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Austin Bum


“Either of y’all need a sprinkler?”

We both think this bum’s panning for coins from our pockets, coins we don’t have.

We shake our heads.

He says,

“There’s a sprinkler head right over there. If either of y’all have a ya. . . “

I interrupt,

“We don’t have any grass.”

To complete his sentence, he points to a corner of the bus stop at a sprinkler head. I take a deep breath. The urine-fragranced air revolts my guts.

He says,

“Oh, y’all live in an apartment?”

My girlfriend nods her head.

He says,

“Which complex do y’all live in?”

I point down the street. My finger quivers ambiguity. Suspicion is built into my DNA.

He says,

“Oh, just right there? I need to get into an apartment.”

We listen, we’re all ears waiting for the 1M or 1L bus.

He says,

“But around here, these apartments need people to make 3 times as much as the rent. That makes it kinda impossible for me.”

My girlfriend says,

“That made it hard for us, too. We just moved from Miami Beach. They don’t ask for anywhere near that there.”

He says,

“I also have a felony. They don’t like that too much either.”

No shit, ya don’t say? I consider asking more about his felony. I can’t resist.

I say,


He looks at me slyly, suggesting evil.

He says,

“I raped a girl.”

My girlfriend makes space between him and her.

He says,

“Oh, c’mon now! I’m just kidding! Look at me, y’all seriously think I’m a monster?”

He twists a bandana between rough palms. His ears are pierced. His hair is blond and scarce. He has a tattoo on the side of his neck, curlicued across his carotid:


The hydraulic hiss of the 1M saves us from further chitchat. His felony remains unknown.

September 1, 2010 8:47 am

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