful and morose. No one was nearby, this being a Wednesday morning. He shuffled the deck he found abandoned on the picnic table, randomly picked four cards and turned them over. Three Kings and a Joker.
Well, that was easy. God, he wished he had those skills for real, not just a mysterious stroke of luck when it wasn’t needed. Maybe if he was luckier, he reasoned, he’d still have that little house in Hoboken with the weed garden and sculpture studio.
“You’re gonna be the next Brancusi, sorta,” the art critics had said of his work, slim, stretched statuettes of teddy bears, popular cartoon characters, and entertainment media personalities.
He hadn’t counted on a post-Pandemic epidemic throwing his plans under the bus, or in this case, his Ford Focus. He’d bought it in the hopes it really would help him focus.
Cars don’t do that.
People had stayed home finally, doing nothing but eating and binge-watching Walking Dead series after series. The predictable result, of course, was multitudes of obese, waddling citizens who were just short of qualifying for a spot on “My 800 Pound Life.”
Aloysius thought it all over, sensing an opportunity. His Brancusi style needed to change, to fill out somewhat, chub up a bit. It was worth a try, he reasoned. Maybe then the general public would be more open and empathetic to his art, and actually buying something, rather than walking around it oohing and aahing.
His first new piece, a remake of his character Steve Slender-Man, was puffed up into a roly-poly cute figure reaching out one arm and pointing into a non-existent audience. He then created fluffed out versions of the formerly skinny Conan O’Brien, Kate Moss, and Edward Norton, all with arms outstretched, pointing in different directions.
The response was overwhelming. He licensed a startup toy company in Madagascar to mass produce the figures, which were then sold online and shipped direct, a marketing ploy that took advantage of cheap labor, fattening his bank account and decorating that nice new house with a Grampa flat in Hoboken.
Six months in, he received a message from Twonker, the figurine manufacturer. “Mr. Hatfield,” it read. “We have been advised by our attorneys to halt production due to a lawsuit filed by the estate of Christian Bale, who succumbed to malnutrition in February.”
Apparently, after seeing the Twonker version of himself, he had gone into a depression and stopped eating. On his deathbed, he apologized for every movie he’d ever made, and how incredibly stiff and mechanical-like his Bruce Wayne character was.
Aloysius reshuffled the shorted deck once more, reflecting on the cruelties of life. Maybe the next hand he was dealt would be the one to set things straight.
The parking lot is closed, its crumbling remains abandoned to the summer sun. Its hot concrete and black tar skin is wearing away, revealing a foursquare barren manufactured desert. When traversing this place, I am reminded of what was once here. Discarded faded wrappers of food-things have clustered, driven by the breezes, along the eastern fence. A broken plastic bumper and its crumbled pieces from a long-dead car decay nearby, its metallic paint dulled to a lifeless bronze. The wind does not move it.
A shell that once held a ticket dispenser stands rusting, its reddish skin staining the pavement where it is rooted. The fading sign still attached reads "Ticket Automat." Above, there is a now-blind surveillance camera that once watched every movement in its realm, simulcasting it to the desk of a person who was also being watched by a camera.
A melancholia hovers over the area, we feel the ghosts of transitory pieces of history made or maybe changed here. Whose history is it? When? What exchanged hands and looks, what was tasted here?
This is no place to be for more than seconds, for the reflected starshine, cold till it buries itself in earth, melts the softer things that end up discarded and abandoned here. I traverse the distance from the ticket dispenser, and before I reach the gate, I find Dandelion, his yellow face upturned, feeling the rays that provide him life. He is a lone creature, rooted in this spot, a crumbling crack in the concrete, enduring the rain and sun, and if I could only speak to this lowly flower, I would find that he is casting eyes and senses beyond the fence and across the street to the flower box on the second floor patio of the house that sits there. Daisy has come full bloom and her roots strain outward to make a connection with Dandelion. They are in love and helpless.
This old parking lot, surrounded by graffiti-covered barriers, is no shelter for any creature. The occasional barbed wire lawyer passing through is on his phone, his thoughts in six places at once, two of those are lover's beds, fragrant and warm and so inviting. He is unable to see or connect with the struggle happening underfoot, the drama that comes from seeds cast there by windy chance.
Our lives mimic this, we carry on, we spread our seeds on the wind, till one day they are planted in the flower box with Daisy, and our roots interlock. We have sun, and shade, and rain, and love, and life is good.
Longtime Friend of the Macabre, Ed Coonce is an Encinitas, California artist, writer, actor, and the Creative Director and set designer for Theater Arts West, Sequin Productions, San Diego North County theater groups. He will soon release his latest books, “East Hell Boulevard,” an anthology of flash fiction, and a parody of his second grade Dick and Jane primer, “Fun With Our Friends.” He hosts East Hell Writers and like everyone else, is muddling through this Pandemic through Zoom. One of his war memoirs was nominated this past year for a Pushcart Prize by the Bocapa Literary Review.