Pawn Takes King part 28

After leaving Greg's store, Donnie swallows his pride and asks to stay with Eugene. It's on the way. Eugene appears to be leaving, and Donny has just caught him. Eugene wears a well-worn jean jacket, and a Nirvana smiley face shirt. He looks to be in a hurry.
    "Hey Green Gene," Donny greets.
    "What's up Donny?" Eugene asks, over the rattling engine of the hatchback car he drives. Eugene turns the key off, quelling the cars noises.
    "I was thinking about taking you up on the offer for moving in," Donny says with an uncharteristic smile, "Roomate."
    Eugene looks like a noxious fire settled into his stomach. He dips his head, not making eye contact. Uh-oh.
    "Oh, shit Donny," Eugene says with regret, "I really can't do that now."
    The smile fades from Donny's face. LIke Greg, Donny should've known better than to hope.
    "You should've got with me sooner," Eugene says, placing one hand on the steering wheel complacently, "Someone narced on me. I had cops showing up with a warrant and everything. I had to flush about a QP worth of weed down the toilet. It wasn't easy, I tell you that. My girl was able to stall the cops long enough for me to dispose of it."
    "A QP, huh?" Donny says dejectedly. A quarter pound of weed was not chump change. It all went down the drain, literally.
    "It was so goddamn much mary-jane," Eugene says sorrowfully, "it clogged up the toilet for a few days now. I gotta hire someone to roto-snake the lines now. I've got shitty water going all over the floor, into the walls and everything."
    "Really." Donny says softly. At least Eugene had a place. The Gazeebo was losing what little charm it had. Donny was looking to change his life. This was going to be a big part of that change.
    "I might have to get a whole new septic system," Eugene states, "and I need to make up that lost cash from the pot. Right now, I've got three dudes staying with me, paying rent. It's a shame."
    Yes, a real shame. Donny leans his arms against the roof of the compact car. Since he came all this way, he might as well get something for his trouble.
    "Well," Donny says, "is there any way I can get a little green from you, dude?"
    "I'm out, like I said," Eugene says, throwing up his black hands. The palms are peach-colored, the flip side of his dark complexion.
    "Not even a bowl?" Donny says desperately. If he can get stoned, his situation wouldn't seem so critical.
    "I'm gonna be outta the weed game, son," Eugene says, stroking his nappy facial hair, "maybe for good, after this bullshit."
    Donny rests his forehead against the tiny car's sun-baked roof. It is comfortably warm. The sun is still battling winter for control. He wishes it will always be this sunny. But it cannot stay like this forever. Seasons change. The world keeps turning, and Donny remains homeless.
    "Okay then, mean Gene," Donny says despondently. Eugene puts on a pair of large amber-colored sunglasses. WIth such a hue to his shades, Eugene looks like a human fly.
    "XYZ," Eugene says, starting the car back up. Examine Your Zipper? Those fucking jeans. The zipper is still busted. Just like Donny's overall life in general.
    He doesn't have room for Donnie. Eugene will not sell anything to Donny. He says even if he had weed, he has to lay low for awhile. Eugene does not say so, but Donny may be a potential conspirator. This is not true. Donny would never steal from Mean Gene.  Donny suspects that Eugene suspects him. Ain't the social scene grand? Isn't it awesome how you can read people? Eugene makes seldom eye-contact with Donny. Eventually, the broke weed dealer restarts his car and says he must head out. He is helping one of his new roommates move in. It is a plausible story. There are many empty boxes in the hatchback.
    Donny knows for certain that Eugene does not want to speak to him because he makes up an excuse about getting a text from a friend. Donny knew there was no service on Donny's phone. He tried to call the number a few days ago, from a payphone. The disconnect message greeted him, instead of Eugene himself. Also, Donny saw Eugene activate the alarm on his phone when they first started talking. Eugene thought he was pretty slick, but he was, in actuality, a burnout. Donny supposed he should feel grateful Eugene blessed him with the 15 minutes he was given. Mean Green, the Mary-Jane King.
    Their friendship was still salvageable, because Donny did not steal from him. It would work itself out. Donny wishes his friend well, and Eugene pulls out, scraping the muffler upon the steep incline of the driveway. Whoever poured that driveway should have his head examined. Donny knows what it's like to have stuff jacked from you. There was a lot on Eugene's plate right now. Usually, it was weed on the plate, but now Eugene's tray was empty. Mean Green's house was a high-traffic area. It was also a high crime area. It came with the territory. The black market had even blacker crimes.
    Perhaps Donnie should stop frequenting people of poor character. Yet another connection was made between Donny's surroundings, and his well-being.

    Donny sits stooped beside the lattice of the gazebo. It is so small. How had he slept here for 3 years? He was like a dog in a kennel. Maybe the shelter wasn't such a bad idea. The YMCA was all the way across town, though. He had enough money to ride the bus. It would take all day on foot, otherwise.
    Some people may have a certain stigma attached to using the bus. Not Donny. After hoofing it all these years, Donny enjoyed a chance to sit back an relax. The buses were nicer in Iowa City. There was also a better view, rather than the rows of flooded-out and abandoned houses in CR. Near downtown, it seemed eerie to have houses with condemned notices, and boards on the windows. A lot of people left after the flood, never to return. A thought occurs to Donny. Maybe he can break into some of these houses and sleep there. In winter, he would definitely try it. If the cops busted him, it would be a warm roof over his head, and meals in a cell.
    Donny was a survivor. Like a rat clinging to a log, during a ship's sinking, Donny hung on. His life can become something of a challenge, a dare to God to try to strike him down. What doesn't kill you can only make you stronger, they say. IF that is true, Donny's hide should be made of granite, for all he had endured.
    There was a long line at the YMCA application office. This was just getting the form. Donny saw on a sign in the packed room that said the form could be downloaded from their website, and printed off. Shit. Well, he was here now. He had nothing else to occupy his time. It was a full-time job being homeless. Donny hoped he wouldn't be kept late at the office. LOL. It is to laugh. OMG.
    Finally it was Donny's turn. He was handed the form. After an hour an a half of waiting, it took all of 30 seconds to be on his way. The paper was all he needed. He filled it out while there, and dropped it off in their inbox. It was another ploy to improve his life. Man, was Donny really through with self-destruction?
    Without Greg as a potential source of income, Donny needed to find other means for cash. Before meeting Greg, Donny devised a method of making some dough. It was just after the Iowa Hawkeyes football game. It was during the autumn months, when the season was still in full swing. The stadium was always packed, and the streets had been swollen with pedestrians making their way back to vehicles, or other parties. Donny studied all the discarded popcans lying every which way. There must've been hundreds. All Donny had to do was pick up the discarded aluminum cans from the fans. By the looks of it, these people weren't looking to cash in their recyclables. As Donny looked on, many people would upend their beers, chug them, and toss them over their shoulder. That made Donny think of all the University parties and frat houses. It was free money. Donny would become a green-friendly bum, and make sure the containers were taken to the proper recycle centers.
    Why hadn't he thought of it before? Well, when he was high on Oxy, or even weed, all Donny wanted to do was to isolate himself from people. He's spent untold hours just sitting at a park bench, staring off into space, high as a kite. Had he been more sociable, he could've planned this opportunity long ago. Football season was still going strong and Donny had raked it in.
    And so began Donny's long foray into pop can collection. It was a lot easier than dumpster diving for them. . People began to recognize him. It wasn't the most flattering thing to be known for, but it was better than being infamous for crime. Donny had brief chats with frat boys and other college party people. They agreed to leave their cans by the roadside, for Donny to pick up.
    Over the next several weeks, he developed a route, almost like a newspaper boy. He began to make note when things like pledges and rush season came about. He also paid attention to the fliers and signs plastered to the telephone poles around the city. It aimed him right in the direction of plentiful cans. It got to be he carried a long metal pole, which he slung across his shoulders, to hang bags of cans off of. Donny would occasionally catch a glimpse of himself in the glass display windows of the stores downtown. He was a "pop-can Jesus," with his cross to bear upon his frame.
    There was some ridicule, but it was mostly girls who did it. The stuck-up princess types looked down on Donny, but that was fine. He could see their ugliness beneath the expensive saloon hairstyles, and expensive clothes. Donny never said anything, but wondered how these women would handle life when and if their good looks went away.
    One day, Donny ran into an old pal.
    "Donny?!?!" a voice called to him, as Donny rummaged through the cans by the road. They were in a cardboard box, and Donny was stooped over glancing at them.
    It takes Donny several seconds to recognize the person addressing him. He sees the Kirkwood Community college sweatshirt, and makes the connection. It was his roommate from college.
    "Steve?" Donny asks. The guy nods and smiles. Steve has changed. He now has a "chin curtain" beard style, with his black hair neatly trimmed, from his sideburns, connecting all the way around his jaw. It makes him look on the frat boy side of style, but Donny admits he looks good. A lot better than Donny was, anyway, that's for sure. Steve's murky grey eyes were flecked with brown, and those eyes look sorrowful at Donny.
    "How---How ya been, Donny?" Steve asks quietly. He holds a beer in one hand, and it seems Steve has just gotten through a long night of drinking. Steve belches loudly, turning his head away to keep Donny from being engulfed by his gaseous emissions.
    "Okay, I guess," Donny says, ashamedly tossing the can in his hand back into the box.
    "I haven't seen you since, well, shit," Steven strokes the facial hair under his chin and looks puzzlingly at the sky, "since you dropped out of K-wood, I guess. Is that right?"
    "Yeah," Donny says, jamming his hands into his pockets self-consciously, "I got hurt in that accident, and everything went to hell."
    The two meet each others eyes finally, and look unknowingly at each other. It is awkward for both of them.
    "You still into a pharmaceutical degree?" Donny asks.
    "Yep, I just graduated last fall," Steve says slowly, "I got hired at St. Lukes. I've been working there about 8 months now."
    "That's great, I'm real happy for you, Steve." Donny says. Steve smiles, his white teeth gleaming in the mid-morning light. Steve looks like he wants to ask questions, but isn't sure how far he should probe. Donny decides to just up and say what is both on their minds.
    "I got into the Oxy real bad," Donny mumbles, kicking an empty red drinking cup, "I lost it all, thanks in part to that motherfucker Evan."
    "Was he the one that was engaged to your mom Melissa?" Steve inquires.
    "It's actually Marissa," Donny corrects, "and yeah, that's him."
    "Marissa," Steve repeats, "I'm sorry I messed up her name."
    "That's fine. No big deal," Donny says, "I'm terrible with names, myself."
    Steve swigs his beer and gulps down hard. His adams apple trembles, even after the swallow. "I feel really bad about getting you onto the Oxy," Steve says in an apologetic voice, "I started you on the stuff, and now here you are."
    "Aw, c'mon, Steve," Donny says, with a dismissive wave of the hand, "I was a big boy. I knew what I was getting into. Besides, you helped me. They took me off the lease and you had to get a new place, because you couldn't affair it. You let me crash on your couch, after I got kicked out of the apartment.  I was in horrible pain. You remember those nights I'd be moaning and groaning, right?"
    Steve nods sadly. "I remember I told you to snort them, because of your broken jaw. They said right on the OXy bottle back then: don't crush up these pills. It basically gave everyone the idea they could be tooted up your nose."
    Donny shrugs. "Like I said, Steve, I don't blame you for what went down. You were only trying to make my pain stop. It worked well, dude. I'm the one that flew off the handle with it, and went nuts. No one is responsible but myself."
    "And Evan," Steve mentions.
    Donny shrugs. "Maybe. But there's nothing I can do to change it, regardless. Evan will just keep living his life, and I'll keep living mine."
    "I'm glad to here that, donny," Steve says with a strained grin, "you sound like you found your head, and it's back on straight."
    "I'm clean," Donny says with a touch of pride. It is the truth, something Donny has been unfamiliar with lately.
    "You remember that gravity bong we built together?" Donny asks with a laugh. Steve's face lights up.
    "Yeah, totally!!" Steve says with nostalgia, "we made it out of a 2 liter bottle, and a bucket of water!!"
    "It was durable," Donny says, "we made it to last."
    "When we both moved out, I found it again, underneath the sink," Steve says with vigor, "Good thing I did, too, otherwise the landlord might've turned us in!!"
    "YEah, the owner really had it out for us," Donny comments, "after that fridge smashed up the walls there. It wrecked everything, including me!!"
    "Where you staying now?" Steve asks.
    Donny clears his throat and swings his arms wide open.
    "Everywhere," Donny says abstractly, "and nowhere, at the same time."
    Steve finishes his beer and tosses it into the box with the rest. His look reveals it all. He knows Donny is homeless. Steve was always sharp, detecting hints where no one else could. He was especially good with the ladies, who seemed to only speak in hints and riddles sometimes. Which made Donny wonder:
    "You got a girl now?" Donny asks, "you still with that Megan chick?"
    "Megan?" Steve asks, giving another puzzled look, "from Kirkwood? Nah, we broke up about 6 months ago. Work stress, and stuff. I've got this new gal, Kayla. I'm engaged to her now, actually."
    Donny's eyebrows rise. "Engaged? No way, not the Steve I know. Mr. Party all night and get laid. Engaged? Really?"
    "Really, really," Steve says, pulling out his wallet. He shows Donny pics of his bride-to-be. She is flawless. Her shoulder-length blonde hair frames her petite face nicely. Eyes of the deepest blue squint out at the camera as she shows a dazzling smile. She is leaned onto her side, the crook of her elbow supporting her, while Steve lays behind her, leaning the opposite direction.
    Donny whistles.
    "She's a babe," Donny says, handing the wallet back. Donny couldn't help but notice the wad of bills stuffed into Steve's billfold. They were mostly twenties.
    Steve jams his wallet back in his pocket and motions towards his apartment building. "Why don't you come inside, bro?" Steve asks gently, "we can go get breakfast, and you can crash on the sofa again."
    Donny nods, but looks down at his battered Chuck taylor shoes.
    "As much as I'd love to be 'the guy on the couch' again, I think I'll pass," Donny says rebukingly.
    It was somehow easier to beg from strangers than people you knew. Donny didn't want guilt to invade and give Steve a sense of obligation. He didn't need to help Donny. There was no duty required.
    Steve opens his mouth for more persuasion, but just then a female voice calls out to him from the second floor balcony. Donny recognizes Kayla from the portrait in Steve's wallet.
    "Steve?" Kayla calls from above them, "are you out there?"
    Steve cocks his head to look up at her and waves.
    "Here, baby," he shouts.
    "What are you doing out there?" she asks, and glances hesitantly at Donny. It is now quite fortunate that Donny turned down the request to stay. Women were finicky, and Kayla didn't resemble the type to offer out her home to transient strangers. The couple's newly-developed union would almost certainly cause issues as well.
    "Listen, Steve, I've gotta get going," Donny says impatiently, "don't worry about me. I've survived this long, and I'll last even longer. YOu've been a good pal to me, dude."
    Donny brushes his hand on his jeans before offering a shake. Steve gives a firm handshake, and when Donny pulls away, there is a $20 bill in his hand. That was Steve for you, as slick as ever.
    "Steve I can't--"
    But Steve has already turned away, walking back to his young mate, his house, and his future. Donny waits until Steve is back inside before picking up the box of cans.

Uploaded 12/27/2012
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