“He went out to his truck to get a gun,” the guy said. “I got out of there quick, man, hightailed it.”
I nodded my head at him as he spit on the sidewalk. He spit a lot. Sometimes it got too close to my left shoe.
This took place on one of those nice, early October afternoons. I walked up to the Walgreens on Madison Avenue in Covington to sit on one of those bus benches to soak up some sun. I looked at my watch. It was 5 o’clock.
A heavyset girl sat down to my right. I watched her take a cigarette from her purse. After she lit it, she shook her head.
“That guy in the silver car must think I’m a prostitute,” she said.
“Why would you say that?” I asked.
“Because he’s been following me now for four blocks,” she replied. It occurred to me to ask if she actually was a prostitute, but I kept my mouth shut.
The guy to my left told me his lovemaking story yet again, adding, “I’m going back home to Cincinnati, don’t like it over here.”
That was fine by me. Let him do his spitting across the river.
A guy riding a bike stopped at the benches. He got off the bike and sat on top of the bench to the left of the spitting guy.
With his bicycle lying in the middle of the sidewalk, he made a few calls on his cell phone. The heavyset girl smoking the cigarette stomped it out and started walking up Madison Avenue. The guy driving the silver car no longer was there.
The bike guy got off his phone and looked at the spitting guy still spitting on the sidewalk.
“You want some weed?” he asked. The spitting guy ignored him, asking me for a cigarette instead. I lied and said I didn’t have one.
Looking to my right, an older gentleman was now sitting there.
He had long white hair. He was wearing too many clothes for a warm, October day. He smelled musty.
He must have thought he knew me. He started talking about “our friend” who now lives in Indiana, and then about Country singers Glen Campbell, John Hartford and Willie Nelson — in that order.
Suddenly Covington Police were all over the area like white on rice. They surrounded the guy with the bike. He was pushed against the wall, and the cops searched his pockets. The guy had weed on him along with some pills. He was handcuffed.
“Kids today,” the white-haired man said. “Willie smokes grass, too, but he ain’t no kid.”
The cops approached the spitting guy asking for an ID. He said he didn’t have one. The cops wanted to know where he lived. The guy said Florence.
Feeling the need to talk to someone who was normal, I turned to the white-haired guy who probably isn’t normal either and whispered to him that the spitting guy is really from Cincinnati.
“Probably got warrants out on him there,” the man said.
Bike guy was taken away and spitting guy left. The white-haired man kept talking but changed the subject. He now was addressing how expensive plastic spoons are these days. I was only half listening when a pretty young girl set down on the bench to my left — right where the spitting guy was sitting.
The white-haired man was still talking about spoons as the girl asked me for a cigarette. I again lied and said I didn’t have one and when she asked for money, I lied again.
“That’s OK,” she said. “I’ll make some money tonight.”
“What do you do?” I asked.
“You know, things like oral sex,” she said.
“Oh,” I replied, realizing that this time I really did have a prostitute sitting beside me instead of a girl simply being followed by a man in a silver car.
“I gotta go to the restroom,” she said.
“You can go into Walgreens,” I said.
“You think they’ll let me use it?”
“I’m sure they will,” I said.
She quickly got off the bench and started heading for the store. The white-haired man was still talking despite the fact I hadn’t been listening for quite a while.
“Hey,” he said. “Let’s go get a beer.”
“No, I don’t think so,” I replied.
“I’ll buy you one,” he said. “I got money.”
From out of nowhere, a cop approached us from our left.
“Where did she go?”
I knew who the cop was talking about. “She’s in the store,” I replied.
Deciding I could probably use a drink after all, I told the white-haired man after I picked up a few things at Walgreens, I’d let him buy me a beer.
“Go get your stuff,” he said. “I’ll be waiting right here.”
As I started to go into the store, the cop and the prostitute were coming out. I wondered if she got to use the restroom.
A few minutes later, I had my items paid for and went looking for the white-haired man on the bench. He no longer was there.
Walking home, I looked at my watch. It was 6:30 and the sun was going down. A smile came to my face.
Spitting on the sidewalk, I walked past my street, kept on walking down Madison Avenue. I was looking for a bar and a beer.
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: firstname.lastname@example.org