Part I - The Walk

Chapter 3

Jay

 “I’m Jay,” she says. “Jay.”

 

Jay is pacing the sidewalk, around the coffee shop, pale and freckled, and slightly bent under her weight. The pacing keeps her shivering body warm. Even now in the 98-degree heat. Looking in the windows, she’s double checking her shopping cart filled with empty bottles, and white drawstring bags stuffed with clothes.

 

Some believe there are phones and laptops under there, stolen from coffee house patrons, but no one has challenged her.

 

She reaches into her pocket, fumbles around for a good minute looking up occasionally, then pulls out a few coins.  She gives them a hard look in her cupped hands, shakes her head back and forth. She looks up and around at the patrons and repeats the dramatization.

 

A police officer, nametag “Lieutenant Holmquist,” exiting the coffee shop, places a twenty-dollar bill on her palm and continues to cross the street. Jay’s eyes are fixed on the nametag and twenty drifts to the floor like a leaf.

 

Jay stops the show, her shoulders pull back, and her posture straightens. She looks down at her chest as it expands like it has a mind of its own.

 

Under her breath, conserving air, “I’m Jay,” she assures herself.

 

Her eyes follow the generous officer, now on the far side of the street fumbling for keys with one hand, to-go cup in the other. Jay’s chest inflates impossibly more and looks straight across at Lieutenant Holmquist.

 

“Watermelon!”, she yells.

 

 The lieutenant looks up from her keys. Jay is beaming right at her.

 

“Wa-ter-me-lon,” again. This time, so loud people are stopping on the corners.

 

The lieutenant’s radio bursts with static in four beat-like syllables. Lieutenant Holmquist shines a sympathetic smile at Jay as she adjusts the squelch.

 

Shaking her head, as if awakening from a daydream, Jay takes her shopping cart with both hands and heads north on Stockton Street, wheels rattling on the sidewalk. She pauses, thinks, turns, and walks back, stopping next to the donation still on the ground. Slowly she bends, top-heavy, almost falling over. Her breath is labored with an audible rattle. Her right hand pressed, stabilizing against the cement, her left-hand groping for the bill.

 

One of the patrons is sitting at an outside table carefully sipping a cappuccino and inhaling an extended nicotine hit from his vaporizer. He chuckles and snorts over a cough.

 

“That’s some triple chin there fug-ly,” he spouts across the table.

 

Still bent, Jay turns to the coffee aficionado.

 

“I’m Jay.” “Jay,” she sings.

 

“Whatever you say bitch,” he chokes.

 

Lieutenant Holmquist watches the altercation carefully. Jay, with one giant breath, heaves her body straight and retakes her cart.

 

“I'm Jay,” she insists.

 

“Don’t fuck with Jay!” the lieutenant commands from the window of her police car.

 

Cappuccino boy bolts into the coffee shop choking on his vape as he goes.

 

 “And I’m Sharon,” the lieutenant tosses with a laugh.

 

***

 

Driving to the station downtown, Lieutenant Sharon Holmquist is craving watermelon.

 

 

© 2015, 2016, 2017 by LEAP Collaborative & Jim Alabiso