“I can’t believe we made it out of there for under thirty bucks,” Delilah said.
“It’s too early to talk about money,” I said. “I should be sleeping right now, not ‘Sunday shopping’ and pushing carts in the hot sun.”
“Don’t be a baby.” She clicked something in her pocket and a black BMW’s tailgate floated open. “I’m just saying we did really good hun. And we have to stop thinking about it only when it’s convenient for us.”
I lifted the groceries into the trunk then slid into the driver’s seat and groped behind the wheel for a place to stick my key. “How do you start this damn thing again?”
“It’s just this, here—” Delilah leaned forward and with one finger, depressed a silver-dollar sized button on the dash with the words ‘START/STOP’ written on its face. The diesel engine rumbled then purred. The dashboard displayed diagnostics and the LCD screen lit up and engaged the rear-view camera. “We can’t spend like we have been. Times are rough now. We can’t afford to be so careless anymore.”
I pulled out and maneuvered my way through the parking lot. “What are all these people doing on a Sunday morning? Go to church for God’s sake; how do I get out?”
“Left, here—here … or not. Okay, wait for this next one.”
“Can I get out there? Where this guy is?”
“Yes, yes, go, go. Stop, use your blinker.”
“I love how I’ve just forgotten how to drive all of the sudd-”
Knock, knock, knock!
“Oh my God, Jake, it’s that man at the window.”
I squinted through the tinted passenger window and saw a bent figure, so dark I could only make out the yellow of his hanging eyes.
“Go!” Delilah screamed.
The man pointed to a cardboard sign in his other hand that read, ‘HUNGRY’.
I tapped the horn and the man backed away. I pushed the pedal down and ripped out into the flow of traffic. “What the hell was that?”
“Why didn’t you go?”
“What—why did you freak out, it was just the guy at the corner! We saw him from a mile away!”
“He tried to open my door!”
“Oh my God, he did not try to open your door, he was trying to get our attention.”
“Why didn’t you go when I said go? Jake, why didn’t you—what are you doing?”
“I’m turning around.”
“What! No. Jake, I’m seriously going to scream, stop.”
“Chill the heck out Delilah, the guy’s hungry.”
She laughed and slapped her door. “What are you going to do? Take him to breakfast?”
“I’m going to give him a few bucks, stop.” I turned back into the lot and parked a few hundred feet from the man. “Stay here.”
Delilah yelled something, but I couldn’t hear over my heavy breathing and then I was by the man.
“Uh-oh, don’t keel over now,” he said. His voice was deep and wooden.
I swatted a hand at him. “I’m alright, are you alright? I—I’m sorry about that, you know, my wife flipped out.”
Delilah squeezed my bicep and I cursed. “Jacob Alexander Garcia, we’re going, now!”
The man coughed; he lifted his brow. “Well that’s no trouble at all. No trouble at all. Not on my corner, no sir.” He laid his hand on my shoulder. It was a slender thing wrapped in tight soft skin. I smelled wax and oil on it, and dinners with family I never met; traditions. I smelled them in his hands, a sort of pruning or conditioning that clung from his youth. It seemed to me the most pleasant of hands. I asked him his name. He told me ‘Rue’.
“Yeah man, I’m the spice of life you know?”
“That’s an interesting name,” I said.
“My mama had some interesting problems!” Rue chuckled and crossed his arms over his heavy canvas coat. “I tell you what happened: the day I was born my mama look at me and she says ‘Wa-what? Wa-who? Wa-rue?’ ” I laughed. Delilah squeezed me harder. “No, no, I come out and she says ‘I rue the day!'” I laughed harder.
I asked him how he came to be in Orange Country. “Me? I’m on vacation!” He said. “At least I was. But that was nigh ten months a-gone.” He tapped his toes and snapped. “Came on vacation, stayed on probation!” I saw the corner of Delilah’s lips turn up. Rue noticed and stretched out his smile. “That’s right! Blame it on the rain,” he sang, “that’s right! I’m from Cleveland Ohio, out West on my quest for gold and glory. But um, tell me sir, can you spare a dollar?”
“No.” Delilah said. “I’m sorry. Jake, let’s go.”
I pushed her hand away harder than I intended. “He just needs some damn food alright?”
She stared at me, wide-eyed and disgusted. “He needs booze and drugs!”
“Oh yes, but a man’s got to drink,” Rue said. “That’s something they don’t tell you. You know, men been drinking before history was being written. You know that grog was in his cave with his friends drinking wild-fruit moonshine, waking up at four the next evening with a big-toothed cat, miss the big hunt? Heh… Well, that’s something they don’t tell you…”
“See Jake? Let’s go.”
I dug in my shorts pocket and pulled out a fist full of crumpled bills. I held it out. “What I got Rue. Sorry again for almost running you over.”
He thumbed his lip and shifted his eyes side to side, then slowly pulled the bill from my hands; he winked. “It’s appreciated.”
Delilah and I went back to the car and continued home. She settled down after a few minutes. She inhaled through her nose with closed eyes, exhaled, and put her hand on my lap. “If we keep it up like this, we’ll save enough for Europe in a few months. I love you.”
One Word Prompt: benefaction
I wrote this exercise earlier today. I hope you enjoyed it!