Porcelain Jesus Falls
(the continuing story of Haiku Lou)
by Tom Spader - 8/2015
Porcelain Jesus Falls
by Tom Spader - 8/2015
Laying on his back Lou stared straight up, eyes closed, into the veiled, endless colors of the autumn sky. Squeezing the lids of his eyes would melt the hues from yellow to black, then slowly easing back the deepest reds would give way to orange to yellow and just before the blinding colorless white light there would be green. A cool breeze sent the shadow of a leaf across his face causing a flashing kaleidoscope of color into his mind's eye.
The benches in the square had iron arm rails every three feet. It was tough to lay, but with bent knees and propped head the sky soared above. The trees were losing their battle with the season and more and more of the tall buildings from the nearby university climbed into the emptiness of the sky. Before long these buildings would be funneling the winter winds across the park driving all but the most hearty or helpless into cover.
An ant crawled across the back of Lou's hand. He felt its path long before it registered in his mind that something was in transit across his landscape. Raising his hand to block the sun and bring the ant closer he watched and wondered. Rolling on his side he reached for a fallen leaf on the cobblestone walk and placed it against his skin in the ant's path. The ant stopped and turned. Lou moved the leaf slightly and the front legs of the ant reached out.
Go ahead my friend
a new journey awaits you
plant your flag with pride
Lou eased the leaf to the nearby grass and smiled.
Lou carried the ant in his mind as he made his way across town to a diner that had long been losing its battle against the new millennium. Lou's friend Gracie was a waitress there and was as much a fixture as the old Maxwell House neon sign in the window. They both showed a long history that was now being swallowed by soaring rent and the grey, bony hand of a style bent future.
As Lou entered the diner, Gracie waved franticly at him, "Lou, Lou quick in the back booth. Over here."
Lou, with his hands still in the pockets of his overcoat, began waving the front opened and closed. "Ah, it always smells so good in here...I could use some of that."
"Quit flapping like some crazy bird and get over here out of sight. Mike sees you and we're both going to get tossed," Gracie said, sliding the standing chalk board with the daily specials on it out into the isle a little blocking the view of the last booth.
"He is still pissed off about the religion thing you laid on him last time. He's a big time Catholic ... and Lou, that god-is-an-ant thing really ... really got to him."
"Gracie, ol' gal ..." Lou said sliding into the booth. "I didn't say god was an ant. I said he/she/it could be an ant."
"See there you go again, the 'he/she/it' thing, that kind of stuff really lights a fire under some people, you know that. I bet that is why you do it."
"Gracie, I don't do anything to anyone that has not already been done. If ol' Mike was so secure in his walk an old blasphemer like me couldn't shake him. It's doubt that makes people uncomfortable."
"Enough ... enough already. Get in here."
Lou sat against the mirrored wall and Gracie slid the chalk board out just a bit more. She had been working the counter at the diner for more years than she cared to count. It wasn't a great job, but it was a job and it was close to home. She worked there long before the new manager, Mike was brought in to try to save the place.
"Coffee, Lou?" Gracie said reaching for the pot still shaking her head about the ant business.
"Yes, yes please. I can pay this time, Gracie, me and Cliff scraped together some jingle over at the Square earlier."
"Ha ... old Omba, how's he doing?"
"He still hates that name ... damn Laughing Man my ass." Lou said sliding the sugar jar to the center of the table. "He's good, he's good. Got a heart that's too big for his small body. Some day he's going to explode all over everyone and anyone within a mile will be the better for it."
Lou reached into his inside coat pocket and pulled out a roll of single dollar bills.
"Well, well big spender I tell you what, you can pay for the food, but the coffee is going to cost you. Come on, give me something."
Lou straighten up in the seat and gently placed his thumb and index finger of both hands on the edge of the cup.
"Hand me the cream." Lou tilted the small metal pitcher into his cup. Smiling, he said just above a whisper ...
White swirls surface art
A spoon swipe the critics heard
Half deaf Vincent smiles
"Love it just ... just love it." Gracie chuckled. "Lou, someday you're going to write these things down and get published instead of just letting them out into thin air."
"No, no that would ruin it."
"Ruin my ass, you need to eat. Need a roof over your head."
"But at what cost, Gracie my friend, at what cost?"
"Well, well, look here, if it isn't the old ant worshiper." Mike said moving towards the booth, pushing the chalk board back against the wall. Mike was a tall, darkish man of about thirty-five with a tie always squeezed so tight his neck bulged like a muffin over the top. His face was red and always seemed to be in mid scowl as if his brain was turning bad information over and over. He was serious.
"You over here reciting again? Come on old timer, tell me again about this ant god of yours. What was it you said last week? Never heard anything like that in my life, come on, I bet you don't even remember..."
Lou paused briefly, looked down and as each word slipped from his lips his head slowly rose and with the last word Lou was looking into Mike's darkening eyes.
In whose image made
Toiling to please the queen
God's ant-like face shines
"There it is again, you damn fool. What do you think is going to happen when you die? Huh? You going to ascend some damn ant hill."
"Well, Mike ..." Lou said calmly, but quickly taking a sip from his coffee, bracing ... "I'd like to think if we are talking heaven, it wouldn't really be a damn ant hill ... now would it?"
"That's it! Out, get out you old bastard," Mike said grabbing the collar of Lou's coat, hoisting him out of the booth, spilling the coffee and cream pitcher across the table. Lou shook free of Mike's hand for a moment to look down at the table watching whites mix with browns. "Behold, my cup runneth over..." Lou said smiling.
"Out, out, behold my ass and don't come back peddling that atheist BS around here."
As Mike shoved Lou towards the door Lou slammed hard against the old wooden door frame causing the crucifix that hung above the door, next to the sign that read, "We reserve the right to not serve you" to fall, the porcelain Jesus shattered across the floor.
to be continued ...
Observations at the supermarket
A kid's modern history lesson
As seen by me at 8 years old
Labor Day 1973
(Part III of the adventures of Haiku Lou)
Observations/true story while bar tending in Baltimore 1984
The night Nixon quit through my eyes at 15
Chance meeting in a snow covered city park
Observation at the all night mini mart
Adventures of a street poet
Lou and Omba in Washington Square
God's ant-like face shines
Changing roles in a city library
Coming soon ...