American Popsicle (Haiku Lou Part I)
by Tom Spader - 7/15
Lou sat on the hot sidewalk near a crowded bus stop. He pulled his Ukulele from his back where it hung and began to play. Sitting cross legged his dirty fingers stroking the strings gently at first as he settled into the scene before him. People of all walks stood nearby waiting for their bus.
Lou worked into song and he began to "oooh and ahh" the lyrics instead of the actual words. A few lazy eyes made their way towards him. He was good. He was actually very good and before long he had the attention of most of those waiting.
It was hot ... a very hot summer afternoon in the city. The sun beat down and people moved slowly, sweating their way from one air conditioned setting to the next. It was the kind of day that just made people miserable and they tried to shed has much clothes as possible. This worked better for some than others. The three piece businessmen didn't have much to take off carrying their dark jackets over their shoulders, so their sweat stained long sleeve button downs told their failure for relief. Lou wore the same thing day or night, winter or summer, a tattered three quarter dark overcoat and dress cuffed pants that told their story with stains and small tears. He wore them well and from time to time he'd find replacements by raiding the clothing drop boxes or lucking into something along his way. He wore a hat, brim upturned, sweat salt stained from the years.
A mother, sweating with a child in tow, tugged her daughter's hand as the child was drawn very close to Lou by the music. "Stay away from that bum, he's dirty."
On the second tug of the child's arm, the rainbow popsicle she was eating to beat the heat fell from her hand and landed on the sidewalk a foot from where Lou sat. It instantly began to melt and the mother hurriedly pulled the now crying child away back into crowd. "That was a dollar you just wasted. I am never going to buy you another Popsicle, ever!" the mother said, the heat of the day not helping with her mood. Tears streamed down the child's face as the crowd looked on.
Once his music had the attention of those waiting, with his right hand still stroking his Uke, he reached into his coat and pulled out a small sign on heavy cardboard, folded so it could stand on its own and placed it on the cement next to where he sat. It read, "Uke-a-Lou - Will Instant Haiku for Food."
The bus had not yet come and those gathered looked on with half interest. Lou banged out the last chords with volume and energy which turned even the most bored or distracted. "I do not beg kind people, I perform the ancient art of Haiku... brought into our modern world. These are instant and not rehearsed. These are not mine to keep. Once spoken they are yours, and yours, and yours..." his voice tailing to just above a whisper. Lou moved to a kneeling, almost praying-like position over the young girl's once frozen treat. He took off his hat and placed it upside-down on the sidewalk.
With three more loud bangs on his Uke and a dramatic quick flurry of chord changes he reached down and lifted the flat wooden popsicle stick and held it out before him staring at it.
The popsicle falls
Colors swirl in sidewalk cracks
Once a tree now free
A bus pulled up and a few people moved towards its open doors. Lou sat nearby as shoes, not taped together like his, passed him. From faceless hands above a few quarters fell into his hat. The mother and child did not get on this bus as they waited for theirs. The child's face still streaked wet.
Lou gathered the change, four quarters and a dime total. He put the dime into his pocket and rose without another word. He hurried into a nearby shop and quickly returned. His motion and filth parted the crowd as he made his way to the mother and still whimpering child. The mom seeing his approach pulled the child close to her hip.
Lou stopped in front of them and reached out his hand, the child's eyes beaming. Lou tried to hand the mother a small item. The onlookers watched. He pushed it closer to her as she recoiled. The child tugged on her mother arm, "Mom, mom ... Look! Can I? Please, Please?" The mom looked down into Lou's dirty hand and saw the words Rainbow Popsicle.
"It's hot," He said as it pushed it into her hand.
Lou turned and walked away, his Uke dangling against his back. The crowd looked first at the smiling child then at the surprised look on the mother's face. The hush that had engulfed the crowd turned to a mummer of approval as one, then another and then another began to clap. A small applause rose from the group as a bus pulled up to the stop. A man slung a dark expensive jacket over his shoulder and reached into his pocket as he motioned to the bus driver to wait. He ran towards Lou. Lou sensed his approach and turned, wet eyes leading. The man handed him a twenty dollar bill ... a clean soft hand gripping a dirty calloused hand, "That was beautiful..."
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 ...