Mark Ehling

—Ronny begs, and Charlie gives.
     —That's why Charlie is lost in life.
     —I heard Charlie gives money and even snacks.
     —Of course he does. "Oh, look, it's Ronny come to my door." Liminal means... sleeps under bridges.... Also, he stinks. This is what's called "olfactory nuisance."
     —Does Ronny smell bad?
     —I smelled once and I smelled unwashed flesh. I smelled twice and I smelled that old Kolevsky house on the parkway.
     —Frank Kolevsky?
     —What does his house smell like?
     —Basement mold and ethnic food. It wasn't the scent of kolacky or bobalky, but he smelled like those old church foods. That, plus armpits. I'm speaking of Ronny. My coat stinks now.
     —It's true: he's homeless.
     —And yet he chooses that life. One misconception about human funk is that you don't have to rub it or touch it to absorb the smell. It wafts and clings. From a great distance.
     —Like molecules?
     —Yes. The smell molecules. They graft onto clothes and skin. They bond. Chemically.
     —He knocked on my door.
     —You open up?
     —"Hey, Ronny, how you been?" Of course he wants money. "You need food?" He doesn't need food. I got money, so I gave a little.
     —I thought you didn't give money.
     —I gave it just once. "Here's that food-money," I said. "I hope it's for cooking."
     —You would say that.
     —I offer the bed. He declines the bed. I offer the couch. He declines the couch. He's got that high-toned speech.
     —What'd he say?
     —He said, "I'd ask you not follow me or request a payback on your loan, although I'm in debt to you on a spiritual plane for the money and your valuable time."
     —That fucken family. They live like animals.
     —It's starts with the mother....
     —And that's the truth. The Christloving mother.... Here is a woman what prostitutes herself. And the son sleeps in a bag by the grain mills.
     —It's rare that he knocks... I gave money just once.
     —But Charlie defends them. He should express the wrongness of all their lives.
     —They haven't lived well.
     —I can't ever seem to get enough of telling that family—and I say this directly: "Your matriarch is literally a prostitute in that she has sex for money."
     —Charlie likes her.
     —Charlie thinks with his stomach. "Well, hooking and pimping is one thing. But she bakes good Christmas cookies."
     —She does, actually. With the candy?
     —I know.
     —She puts candy in the cookie.
     —This is not an acceptable excuse. Charlie would sell his soul for a god damned cookie. But the facts are not gone. The truth is not gone.
     —Ronny doesn't knock anymore. I told him, "That's the last time."
     —I wouldn't know. He does not knock on my door. And he will not.
     —You know what he said last? "I'm moving to Iowa."
     —It wouldn't surprise me. The drifting. The outdoors. That hobo convention. His "friends..." a vague... a certain shifting... this rough group of loose men. Who are these people? I don't know these people. They don't live long. They die outside. In winter. "Johnny Wyoming was here," and so forth. P.S.—stabbed in the crotch by a drunk. And that's not a judgment. On my part. I'm just speaking of the risk factors.






I love the sound of people talking. To that end, I'm in debt to my relatives, friends, people on the bus, telephones, street ranters and callers to late-night radio shows.