The senior citizens of Three Springs opened a thrift shop in 1982 in what was once a little town grocery store. The wooden building with faded white paint was absent of large refrigerators that often broke down but was cool to cousins Stephen and Chuck. They decided to make their own Halloween costumes that year and went shopping to support the old ladies of town.

It was Stephen’s idea to dress like girls when he learned the thrift shop had its first ‘big brown bag’ sale. For only a dollar the kissing cousins were permitted to fill their sacks to the top with used clothing.

Nobody stopped them or told them it was wrong. Their parents saw it coming years ago. The two held hands as children and never could get over that habit as they approached their teens. Eventually, Stephen’s father ordered the boys to stop holding hands and grow up.

Preparing for Halloween together that year was like holding hands again. Even the old ladies with strict moral values egged them on.

“Here honey. Go ahead and put some of these clip- on earrings in the bag. The sign at the front does say ‘Brown Bag Sale’.

The wigs lining the wall at the back of the store sat atop Styrofoam manikin heads and called to the boys like their mothers rounding them up for supper.

They did it. They walked from door to door in that small town and collected their candy and got to be ladies for the night.

They both were blondes.

Stephen’s grandfather knew who was hiding under the costumes right away.

“I know Horton eyes anywhere. You are a Horton. Is that you under there Stephen? Yes it is. But who is that with you?”

Chuck batted his eyelashes at him, winked and giggled.

“I know who that is. Here have a Snickers!”

The real fun in town didn’t start until much later, when all the little kids were inside counting up their candy.

It was a tradition in Three Springs to corn cars on Halloween. Teenagers hid under the bridge at the top of town and waited for cars heading towards Huntingdon to pass. Stephen and Chuck wouldn’t miss all that fun for the world. The hard corn, shucked from cobs that grew in abundance in nearby fields assured plenty of ammunition and all the teenagers in town spent weeks in mid-October preparing for the big Halloween attack on cars. It was much more exciting than the costumes or candy.

What made corning cars so fun was that some of the drivers would stop their car and get out and chase the kids. If caught, a good ass-whipping was in order.

Chuck didn’t think about those high heels he was wearing and how the pointy stilettos would sink deep into the mud when trying to run. Stephen wore cheerleader boots and could still run fast.

When Brad Boyer jumped out of his pick-up truck with his shot gun, everyone but Chuck ran deep into the forest. The blonde had no choice but to remain very still under that bridge.

Chuck quickly removed one of his clip- on earrings and tossed it towards the far side of the bridge to try and fool the angry driver.

The driver had a flashlight and shined the bright light into Chuck’s face. Only one ear sparkled in the night.

It was Brad Boyer– the quarterback from the football team. He smiled at Chuck and put his gun down.

“Nice costume,” he said while smiling widely.

“Thanks! Want some candy?”

A few friends from high school marching band squeezed into my green Ford Pinto. We drove to State College to see the movie “A Chorus Line”. The song “Tits and Ass” rang through my head as we drove over Nittany Mountain in the dark. I prayed that my car would not break down.

Dana Scott, a non-Baptist Christian and baritone player in marching band, claimed to have spoken in tongues on several occasions. She sat in the front seat next to me with her hands on her lap and seemed to sense what little spark the Pinto had. To avoid the embarassment of the noise my clunker was making, I asked Dana to explain the process of “falling into the spirit and speaking in tongues,” to the rest of the band.

“They say you cannot speak in tongues around non-believers,” she explained as I shifted into fourth gear as we topped Nittany Mountain. The car began to shimmy. From the window, mountain shrubbery filled with poison red berries passed my periferial vision. It seemed that if one day we were all welcomed into the Kingdom Jesus once spoke of, the berries would be edible and one would actually take the time to get out of the car and walk around to admire the view overlooking a valley filled with lush pastures below, but I kept it moving while Dana spoke with a slight sharpness to her tone: “It would be impossible for me to do speak in tongues here in this car. Besides, I don’t like doing it. It scares me,” she explained.

“There is always a translator, sent by the Spirt, to translate what is spoken in tongues, otherwise, what is spoken is not authentic,” my friend Mark, a tuba player piped-in from the back seat. Like a true Baptists who sits first-chair in the clarinet section during non-marching band season, I was skeptical of all the brass in my vehicle.

I recalled, while looking at the poison berries passing by the car through the corner of my eye, the day in marching band practice when Mark, while taking down a tuba mounted upon his shoulder, covered the front of an orange t-shirt with what seemed a gallon of spit.

It was obvious he had not used the spit valve on the tuba in some time. The entire woodwind section roared in laughter. Mark, like one caught up in the spirit Dana had referred to earlier, had no idea what had happened.

“I am glad to be a Baptist,” I confessed, “we believe that once one is saved they are always saved and we don’t have to do silly magic tricks to win others over to the Lord.”

Dana refused to speak to me for the remainder of the ride. The tension in the car was stronger than the brakes on the Pinto.

A rabbit ran from under a poison berry bush near the road The Pinto squashed it. The shocks in that car were so bad that it felt we had just run over a deer. I shrugged my shoulders and was glad that it was not a deer. Dana did not mumble a word in English or in Latin.

Two miles further down the mountain road, another rabbit ran from the forest. We hit it as well. I laughed and screamed, “Got it!”

Dana nearly spoke in tongues.

A third rabbit nearly ran in front of the vehicle but suddenly stopped turned and ran the other way. I screamed, “Watch this!” and pretended I was going to do a doughnut while grabbing the steering wheel with a hug.

Suddenly the rabbit decided to cross the road anyway and the Pinto squashed it too.

“Please stop doing that! I am really upset,” Dana cried.

“I usually don’t do that trick in front on non-believers,” I responded and drove off into the night like a clarinet player with a solo played during concert band.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Wildlife Commission stocks the ‘crick’ in Three Springs with trout. Former President Jimmy Carter fished in nearby Trough Creek State Park when he was the President. There was rumor he sometimes came to Huntingdon County. Funding he likely made available must still be around, because every Spring, just as tiny tributaries lapping down a sandstone mountain rush into what townspeople call “the crick”. men with buckets stand on bridges and dump rainbows into the rapids and watch as every unsuspecting insect hovering near or around this slow part of the crick, vanish instantly as the fish make their way in both directions.

To those who live in this little part of Appalachia, a creek is a waterway that flows through a place of importance, like Washington D.C. The crick is what the government stocked to help feed those in need.

Following the collapse of the sandstone mining industry in the 1940′s, fishing was nearly the only occupation in Three Springs.

The borough used tax dollars to maintain not only a larger than Olympic size public pool, but managed to keep the largest of its streams well- stocked with rainbows and brook varieties. The once blue-collar town, through hard economic times, blossomed because of that crick and the fish placed there. Most of the town was on some form of public assistance. Not only was there free cheese and butter, but Carter let them eat fish.

Fishing and hunting became the favored recreational hobby and a means of survival for the decedents of sandstone miners who continued to live in Three Springs. Men were proud that sand for the largest telescope at the time came from stand harvested here. After the quarry closed, a means of scraping up a living there trickled away.

The population of Three Springs was only several hundred in 1976, and the ratio of fish to men was nearly 1 to 500 thanks to Jimmy Carter.

Three Springs was known for excellent fishing holes. With a pair of hip-boots and the right bait, one was likely to catch the daily limit of seven, or at least have a few stories to tell after a day of roaming the somewhat greenish waters, drinking Iron City beer.

The best fishing holes in Three Springs were accessible only by foot and sportsmen desiring seclusion while fishing could walk along the abandoned East Broad Top Railroad tracks, and steer clear of heavy brush.

The only note worry tourist attraction in this neck of the woods is the East Broadtop Railroad in nearby, Orbisonia. The railroad is the only single engine steamer of its kind still in operation. Train enthusiasts travel from Oregon to ride on it. Part of the tracks run along the crick in Three Springs. When there was mining of fine sandstone being done in Three Springs, it had to be hauled from the mountain somehow. The crick simply was not deep enough for boats, but the crick proved to be the most logical of places to build train tracks. Fishing the creek banks was made possible in the ’80’s due to the brush free walkways along the rails. Coal had fallen from locomotives years ago and littered banks with what seemed like charcoal. A faint odor, usually on cool, wet mornings,hit one like the smell of a freshly lit grill to an attendee of the Smith Family Reunion.

Avoiding the swamps filled with patches of skunk weed was easy. Fishers cast their lines into a mountain stream without having to fight for the best currents or sit shoulder to shoulder with other fishermen with lines in the water.

Few waded upstream where the big trout hid among slime covered crick rocks. Women in Three Springs never fished. The weeds were thick along the riverbanks and if wading, one could easily stump a toe.

My brother Bill was often the only one brave enough to wade and fish the crick upstream. Our home was atop the hill in Three Springs. Bill followed a deer trail down the mountainside. He knew that most of the stocked trout migrated to cooler waters upstream where very few rods were ever cast.

Getting to the best fishing spots in Three Springs was easy for a kid who loved to fish. He tumbled down the mountainside with his fishing pole in one hand and fresh bait in the other. Most often, when I tagged along, I was empty handed, with no interest in fishing but wanting to look for sunk-weed which amazed me because it smelled not only like a skunk when kicked, but rumor was, some people ate it.

Getting home with an armload of trout was difficult. The river there was untouched and its banks unpolluted by beer cans and cigarette wrappers. Only we were rambunctious enough to traipse down the hill behind Miller’s Diner and make our way through the thorns.

It seemed Jimmy Carter must have used Marine 1 to get there.

Bill had a fishing bait business. He sold live minnows and nightcrawler worms. A small stream behind our trailer– another for which the town of Three Springs is named–was the perfect spot for keeping inventory.

Fishermen driving by or having breakfast at Miller’s diner across the street, spotted a sign in our front yard–

“Live Bait”

Bill netted his stash of minnows from the creek below Miller’s Diner, where he loved to fish. He used sweet corn from a can and a wire-mesh cylinder contraption for harvesting the fish. He tied the wire tube to a rotted tree that fell over a portion of the crick showered in heavy currents. He knew that rarely did anyone fish that part of the crick, nor would they ever dare to crawl out on the log like a monkey, as Bill could do with his eyes closed, to steal the device and the captured minnow bait within.

Minnows entered the trap by swimming through small holes at the end of an inverted cones on each side. The apparatus was designed with funnel-like entrance ways at which point, the minnows could not see to escape.

The minnows filtered in effortlessly, lured by the scent of sweet corn that bill dumped inside. Unable to recognize the two exit holes among the mesh of wire, the tiny fish were stuck, for now the way out was no longer a funnel-like passageway, but a mere point on a cone and everyone knows—fish are color-blind.

Bill emptied his minnow trap every morning into the little stream behind our trailer. A partially-submerged plastic bucket with holes on the sides and bottom hung by a chain from a tree limb and stuck into the water over where we built a dam. When a customer stopped by, Bill simply lifted the bucket and removed the live inventory.

Nightcrawlers were captured from our front yard. We used flashlights at dusk to find the worms that came to the surface of the soil to get air following rains or sprinklings from the garden hose.

Steady hands were necessary for extracting the nightcrawlers from holes in the ground. Pulling too fast caused them to snap. One first pinned the smelly creatures with two fingers and waited for the worm to tire, and slowly tugged the slippery creatures like pennies from a jar.

After each nightcrawler was pulled alive and intact from the ground, they were tossed into plastic tackle boxes that fastened to our belts. We moved slowly across the lawn, often shaking our flashlights to regenerate fading batteries, pulling what was on business standards, ten-cents a pick.

Nightcrawler inventory was maintained in the tractor shed inside a large wooden box filled with topsoil, dead leaves, and used coffee grinds.

We had a steady stream of customers. Fred Parks, an avid fisherman who was rich on Three Springs standards, made a purchase almost every Saturday morning.

I bought my own shoes for the second grade on nightcrawlers.

“Do you got any of those stick worms today,” Fred often asked. Stick worms were taken from atop Jack’s Mountain, near the abandoned sandstone quarry, where a spring bubbled from the ground and formed an ice-cold pond.

An unusual worm that covered itself with a camouflaged shell of decayed leaves and sticks lived in those waters. Fishermen could strip away the shell and find inside, the juiciest of white worms that no fish in the world could swim by.

Fred paid $3 a piece for stick worms, but like wild raspberries along fishing spots in a creek, finding stickworms was not easy and the walk up Jack’s Mountain to that icy pond, took almost an hour.

For every dollar we made, Bill pocked seventy-five cents because he caught most of the bait. I was often disgusted by smell of worms on my fingers and never would I crawl across the crick on a log to pull up the minnow trap. I maintained the dam mostly and was content with my quarter.

Our uncle Frank Brown fished the Auwick Creek in Orbisonia almost every Saturday in summer. He bought a minimum of forty fresh nightcrawlers every time he took his canoe out on those muddy waters. We knew almost all our customers, but one morning in 1976, a stranger knocked on the trailer door at 4 a.m. to buy bait.

“You got a customer,” Mom said, turning on the light in our bedroom. Bill crawled like a stick worm from the top bunk, stepping on my arm that dangled from the side of my lower mattress. Barron, sharing the bottom bunk with me had peed on my back.

“Get up, Charlie,” Bill yelled. “If you want your quarter, you gotta get- up and help me.”

“Who do you think it is at this hour?” I asked.

“Probably Max Parks. He’s always up early.”

A stranger dressed in a suit was standing on the front porch.

“Good morning. I’d like forty dollars worth of live bait.”

“Forty dollars?” I asked, rubbing bird shit from my sleepy eyes. “That’s almost everything we got.”

“Do you have a bucket?” Bill asked. The man in the suit indicated that he did not.

“We have some milk cartons,” I said. “You’ll need something to put stick worms in. Do you want any stick worms? They are five dollars a piece.”

“I guess so,” the man in sunglasses ordered. The sun wasn’t up yet. “What else to you sell?”

“Nightcrawlers, minnies and stickworms. That’s it,” Bill informed.

“I’ll take twenty in nightcrawlers, twenty in minnows and ten in stick worms.”

“That’s just two stick worms,” I reminded.

“I tell you what. Make it thirty-five dollars worth of those stick worms for a total of seventy-five dollars,” the man said winking at me, as if I already knew everything there was to know about how Washington works.

I considered giving up my paper route that morning. Riding the hills of Three Springs on a bicycle, delivering newspapers for less than five cents a piece, was hard work. It felt like I was a miner. After selling our entire live bait inventory in just one day in one simple delivery, I was convinced that life as a fisherman was easier than that of a writer.

A shipment of 250 Huntingdon Daily News newspapers arrived on our front porch on Monday evening. I cut the bundle open with a pair of scissors and sat on the front step to wrap seventy-five copies with red rubber bands realizing I should be hunting nightcrawlers. On the front page of the paper was our President, Jimmy Carter who stopped in Huntingdon County to fish again.

According to headlines, President Carter went fishing in an undisclosed region of Southern Huntingdon and managed to catch seven fish that day. My hands, covered in black ink, trembled as I folded the papers– knowing that I, with a stick-worm, would catch my limit too.

Jimmy Carter made the news that day, but I knew I would one day write a story about it and get rich.

Heavy springtime rains saturated the wooded topsoil of the forests of Three Springs, PA. Winters that were spent filling hungry stoves with chopped wood melted away as the musty scent of burnt ash vanished and was replaced with cool, crisp air that seemed almost drinkable.

As blizzard snows melted away, tiny streams that ran amuck gathered into tributaries that could wash out entire driveways. Bob Cat, as my step-dad was called on the CB radio, carved a ditch with a backhoe back in ’72.

We needed dry land to keep our trailer from washing off the small ridge upon which it was parked. The deep channel, four feet deep at the time of original construction, had caved- in due to erosion and what was left was a little Grand Canyon in my view.

Despite the danger of catastrophic floods upon our land, I found the perfect location to build a dam that exists, in a near natural perfection, to this day. A natural mound appears amidst the willows– a little hump in the land, back where saplings once fought with sprouting acorns for the right to sunlight. I called the mound across the trench ‘Lady Slipper Dam’, but no matter how many of the orchids I attempted to transplant to the breast of my little Hoover, those delicate tissue tulips did not transplant well and were wiped- out due to my unquenchable desire to build a dam upon that little stream.

Like a beaver in heat, I flooded fields of the pretty flowers away, and as of 2016, none of the nearly extinct orchids exist on this piece of land despite the many years the pink little flowers spent attempting to make a comeback under the harsh sunlight of summer that came after neighbors moved in behind us just above the trench that marked a property boarder.

Bobcat never named the creek he dug to keep the basement under our green and white mobile home dry, but his common sense led to the creation of man made water-way that I, almost single-handedly, was able to tame for the purpose of forming a summertime lake that survived droughts of August. I spent so much time playing there, alone and with friends, upon the little damn that deserved a name.

The cool little pond glittered when shreds of filtered sunlight dripped through an umbrella of oaks and pines. Trout my brother Bill caught in a local creeks were brought home in buckets and thrived there. A million mosquitoes must have hovered up there at night, because our pet fish got fat, and lived most comfortably, at least until winter came and Lady Slipper Lake froze solid. We never knew where the trout went when the pond froze, and always assumed that a bear or raccoon got to them in the shallows of November.

A dam of mud and rock made one handful at a time was covered with moss gathered from northern sides of century- old locusts and elm. The organic carpet took to root upon the clay mounds. I dug deep down to find clay to use– chopping my way with chunks of broken sandstone through the roots of trees that seemed so long; my hands were cruddy and fingernails were encrusted with topsoil.

The damn was built a bit stronger, year after year.I chased spring showers like kick-balls. The neighbor boys came over to help– Chris Smith, shortstop of the Three Springs little league team was there to build. Chris had a grandmother who owned Miller’s Restaurant– a coffee shop across the road, downhill from our place, where eventually, that little ditch gave way to a more natural stream and crossed under a bridge on Hudson Street. The muddied currents we stirred passed down a gully just West of Miller’s Diner.

Chris lived in a trailer next door. When he wanted to come out to play with my three brothers and I, he’d stop at his grandmother’s restaurant and pick up four cans of Donald Duck orange juice. Chris always had a can of snuff too.

“What younz doin’ ta-day?” Chris would ask, handing us the offerings. Chris was an only child and lived with his mother. Like us, Chris’s parents were divorced, but Chris’s mom had not yet secured a second husband, and worse-off for Chris was the fact that he did not have any brothers. He thought of the dam as his too, although it was on our land.

“Puttin’ in a spill-way,” I explained, showing Chris a piece of plastic tubing I found in Bobcath’s race car garage.

Before finishing his juice, Chris would dig into the clay trench and grab handfuls of material for the damn. Brian Hoffman sometimes came over. He lived next door to Chris. The arguments over how to increase the size of the lake without having to take down the old dam and put up a new one were as common as our screams and yells when we played with a Nerf football in Brian Hoffman’s yard where there was another lake– a septic tank that bubbled like an untapped oil field somewhere in Iraq. His yard was so dry, with the exception of that black little pond, that clumps of grass only grew here and there, like Lady Slippers once did before I built that dam.

Tadpoles– the infestation of tadpoles that happened in our lake the first year we built it– handfuls of jelly with tiny spots inside. We had to take mounds of the tadpole embryos out of that lake, just to see our spillway work! We tossed them like Nerf footballs and played tackle on the moss and Lady Slippers near Lady Slipper Dam.

Clairvoyance is accepted as a gift by society. Fortune tellers are all over the city. Clairaudience, or the ability to “hear” voices that others cannot, is enough to have one deemed insane. There are others who have the ability to alter the course of fate, simply by placing a thought in the mind of another. I try to keep to myself most of the time, fearful that something I may say to a stranger may ultimately change the future of not only the universe, but the alternate ones as well.

The doorman at 300 Park has the prettiest pink lips along my paycheck route. After delivering paychecks there for several years, and rarely speaking a word to the young man, I decided to start a conversation just to see his lips move.

“People walking and texting on cell phones are really nuts,” I said. “I predict that in the future no one will be using social media. It will be looked down upon like the hula-hoop and the Rubik’s Cube. It’s just a passing fad.” I suggested, staring at the doorman, waiting for his lips to part.

“I really like the Rubik’s Cube,” the doorman said, although he obviously was not born at the height of the game’s popularity. “I agree, though. People in this town are out of control when walking around while texting.” He went on to discuss his phone, pulling it out, flashing it at me like a ten inch cock a stranger whipped out at me on a subway platform back in the 90’s when cameras were not in every dusty corner of the city.
I saw the sexy doorman again on Wednesday. “Do you remember our last conversation?” He asked.

“Of course I remember it like I remember how to solve a Rubik’s Cube.”

“You will never believe what happened that day. I was waiting for the subway at 14th Street. A woman exited the car while texting and bumped me with her elbow. She knocked my phone out of my hand. Pla-dunk, pla-dunk, pla-dunk…I watched it fall. And guess what? It went into the space between the platform and the door.”

“Dear God! Please don’t tell me you jumped down on the tracks to get it.” I replied, not asking him why he had his phone out and what it was he was googling at the time.

“Of course not,” he explained, holding his phone up at me again. “I went to the token booth and reported it. It was rush hour so they couldn’t do anything right away, but twenty minutes later, I had my phone.”

“Crazy.” I said, trying to calm the doorman who seemed convinced that I am some sort of fortune teller and that I was responsible for the incident that happened at the Union Square subway station. He stared at me like a freak with hula hoops around my waist, neck and both arms. I pulled out my scanner and typed in the name “Nieves”, the receptionist at the modeling agency on the second floor who had just signed for the company’s paycheck. I walked away typing with my thumb and not looking up, because unlike others who text, I have this gift to sense what’s around me.

James quit cold-turkey. He walked off the job three Fridays ago with two delivery jobs dispatched to him. He caught management off-guard. Customers paying upwards of $12 for same day delivery started calling the company, using their New York City attitude to spread hell over expensive cell phones upon the ears of unsuspecting dispatchers who had assumed James was still on the job and one of their slaves.

“Fuck-it. I’m not doing it,” he must have said, I imagine out on my own route, already missing my morning conversations with a man who was once a first-line draft choice for the NBA. According to James, as he explained one morning as I sorted paychecks, his career in the sport ended with a terrible leg injury, yet James still managed to walk for miles every day as a messenger. Amazing, I thought. What a man. He was probably good in the sack back in his thirties, but now there he was, 56, with a trick- knee of some sorts, one that made him a cripple to the pro’s who were responsible for drafting such men as James. His little, haphazardly cut fro and spacious teeth stained from a constant soaking in booze and marijuana smoke were not enough to make James homely looking. He has a tight body and pecks that still stand out. His sinister laugh would not stop me from going down on him although I’m just under a decade younger and rarely do men who are not as tall as I am.

He lives with a female roommate, introduced to him by the Division of Homeless services. James finally got a blow-job from her, in the shower, after taking ‘her’ out for bowling on her birthday. I didn’t have the heart to tell my co-worker he may have been blown by a transgender but didn’t want to be a square in the love triangle he found himself in. According to James, his roommate and girlfriend of a decade got along great and liked each other. James was plotting a way to get the two in bed, but the roommate was in a relationship with a girl who sometimes spent the night there. James often heard them making love and asked me how he could invite himself in. “Just crack open the door and put your dick through the crack. If they wave for you to come in, then they want you, otherwise, the lesbo will yell at you.” James laughed hard.

Management at the messenger company had a certain love for James too. Perhaps the love was due to the six years the former, almost made it to the pro’s basketball player, put in as a New York City messenger for the same company. Let’s not count the number of times he left early on Friday to go home and get drunk. There were many times on Friday I was ordered by Steve to so some on-demand jobs or get fired. I was always exhausted after finishing my conglomeration of four differnt routes on the East Side, running from 43rd all the way down to the Lower East Side where groups like Blondie got their start. James and many other “on-demand’ workers left early to hit the bottle, and there I was, a messenger for the same company, and everyone in NYC waits to the last damned minute on a Friday to send shit out.

James Clemonts finally had the balls to tell all the dispatchers and supervisors at work that he was not in the mood for another lecture and threat of termination. He simply quit without the desire to fight for unemployment insurance benefits. There was no cursing as one may expect from a senior member at NYC’s largest messenger company, who has run from every tip of the city, back and forth several times a day– all for minimum wage– for more than a half decade, even in all those snow storms.

The fact was, James was only taking home a buck seventy-five, or so, every week, ever since he was banished from delivering paychecks and forced to do what the company calls “on demand”– taking packages from one business to another on the subway or on foot, and at times when traveling west to east, upon the very slow NYC bus system. Some of these on demand jobs pay just $2.50 per delivery, while a messenger makes $1.50 a paycheck and often delivers upwards of 10 per building.

James was holding down another part-time delivery job to make up for his loss in paychecks. He delivers Nespresso boxes, some sort of gourmet coffee to residences and door men all across town. Mike Day, one of our co-workers and an ex Heroin addict (if there is such a thing) once advised James, “You can’t make any real money with them. They run you all across town.” But James didn’t listen, he took on that job and developed a certain attitude towards the company that took away his paycheck route simply because James misplaced a few packages while hung over one day.

Mike Day, another 7 year veteran of the company who delivers to the Wall Street area, pretended to be angry with his best-friend James. The two were under some sort of payday agreement, where upon receiving his paycheck on Friday mornings, James promised to head straight to the bank and hand over $40 to Day. I witnessed the bargaining every week. Mike Day often reminded James and I, and anyone else listening in, that his former best friend at the job, upon termination, left not only the messenger company, but Mike Day standing empty-handed, nearly $300 in the hole.

There were mornings when I’d chime into their negotiations like a white Al Sharpton without an evening show on MSNBC. I felt somewhat sorry for Day, who truly has recovered, but taken on a certain aura during his negotiations over coin that I can only compare to that of one of the saints, althought I must admit, I probably never met one prior to bumping into Day at the job. I could not hold my silence any longer. For more than four years I have been the white, quiet one standing next to the two– a set of ears, that cared, I suppose, to serve as the Jude Judy judicial system, presiding over their situation that never changed

“It is good that you have a friend like Mike Day. I think he is a saint, James. He never has anything bad to say to anyone, unless it’s to their face, and Mike lent me $20 last Thursday, just so I could get a few beers the day before payday. And to think he is clean and sober. Mike Day is a saint, James. He has no bad habits and always has money that he is not afraid to lend out.”

“But people take advantage of me all the time, Charles,” Mike day blasted in a deep, Southern tone. He is softspoken, but his words carry right through one.

“What do you do with all your money, anyway?” I asked Day. “You probably have it stuffed in a mattress. What happens if you die tonight and here James and I are, flat-out broke?”

“I cannot believe you said that right in front of me,” Mike Day rebuffed. I went back to sorting paychecks, feeling almost sorry, but I choose my words carefully while in the presence of those closest to what some call “A God”.

James is gone now, though, and there stands 72 year old Mike Day without his best friend in the mornings. It’s just me, an old queen, pretending to care. I told everyone this morning that I really missed James and that it was a shame that he had to quit the job after so many years working there. “You all were too hard on him,” I cried. The Black men just stared at me and waited for my next words. There were none. They all knew why he was gone.

A pair of nesting homosexuals moved here about six months ago. The one who appears to be the top is spotted often. He brushed by me several times on the first floor, next to the aluminum mailboxes; pressing his stripper body close against a scuffed wall as he glides by my ass, strategically turned so that he can see it as I check for the new cable bill.

I was sitting on the front step with my man on Friday evening. We were watching children play in a water park across the street. Large streams of heavily chlorinated water spewed from colorful metal fountains shaped in all sizes upon little people who screamed in delighted as their little brown feet pattered atop a soft, artificial turf, running from one waterfall to the next. The nurse who could never stick me with anything that hurt was dressed in a blue hospital uniform. He smiled as we stood up. My lover used his electronic key to grant him access.

“I think he has a white lover,” my black friend said just a few weeks ago. We were both under the impression there was another nesting pair of inter-racial homosexuals living in this heavily populated immigrant building, until this morning. But who was the white queen my lover spotted?

I was heading in the door at 7:30 sharply this morning, I was on my way home from the supermarket where, after clipping several coupons that came in the mail, I managed to turn a $45 total into a mere $26.43. The butch one who cannot be more than 25 or so, was trailed by, what in my view, was the youngest full-blown queen I have ever seen in this 47 years of gay life.

He cannot be more than 19 I thought, watching carefully as the stud strutted by me in a tight, white wife-beater. I waited for him to speak to me again, as the younger came down the stairs. He looked at me like he never saw me before. One could almost still smell hot sex on them even though both were freshly showered and obviously on their way to a beach out here in Jersey.

I held the door for his barely-legal sissy lover despite holding four heavy bags filled with cat food and four pounds of London broil that went on sale this morning. The young queen thanked me at least three times as he swished by– giving that ‘oh I know what you are and you better stay away from my man’ glance that I mastered long before the age of 19.