Flash Fiction: Elmo

By Ed Scannell

Elmo was no saint. He was a thief.

He was a tall, black man with broad, bony shoulders and long legs. He had a mustache and goatee, and he was homeless.

I met him in a small park by my downtown apartment building. We were both drinking beer. He told me about how he’d go into stores and steal things, and take them out and sell them later. He wouldn’t tell me what he stole or how he did it.

I let him stay in my studio apartment at night. He would arrive in the evening after a day’s work. We would eat and drink beer. Our favorite meal was chili dogs. We’d talk for a while and then go to sleep. I let him have my bed, and I slept on a pallet on the floor.

Sometimes we would go to what Elmo called his ‘office.’ It was some walled in steps in a vacant lot. The concrete had gravel in it and looked pretty good. There were small dogwood trees around it, and the white blooms made it perfect.

We would stop at the liquor store and get a fifth of cheap, fortified wine, in what looked like a large cough medicine bottle, and take it to Elmo’s ‘office.’

We would pretend that the wine was a woman.
He would hand her to me and say, “Here, you take the head.”
I would drink and hand her back and say, “You take the shoulders.”
“You take the breasts.”
“You take the belly.”
“You take the hips.”
“You take the thighs.”
“You take the calves.”
“You take the feet.”

When we finished with the woman, we would both be feeling good.

One day, another friend of mine, Jim, didn’t show up. He used to stay with me until he got on his feet, and got a girlfriend and a car. I was worried. He had been hanging around with some pretty rough characters. I had no phone to try and reach him because it was disconnected when I didn’t pay my bill. So I walked twelve miles out to the county where my girlfriend, Karen, lived so that he could call me on her phone. When I got there, my feet were hurting bad. I hadn’t worn socks and, when I took off my shoes, the soles of my feet were covered with blood
blisters. I could hardly walk.

After a while, Jim called, and he was okay. He came and picked me up and took me home. I had to put my arm around his shoulders and lean on him for support. At home, I had to crawl around the apartment, and crawl to the bathroom.

That evening, I was sitting in my easy chair looking out my 8th floor picture window at the city and wondering what I was going to do. I wasn’t too worried though. Elmo would show up and get me food and beer and cigarettes. I had forgotten to say anything to Jim.

A knock came on the door, and Elmo said, “It’s me.”

I said, “Give me a minute or two,” in a loud voice.

I struggled out of the chair and got on my hands and knees and crawled to the door and
opened it.

When he saw me on the floor, he started yelling at me for being drunk. “I’m not drunk
and, if I was, it wouldn’t be any of your business.”

He just kept yelling at me about being drunk, and wouldn’t listen to anything I said about
the blood blisters.

“Get the out of here,” I said.

“Gladly,” he said, going out and slamming the door.

I crawled to my easy chair and managed to get back in. I sat there wondering what had gotten into him. We always drank together, but never got drunk. I couldn’t figure out what made him so touchy. He must have had issues.

I had enough food and beer and cigarettes for a few days if I rationed them. I thought that maybe by then my feet would be better.

I didn’t have to worry. My friend, Jim, who I had been so concerned about and walked twelve miles for, was worried about me, showed up and stayed with me for a few days. He was a big help, cooking and cleaning and helping me get around, and going to the store for me. I bled the blood blisters and soaked my feet in soapy water. Then I put antibiotic ointment on them. My feet began to heal.

One morning the following winter, I was coming home from the store, walking fast because of the cold. I passed the vacant lot where Elmo had his ‘office.’ It was looking pretty barren. Elmo was there, standing around a fire barrel with a few other men.

I stopped and looked at him, but didn’t say anything. He just stood there for a minute or two without speaking. Then I went on home to my warm apartment, thinking that even though Elmo had a fire, he was still no saint.

Bio- Edward J. Scannell was homeless for quite a while, and met many people on the streets. Elmo is the story of one of those people. Ed was a Marine serving in Vietnam, an ironworker, family man, and was known as the Ironworker Poet to his buddies. He has been published in the Arlington Quarterly, Back Door and the Ironworker’s International Magazine. He also had a book published with Robert Earleywine through Hill Fine Arts Center, titled In the Big Sky’s Mouth. He is a novelist, writes poetry and short stories as well as flash fiction.

1 comment :

  1. Great writing and a great piece. Love Elmo and his creator. the story is touching and the flow of the narrative so smooth that it amazes me.


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