Henry Blank followed a path so generalized it escapes a description. He stood before his bay window, gazing into his manicured backyard noticing nothing at all. No birds sang for Henry Blank. No clouds puffed by in the wake of a summer breeze. Today was the big day. The announcement to end all announcements. Henry Blank was running for Mayor of Mahalia. The members of the Upper Mahalia Bridge Society had worked their magic until even Henry believed he was Mahalia’s only shot at municipal redemption. The night before he had informed Renee.

–I’m running for Mayor.
–What?
–You never listen to me.
–You never say much.
Henry flipped the channel over to Leno.
–Mayor of Mahalia, if you wondered.
–I didn’t wonder. I knew. I heard from Linda.
–Linda talks too much.
–Yes, you do.
–The boys down at the club say I’m a shoe in.
–Dirty socks and feet wind up in shoes.

He got up and went to the bathroom. Renee hit mute on the remote and followed her daydream through the hallway and out into the street. Henry came back.

–Why can’t you support just one thing I do?
–I should’ve stopped at just one thing.

He stared at her and picked up the remote. He threw it back on the table, climbed into bed and flicked the lamp off. Linda sat in the bed staring at darkness.

Henry heard the percolator’s final gurgle. He poured his imported Jamaican coffee into his travel mug. The mug was an award from the Ruritans for perfect attendance, 2004. They bought the two-story Victorian from a friend in the Society. When they first walked in, Henry fell in love with the giant bay windows facing the back yard, front yard, and one facing each side yard. Many mornings and evenings, he stood before the windows. He never noticed much, but loved the idea of everyone seeing him standing there. A regal observer of the neighborhood and, through implication, nearly all Mahalia.

–Henry! You still here?
Renee called down the stairs.
Henry thought of ducking out the patio door and slipping around to his car.
–Henry! Answer me dammit.
–Just about to leave. What the hell you want?
Her words became muffled as she replied.
–What? Spent? Speak clearly.
He moved towards the front door, away from the stairs.
–What the hell is that tent?
Renee’s voice was higher than normal. Henry remembered that was how she sounded when worried.
–What tent?
–The yellow tent in the back yard. Don’t tell me you didn’t see it this morning.

Henry stopped mid-sip and walked back to the bay window facing the back yard. His gray, sagging eyes squinted as he surveyed the 3 acres of landscaped perfection. He scanned the cherry trees in the east, the gently used work shed to the west and then settled in on the offender.

A stained, yellow tent sat in the middle of the yard. Henry could make out the tip of a large, brown sleeping bag exiting the unzipped door. Makeshift clothes lines were on both sides of the entrance. From nearly a hundred feet away Henry thought he could smell the tent and its trespassing occupant. Henry went for the patio door and upon sliding it open yelled.

–Renee call 911. Tell them hurry the hell up!
He heard Renee run down the steps. Henry marched into his yard, dropping his punctual coffee mug.
–What the hell are you doing in there? Wake up you worthless bum! Get off my lawn. Get that damn…
Henry stopped as the sleeping bag began to move. His girth caused him to breathe heavy as long, dirty hands grip the sleeping bag’s feet.

A man emerged from the tent. His equine face, centered by a twice broken Roman nose, appeared covered in slimy dirt and flanked by depressed cheeks. Henry looked at the man. The man looked at Henry. The man grinned at Henry violently, as if waiting for a moment to pounce. Or run. Or speak. Henry couldn’t read anything in the man’s movements or posture displaying fear or courage. Softly the man’s clear green eyes twinkled. He opened his chapped lips.

–Henry Blank, I presume?
–Who the hell are you? What are you doing here? Get off my lawn, you, you, bum. Miscreant.
–Miscreant? Sort of a big word for you ain’t it Henry?
–How do you know my name? Are you some stalker? My wife has called the police already. You’ll be locked up…
–Renee.
–…as soon as they… What? How do you know her name?

The man moved quickly back into the tent and reemerged before Henry could move a step. The man held a stack of newspapers.

–See Henry Blank. In my line of work, a man has lots of time to read, but often not a plug nickel for which to buy a book. So I do what I can to keep abreast of all the comings and goings via newspapers. You read the papers Henry?
–Of course, every good citizen should read…wait…get the hell out of here!
–Well then Henry you’ll appreciate an avid fan of your editorial-type letters you send in on occasion.
–Thank you. Yes. I do on occasion write a piece for Clay down at the Harold. We’re old friends…

The man shuffled through the papers letting some fall to the ground.

–Ah!
His voice echoed. Henry became aware of his neighbors as the man’s voice died in the still morning air. He became aware of sirens in the distance.
–Ah! Here it is. July 13, 2002. Mahalia Herald. Page 4, letter 3, sentence 11. I’ve underlined it Henry Blank. Care to read your own words in your own yard as I stand here with this tent?

–I don’t know what you mean…I don’t recall.
–Oh you wrote it Henry Blank. Here, I’ll save you the trouble, but none of…well, the embarrassment.
–A good citizen is never embarrassed by their own opinion, particular one as well-conceived as my own. You know I’m running for Mayor because of my well-conceived…
–I know. I heard. People talk when nobody is listening. I’m nobody. I heard already. Ready for me to read aloud? Good, Ok.
–The police are almost here, you need to remove yourself or I’ll press…

–It is my considered opinion that the problem can be solved by an understanding by all good citizens that we must open up our borders to these people to display our compassion and generosity to our fellow-man. We must destroy that infernal fence! I dare say the only thing for a good citizen to believe is that one’s property is the property of all mankind and that our claim, as it is called by those simple-minded among us, to property is nothing more than a tool of the greedy and shameless.

The man stopped reading.

–You remember writing that Henry Blank?
–Vaguely. Yes.
–You hear those police sirens Henry?
–Of course I do.
–Running for Mayor are you Henry?
–Yes. The announcement is today.

The man’s eyes danced in their sockets.

–Well, we have an impasse don’t we Henry Blank?
–How so?
–Never very bright were you? To put it plain. Do you want the entire town to think of you as the Mayoral candidate who shunned a homeless Man in his time of need. The candidate who, despite his many well-received, and well-conceived editorial type letters, turned his back on his fellow Man out of sheer greed and shamelessness?

–I don’t think this is exactly as everyone will see it.
Henry felt his face go flush as the man smile even broader.
–Ok. Send in the bulls, kick me to the curb where scum like me belong and continue impressing folks down at the Upper Mahalia Bridge Society with your generosity.
–That’s some sort of blackmail, you bastard.
–Only if it works. And I suspect it’s working pretty damn good.
–Who are you?
–I’m you, ten years from now or me ten years ago. Not sure yet…
–What?
–Emilio. Emilio Jones, professional squatter and all around ladies’ man.

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