the swarthy boy’s dark brown eyes concentrated on his childish yet very serious task. All he
wore on his thin, diminutive frame was a sleeveless tee shirt, formerly white, and yellow pajamabottoms in an identical state of disrepair. Traces of fecal matter clung to his clothes and flappinghands like stubborn sin.
Yeah, the fuck was with the hands?
wondered Boxcar Willie.
“Hey… Li’l boy!” he called out. “Where ya goin’?” Willie had been a fixture on the
streets of Flatbush for over a decade. The legless Vietnam War veteran was named after the
country music singer because he got around on a converted mechanic’s crawler with a small wall
added to its perimeter.
Boxcar Willie (real name: Floyd Williams) wasn’
t a wino but just another neglected
veteran who’d both literally and figuratively fallen on hard times. Last night was one of the rarefalls from sobriety (“Fell off the wagon”, he’d joked to himself with a chuckle last night). It had
been colder than a gr
ave digger’s nutsack and curling up with a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 was his
best bet to stave off hypothermia.
Today was Sunday morning and Willie was still slightly drunk and didn’t know if hecould trust his bloodshot eyes. He’d seen more than his fair sh
are of orphans in Vietnam, orphans
created by him and his Army buddies in Laos and Cambodia. Surely there’d be a mother or
father just a few paces behind yelling not to get too far ahead, to put on a soft puffy coat. Yet
from his worm’s eye view, Willie co
uld see this child was in his stocking feet.
But he’d never seen anything like him. Most of the orphans they’d made in Southeast
Asia were running and/or screaming through the streets or burning villages, kids like that poorlittle girl who got all fucked up by that napalm. Or they were stunned, like the few children who
survived their parents after Calley’s massacre at My Lai. This little dude, on the other hand… Hewas tellin’ the world to bring it on and all with a smile and endless waves.
And what the fuck was with the hands?
“Hey,” he called ou
t again, struggling to move the crawler over a clump of weeds in the
alleyway off Flatbush Avenue in which he’d slept. He pawed at the ground with the specialreinforced gloves he used for traction (damn the asshole who’d ripped off his wheelchair. Didn’t
they know or care how difficult it was to get one of those fuckers?) and tried to follow him.
“Yo, little man! Where yo’ parents?” he croaked.