February 8th, 1995

Wolfman and Gramps

I was walking home from the Church Street Amer's tonight a little after midnight. As I passed by the doorway to Dollar Bill Copying, the homeless men asked me for change. If I had any change, it was probably all my money in the world, but it was a frigid cold night so I told them, genuinely, that I was sorry but I could not help them.

"Do you want some food? Candy bars? We gots PayDays, Snickers, lessee here. Box of corn flakes." They rummaged through a cardboard box to display their wares.

PayDay bars? I love PayDay bars. A candy bar with no chocolate, something I had eaten plenty of the previous summer when I'd worked at Edwards Brothers. A little protein with my sugar, please.

"Why would you want to give me a PayDay bar?"

Wolfman and Gramps, as they revealed their streetnames to be, launched into their tale. They had been asking people for change. A woman said she couldn't give them any change, but maybe she could help them. She went in to the party store catercorner from Village Corner and came back out a couple minutes later and shoved a cardboard box into their arms. Then she walked off.

Wolfman and Gramps rummaged through the box. Corn flakes, PayDays, pretzels, Snickers. "Corn Flakes?" Gramps said. "Corn Flakes but no milk? What am I supposed to do with Corn Flakes and no milk? How am I supposed to eat any of this stuff? We ain't got no TEEF!"

And sure enough, Wolfman and Gramps bared their vacant gums at me.

About that time Gramps launched into some story about the Korean War, perhaps it had to do with his lack of teeth or the bitter cold. They offered me a sip of their half-pint of Popov, to keep warm as we huddled in the doorway. I said the PayDay was enough of a gift, thanks, although in truth I my temptation was only reigned in by my disgust at the thought of them gumming the bottle.

As Gramps recounted some story of his tour-of-duty, Wolfman kept interrupting with the beginnings of a story of a chopper in 'Nam. Eventually Gramps got tired of the interruptions. "Shut up! You weren't in 'Nam. You ain't old enough to have served in 'Nam."

This confused Wolfman quite a bit, for there was obviously some truth in what Gramps had told him, but he clearly remembered a chopper situation in 'Nam. "But the Vietcong..." he muttered.

Gramps finished his story and they passed the $2 vodka back and forth a few more times.

"I should get going," I said. "Try to keep warm tonight. And thanks for the PayDay bar." They assured me the vodka would keep them warm enough, and then they chortled and and wished me well.