Saturday, October 25, 2003

Diary Of A Rag And Bone Man

No. 2. The Reader

You will recall I met this homeless person awhile back. I was at Clarke’s Deli reading the help-wanted ads when he walked up. His name is Jack Rafter. For the full story of how we met, you’ll have to skip back a few entries. No, I still haven’t found a job, and I must say, things are getting a little desperate.

Jack has a dog with a patch-eye. He named him Vincent, after the painter, the one who took his own life, using a small caliber handgun. That was sometime back in the century before last. In the meantime, I’m sure any number of artists, poets, etc., and even some non-artists and non-poets, etc., have followed Mr.Van Gogh’s example.

It so happens that small caliber handguns are well-suited for that kind of close-in work. And there are plenty of them lying around. If you need to locate one in a hurry and are having trouble doing so, just ask any small child. For some reason, children never seem to have a problem finding our handguns, especially the loaded ones.

Yes, I did ask Jack how he came to be homeless, but so far, he’s been reluctant to talk about it, much. He did mention that he has a wife and two children. I suppose they must be living with her parents. He visits them sometimes, but I think it’s mostly the children he goes to see. I have a feeling he and his wife are divorced, though I can’t recall if he actually told me that or not.

Anyway, he’s been letting me read his diary, which he carries on his person in a draw-string canvas bag. It’s just an assemblage of notes on scraps of paper he picks up off the street, or used napkins from Clarke’s Deli. The scraps are rubber-banded in the cover of an old book-binding he picked up somewhere. I told him I would be glad to buy him a spiral notebook to write in, but he said he didn’t think his opinions were worth the life of a tree. “Besides, I like recycling trash,” he says with a smile. “And anyway, nothing new has been written since Plato and Homer were around. All our ideas and writings are recycled.” And so, too, is history, I might add.

Actually, his diary is not as bad as its appearance might suggest. I asked him if I could put some of it on the blog, here—you know, just when I can’t think of anything to write on my own, and he said, “Fine.” Yes, he knows what a blog is. He is computer-savvy. He says he goes to the library and surfs the net at least a couple times a week. More often in cold weather. He has a library card and checks books out all the time.

To get a library card, he had to give them an address and a phone number. On the little form they gave him to fill out, he wrote down the address for Clarke’s Deli, since it’s one of his hangouts. And then he wrote down the phone number for the Humane Society.

He said back when everything in his life started going to shit, and the bill-collectors were hounding him every day, he put this message on his telephone answering machine: “Hello. This is the Rafter residence. If you are calling about an unpaid bill, please hang up and call my business manager at the following number.” And he gave them the number for Dial-A-Prayer.


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