By Bud Smith
I choked down a dry tangerine in my kitchen. I have seasonal depression about the tomatoes available at my corner bodega, Lucky’s Market. They’re rubbery tomatoes a person can chew like gum.
The buildings around Lucky’s have been demolished and it stands lone in a horseshoe of rubble. Bland condos will soon sprout up like mushrooms out of the thawed ground. But right now everything in the neighborhood is frozen.
I want to be on a tropical island knee deep in pineapples.
I keep looking out my window for the first sign of a robin on the lawn because that’s the first sign of spring, but I don't have a lawn. I live in a slum where the apples do not crunch. They say we are going to get a blizzard in the morning, but it'll be okay, it is like the future is only something that happens to someone else. I lost my snow shovel on the side of the turnpike when my car broke down and I had to get to the jack hidden under all the trunk junk. Beach chair and Halloween costume and snow shovel were then javelined into the weeds at mile marker 100 and something in a fit of ugly anger. It was the day after the day after Labor Day, and I was still the king of the watermelon smile back then. You should have seen me.
My Super from Haiti
Now. Fucking now—when I look out the window on the block, there’s over a foot of snow.
Even though global warming is real, and we are all going to die soon from terrible floods, my car is trapped inside a frozen sarcophagus. The city has plowed me in.
My super is standing out there on the February sidewalk, bundled up in an arctic coat with a fur hood. He has on two scarves and three pairs of pants. He looks up at me and I notice he is wearing a respirator, blue rubber with pink pancake filter pads.
I open the window. “Yo! Sergei! Why are you wearing a respirator?”
He says something but it’s muffled because of the respirator.
I say, “You don’t need a respirator for snow!”
He yells something else at me but it’s muffled.
I yell, “Take off that stupid respirator!”
He throws his hands up and yells something else at me but that too is muffled. I’m shirtless at the window, in my underwear, sweating from the radiators on at full blast, and yelling, “You can’t get asbestosis from snow! You can’t get lung cancer from snow!”
He turns and flings his arms in the air. I flip my arms up in the air too and flash my armpits. Sergei rips the pull cord on the snow blower, and a momentary wave of white powder and ice slaps against the building and some of it into my window, hitting my face and neck. So I slam the window and more snow rockets against the window in thunderous thuds and cracks. And Sergei is out there laughing, and laughing, and nothing can muffle that.
While I dug my car out on the street someone in a neon bubble coat called out in a shrill voice, “HELP I DON'T HAVE A SHOVEL!”
I kept digging and the guy walked over huffing and puffing. “You've got to help me please, I don't have a shovel and all of this cold white stuff has fallen from the heavens!”
I recognized this guy as the person was always leaning on the pole for the traffic light, nothing doing, sometimes picking his teeth.
I was like, “You don't have a shovel?”
“I can't believe you don't have a shovel.”
“Alas, I don't have a shovel. I have never had a shovel. Please let me dig my car out with your shovel.”
The super of my building, no longer in his respirator, was salting the walk, and he was hearing the whole exchange. I was borrowing my super's shovel.
Sergei dropped the salt bag on the sidewalk and shouted over, “That's my shovel, you can't use my shovel, Mickey. Now get the hell out of here.”
I've gotten a couple emails from a person who is aggressively trying to get me to write gardening articles for his tomato website. Some highlights from the emails I received:
“Hi there, I just came across an interesting article of yours on the Bud Smith site after doing a little reading up on gardening & landscaping.
I wondered if you might be interested ... I thought you would make a good fit. I am a part time copywriter and charge for the majority of my work so you can be confident in the quality I achieve, this obviously would not be charged as we are looking to build relationships and a bit of a name for ourselves. If you aren't too sure I could send you some of my previous articles or happy to discuss with you directly.
I didn't respond because, ya know, fuck tomato websites. Seriously, fuck all tomato websites.
But! This follow up email came the next day!
'There seemed to be an error in the sending address which may have stopped me receiving a reply.’
And man, isn't that just the shit ... an error stopped the tomato people from receiving my reply.
77 Degree Day
Just two days later, there was a river running down the street. The ice melting so fast. A patch of grass appeared across the street in the park. A girl walked out of the high rise on top of the hill and plopped down on the grass to sit in the sun. I wonder if her name is Robin. A bulldozer drove up the block with a bucket full of rubble. The dump truck was parked on the corner of John F. Kennedy Blvd. From my window, I watched the bulldozer zip back and forth. The people at the bus stop watched from the bus stop. Sergei watched as he washed the salt stains off the sidewalk with the garden hose. Mickey in his neon bubble coat watched from his post at the street lamp where he leaned, working his teeth with a tooth pick. The girl on the grass relaxed back, stretched her arms behind her head and smiled at this that and the other thing. The yellow and white plastic shopping bags shivered in the branches of the leafless trees. This was when the bucket of the bulldozer lifted up, tilted. All the rubble tumbled into the dump truck, sending a wave of dust and debris towards the people crouched inside the shelter of the bus stop, who were unfazed, because that’s the way you have to be to survive on this earth. The wind changes and the world changes, but not usually when you’re looking.
Church Parking Only
I forgot to tell you. Yesterday I came home in the morning from work and I parked right in front of the church around the corner from my apartment. There was a faded sign on the street that said CHURCH PARKING ONLY. I park there a lot. This time the priest was standing out on the steps of the church, and he called out happily, “Coming to church?!” And I waved and said, “Lol.” Pronounced, elle oh elle. I didn't know him so I stopped and talked for a couple minutes. Nice human. Gets it. Gets the pros and cons of being alive, it seems. I said, “What's with the church parking sign? I'm not gonna get towed am I?” He smiled and said he put the sign up in 1988 and should probably take it down. He said, “The only person who would tow you for parking there is our sweet lord.” So anyways. Suddenly the grass is green and all the flowers are jumping up out of the ground. The seeds of the fruits spreading in the rich soil. The vines reaching out to touch the lemon sun. None of us will live forever. But some of us will be blessed.
Bud Smith reports from Jersey City, NJ. Twitter: @bud_smith www.budsmithwrites.com. He wrote F250, Calm Face, and Dustbunny City, among others. He works heavy construction, and lives in Jersey City, NJ.