The Company – 10

It was a desertic day in August. You could stick your tongue out and it would dry up like a prune. We were sprawled under a tree, counting the countless army of grass leaves, or maybe smoking towards the clouds. As a joke we dared each other to do it. To put a foot down on that bridge and then venture a step forward. A stupid idea, of course, but it started as a joke. Later on, with its due seriousness, utterly aware of the dangerous undertaking, Turd and I accepted our own challenge. Why not? What did we have to lose? What else was there to do? It was the perfect day to be a moron, not to open a door but to go straight across it. OldThrown didn’t have an opinion, but he was still breathing.

We stuffed our hunting bags in our pockets and, without stretching our muscles, we set out in that foolhardy incursion into the savage neighbourhoods that lurked on the other side of the river, with their swollen buildings and dog-urine ridden sidewalks, with their dark trees and ill-intentioned creatures, like iguanas in the shadows, patiently waiting for their prey to appear.

As usual, we were heavy-laden with OldThrown. I’m not trying to say that he were a bothersome load, because that he never was. But he was still a load, inasmuch as we had to keep pulling at him if we wanted for him to follow us. Just like a kid. Sometimes he would flaunt his stubbornness and anchored his feet on the ground, and I had to grab one arm, Turd the other, and we would drag him, until through bad-mouthing his daughter he would come to his senses — or whatever he had within his skull that played the part of his senses.

Reaching the bridge, we looked at the other side. There was still time to reconsider. Why not to buy some cans of cold beer and let the hours pass in the safety of our environs? We could always cross the bridge another day. But Turd said “Are we really going to do this?” Possibly his way of backing down. But I responded with a “I guess,” and that was it. We didn’t say anything for a while and then we started walking along the bridge. First with an exaggerated confidence in our courage, which dissipated with each one of our steps, and was completely gone by the time that we reached the center of the bridge. From that point on, a feeling grew more and more intense in our guts. The realization that we were foreigners in adverse grounds. The suspicion that we were walking to our disappearance.

The fear in us was a fire thrusting our engines. When we stepped on the other side of the bridge, our adrenaline-bursting bodies still thought that they were athletic and ready for anything. Even OldThrown seemed to exude equal measures of alertness and anticipation. The sky was clear and intense, and we weren’t drunk. We were ready for some thoughtful exploration.

In principle, our only plan — after all we were mere adventurers and hunters, not brainless heroes—, had been not to wander stray too far away from the bridge. Just to walk around the adjacent streets and squares. Never too far away from the bridge. Inspect the material piled around the recycling containers. There could be wearable clothes, bottles of fancy whisky with some remaining drops, a dominos set with only a two-three missing. Always retreating to the bridge as our safety net. We would placidly spend a couple of hours either finding gold or experiencing again the calmed disappointment of an empty-handed search. In either case, we would know when it was time to return to our side of the city.

That was our simple plan. A placid stroll, contemplating the arrangement of the bricks on the walls, and the cobbles on the sidewalks. A general assessment of the offerings as well as the potential dangers and their lurking hideouts. There could even have been time to observe the bathing of fat sparrows in a puddle, their vivacious fluttering drawing a smile on OldThrown mask.

Our plans, however, rarely go according to plan. Otherwise, I would be the proud owner of a three-story bookshop only frequented by customers that asked the right questions and strung the right chords from the creaking wood floors, and Turd would be an operator in a churro stand, frying the fragrant dough, sprinkling each marvel generously with sugar, every other churro not making it into a parcel to be sold, but going down his gullet.

Turd saw them first and alerted me about their presence with an elbow nudge that penetrated my side. Before I could properly insult him, he murmured “Trouble,” looking down the street. Still at some distance, a couple of fascists, with their shaven heads, their overdeveloped bodies, and the attitude and fashion style that attested a deep compromise to their cause, and a generous close mindedness to go with it.

“Should we run?” Turd asked.

“Let’s wait a moment,” I murmured. Sometimes you had to hold your ground and see whether you were lucky and the fire stopped right at your footsteps without burning your toes.

They didn’t see us at first. We were ready to display a statuesque show and go unnoticed. Dead muscles, inoffensive gazes, nothing out of the ordinary. We would just be three smudges protruding on the city, like bark on a tree or a speck of dry mud on the sole of a boot. Our enemy would pass by us without colliding, at most they would simply hate our presence, project an insult or a threat, maybe spit at us, but a spit as a final statement, a last word. They would spit in their way out, we would remain statues for a minute or so, then reconstitute ourselves as human beings again. No harm done. Life as usual once again.

The one that seemed the leading fascist, the largest one, was fiery, his face red with contempt and tension. When he looked ahead of him and saw us, steam blew from his ears; purpose, as fuel, accelerating his trajectory in our direction. He said something to his second-in-command, and suddenly the duet of mastiffs was a missile with us as its target.

“Yes, let’s run,” I urged, getting up and launching my body forward, Turd having more problems mobilizing his massive frame. OldThrown also seemed to understand what a close encounter with the fascists would entail, and he started to run as soon as we did, completely on his own.

The Company – 9

Before we devised The Company, Turd and I had been very independent from each other, especially during the cold seasons. In the middle of those winters we didn’t share anything, we didn’t go together in any walks, excursions or hunts. In fact, we didn’t venture beyond the limits of our respective territories, we didn’t even think about the possibilities of the city, as if the city had shrunk to the size of the few blocks that we felt like exploring, and outside our minute bubble there were only a frozen extension of asphalt, an empty parking lot overgrown with tall, dead grass.

We would see each other from time to time, but it was like the encounters between two solitary wolves at the edges of their respective territories, looking at each other with subdued disinterest, barely accepting each other, too indifferent to the presence of the other to even show our teeth, no need for threatening gestures nor insults, very exemplary enemies. I would say that every winter we were at the threshold of our friendship.

Once the spring decided to get dressed in summery fabrics and the remnants of the decaying winter were no longer claws tying our spirits down, we would broke our isolations and behave in a more gregarious manner. The chances of us being together would keep increasing from that time on, reaching a maximal point during the middle of the summer, due to the scorching temperatures and the way in which these affected Turd’s habitat. The Sun would unload its fierce heat, and with every degree the pestilence in Turd’s sewage would increase exponentially, until not even Turd could tolerate it. During most blistering days from June to August, the stench was simply and humanly unbearable. During those summer weeks in which the temperatures got out of hand, Turd fled the stinking fumes of his lair and came to visit me, imploring me to please meander together through any section of the city.

“Until the odoriferous snakes return to where they come from,” he would say.

I would happily accept his pleading propositions. After all, they offered me the opportunity to dust off most of the loneliness that had accumulated on me during all those days cloistered within myself.

It was, however, after we founded The Company that we saw each other’s faces almost daily, as much during the winter as during the summer. In most of those encounters we celebrated important discussions. Even if we sat in silence, either on a balustrade overlooking parterres or on the hood of a dejected and rusting car, there was a sense of change and happening. Sensible and sharp ideas started to populate our minds. Unexpected events unfolded and we were right in the center of them, such events continuously taking place at a more and more fast-paced and dynamic rate, as if the passing of time were all of a sudden accelerated, as if a hurricane were chasing us and in our escaping we were being denied tranquility but at the same time we were pushed into new, invigorating findings. Our first principal questions, then rescuing OldThrown, and together with him, and thanks to the sense of audacity that The Company was imbuing in us, daring to plot and implement expeditions to sections of the city that we still considered dangerous and that in the past our cowardice would have prohibited us. Like that first summer after we accepted OldThrown as a member of The Company, when we decided to embark in a risky adventure that would lead us to the discovery of a gigantic park, much larger than mine, with more splendor growing up from the soil and the branches, a perfect setting for something worthwhile to happen.

That park of excellent possibilities was located somewhere beyond the other side of the river  bank that traverses the city. It was a dangerous and hostile territory where it wasn’t convenient to venture but fleetingly, or under the influence of craziness, drugs, or total dispassion for life. In only a few occasions had Turd or I crossed one of the bridges that unite both sides of the city, and in any of those occasions it was a business of placing one foot on the other side, the side of violence and insanity, and then almost immediately coming back, running if necessary, to the safety of our protecting side of the city. In consequence, it won’t come as a surprise that even though the aforementioned gigantic park had been photosynthesizing for years, and even though it deserved to be referred as forest because of its size, we had been in total ignorance about its existence.

Yes, that was indeed a good year. The Company rooting and growing in importance, the discovery of the forest, other things, all tangled somehow, and us starting to understand that, that tangle. And how everything began to accelerate and go in all sorts of fractals from that point on, accelerating beyond our control, beyond any control.

The Company – 8

OldThrown spent many days with Turd in his sewers. They did whatever Turd decided was appropriate. For the most part, they sat on a platform suspended over the murky current, their legs dangling in the air, and they played with some fishing rods that Turd had engineered with brooms, several strands of rope tied together, and wires bent into hooks. They could fish hour after hour for what they considered to be relative marvels or what everyone else would despise as horrendous filth.

When he wasn’t messing around with Turd, OldThrown was most likely with me, never too far, following my movements like a dog. He came along during my hunting rounds, and when we returned at night to my alley, exhausted from all our prowling, we slept together inside a cardboard box, cuddling together to maintain our body temperatures over those of cockroaches and snails.

He still wasn’t a conversationalist, but that silence of his, only very occasionally peppered with sudden blasphemies against his daughter, allowed me to read with the required tranquility the books that I had found over the years thrown in trashcans, left on park benches, lost on some stairs or in the middle of the pavement, or that I had nicked in moments of social detachment. Every book that I consumed made me stronger, pushing my brain a step closer to a point of eruption in which I would be my own weapon.

OldThrown may have not been much of a talker, but he was a decent percussionist of empty bottles. Between the two of us we raised an enervating noise that crawled out from my alley, up the walls and over all the corners of my grounds. The most cursed curse in the mouths of the flat-dwellers that lived in a two-block radius. In those moments in which our music intertwined and I could sense his rhythm dancing with mine, I felt closer to another human being than I had done in a very long time.

However, even though I think that the arrangement of our lives should be considered happy and eventful, we must never forget the cold abandonment that OldThrown suffered. Those from The Company have never disregarded, nor will we ever do such a thing, the following questions: in which scales did OldThrown’s daughter weigh the relative importance of her father? In which moment and under which circumstances did she start to refer to what before had been good or had tried to be good as bad? In other words, how is that something important can become, either suddenly or with time, as worthless as shit? This is our third principal question.

The Company – 7

As soon as Turd saw the old man, his instinct of custody also brightened up. He wobbled like a penguin, excited by whatever distorted prospects he envisioned in his mind. Reasonable for once, he was in agreement with me, although being his cautious self he just and grudgingly recognized that maybe we could be of assistance on this occasion if we decided that that was necessary.

“What do you mean if it’s necessary, you moron,” I said, utterly surprised by the shortcomings in perception from my associate. “Are you unaware of the idiocy he hauls to such a degree that it’s even difficult to comprehend how he is still able to manage the process of respiration, which to him must be the most intricate endeavor?”

“Don’t mock me with your words, CrazyEye,” he said, and I must admit that rightly so, since I will frequently do exactly that, because I find that a good dose of verbal prepotency raises me away from the infamy in which I usually trudge, and such distancing myself from it all brings me tranquility, makes me feel safe, “or I’ll stamp one of my presents on your face. I can perfectly see he’s a dummy, thank you very much, I don’t understand why you need to come with all your chatty-chat when there’s not much to talk about, really, he’s half dead already, in the streets by himself he’d crawled for just a question of days.”

“Hours, I’d say.”

“Hours, yes, maybe just hours, so someone needs to take care of him,” Turd said. I nodded, making my agreement as obvious as possible, and he added, “where did you find him?”

“In my park.”

“In your park?” the mocking Turd asked.

“Yes,” I answered, knowing too well where he was heading to.

“Is your territory, CrazyEye,” he laughed at me. “Everything there is in CrazyEye’s park,” the shitty head started to sing, bouncing from one feet to another, mocking me, “everything there is in CrazyEye’s park, both the good and the bad, all of it belongs to CrazyEye. That’s your song. How many times have you sang it to me? Eh? Eh? So, the old thing was in your park, consequently he’s all yours.”

“I know, but…”

“Yes, yes, don’t you worry. Aren’t we comrades? Of course we are. I’ll help you, don’t you worry,” he said with a sardonic intonation and a final snort. “Besides,” he continued, “I have a lot of spare time over here, I can take care of him. But…” Turd raised an eyebrow and became dead serious, “you haven’t told me his name yet. You’ve already asked him, I assume?”

Turd was overly obsessed with the business of names. It must have been because of being marked himself with the ignominy of his name that he was so sensitive on the matter, so sensitized to it, so losing hours after hours meditating about names and all the undercurrents that emerged from each particular naming event. So much was he absorbed by the colors and shapes of given names that he had become a crafter of them. A forger of names. An unrecognized artist in my opinion. And any time Turd created a new name, even though one could imagine that there was a fire of rancor burning in him that could spark a desire to behave hatefully as an answer to the offense committed by his parents, he never fostered nor accepted any nominal injustice, no matter how small. Against such injustices he would rebel, sometimes brandishing the most displeasing weapons, not precisely prophylactic ones, as when he would go into a church during a baptism and rant against any Dick, against any Seaman, against any Reason, starting with a subdued mumble, becoming more and more infuriated with the responsible parties, finally screaming and fighting until he was kicked out.

In quite a contradictory manner, he didn’t accept any adulterations, distortions or changes to the name that one had received. He was very adamant on this issue. His position was that we had to be strict. If something or someone (no distinction had to be made according to Turd) is given a name, whatever it is, that name must be retained inexcusably, accepting any consequences, one has the ethical obligation to do so, to wear that name as an ornate crown and not as a shredded kleenex stuck in the corner of a pocket. That’s where Turd’s ardent refusal to renounce to his own name emanated from. He also argued that as important as embracing the name you had been given was giving as quickly as possible a name to any thing or being that lacked one. For me he invented the name CrazyEye as soon as he learned that I had abdicated from my old and business-like name, something Turd will never forgive me for, although he should understand that I had to kill some particular ties. All his treasures he also baptized. In fact, there was nothing that being unnamed and falling into his hands remained nameless for more than a second.

“He doesn’t talk too much,” I said to my comrade Turd.

“Well, we need to find out at once what’s his name,” he said, contorting his fat face to produce a distressed grimace. “Are you sure he didn’t say anything?”

“Not about his name, no.”

“What did he say, then?”

“Well, we were in our way to here and out of the blue he told me his story. Actually, he repeated the whole thing five times, I think. And that’s the only time he said anything, like a dam suddenly opened and all his misadventures came bursting out, then suddenly the dam was shut down again. That story must be the only thing that moves him. It’s kind of short in words, but certainly cruel. You must want to know about it, I bet.”

“Yes, of course,” he said while opening his legs and putting his hands on his hips, one of his pompous stances, “maybe we can figure something out about his name.” He was now so impatient that I purposely elongated my silence, to see him wiggle with enraged anticipation, his short legs tap dancing as if his shoes were burning up. “Come on, spit it out,” he yelled.

“The story revolves mostly around his daughter. He refers to her as ‘The Bitch from Hell’. It turns out that one day she was fed up with him, she said that she had had enough with her own children, she had changed more than enough diapers and dealt with all the other shit, she wasn’t going to return to that part of her life, nor was she going  to pay most of her money to a nursing home for someone who was worthless and good for nothing, someone who the only thing that he could expect to get from life was a quick death. So the daughter, aka the bitch from Hell, her brain upholstered with such ideas, took her father to my park, ordered him to sit down on a bench, and left towards her job without any remorse, leaving our friend here behind her for ever.”

“That’s it?”

“Yeah, that’s basically it.”

“The bitch from Hell…” Turd said while musing. “The bitch from Hell…”

“Yes,” I said.

“My daughter didn’t seem the type,” said the old man in a sudden burst of inspiration, right away falling again in his well of mutism.

Turd ignored the old man, those words could have been a dog complaining in the distance for all that he cared. He assumed his serious face. “So, we don’t know his name, now,” he said. There he came again, obsessively pensive, stroking his chin in a plotting manner. “The first thing we need to do is to give him a name, that’s for sure,  he cannot just go around without a name to make him human,” he insisted, starting to annoy me with his tedious agenda. “What do you think about OldThrown?”

I didn’t say anything and scratched my tummy instead. OldThrown complained about his daughter again.

The Company – 6

The old man opened his eyes but didn’t show any other symptom of being sentient or capable of thought. I told him that there are four pillars that sustain our place in the universe: truth, compassion, friendliness and purpose. Although I remembered the pastrami sandwich that still tickled the back of my palate and felt that I had to make a correction.

“Let’s improve on that,” I told him, “there are five pillars that sustain our place in the universe: truth, compassion, friendliness, purpose, and selfishness.”

I immediately thought that he was going to make some sardonic remark about friendliness and selfishness being two pillars too opposed to each other to sustain anything of real value. However, he didn’t say that. In fact, he said nothing, the idiotic skunk.

And that was the main problem, you see, this old man turned out to be as taciturn as a stalk of celery. Something I normally appreciate on people, it was most inopportune on this occasion. He didn’t seem to attend to my explanations, either. That is, he didn’t produce nor receive any type of information. He was just there stranded in the interior cavities of his brain, although that’s assuming that he had a mind somewhere and that was quite an assumption given the faces voided of intelligence that he portrayed. From time to time he looked at me and I anticipated the start of a conversation, even if a mediocre one, but his eyes lapped me like a lobotomized fish would, no meditations, no hamster running in his wheel behind those eyes. A tough bone, that old man; I soon understood that it was going to be laborious, perhaps impossible, to open that door that for whatever reason had melted and become one with the unjumpable wall that was his skull. I should soon accept that the dope wasn’t going to assimilate even my more basic teachings. I wouldn’t also know whether he learned anything or not, because he wasn’t going to tell me. This whole issue about lack of communication was what made me desist from my didactic endeavors after half an hour.

Even though I opted to abandon the education of my pupil, it didn’t seem ethical to ignore him at the physical level. Who believed out there that CrazyEye is a selfish soul, a heartless bastard? Common, common, little buggers. As I have done on more than one occasion with a sparrow that I find with a broken wing, or with homeless cats and dogs, taking care of them during their last days, on that same way I wanted to be magnificent and come to his rescue, knowing too well that if I left him to his own devices he would last in my park or any other well in which he fell an amount of time that could be considered to be too short, so detached was he from the world and all its nuances. It was really astonishing that the wolves hadn’t gobbled him up yet. It was clear that rambling like a moronic and solitary dog wasn’t going to provide him with any prosperity. He was in no condition to vagabond by himself in the streets, especially given that he was so inclined towards his death. Ninety per cent of his entrails were likely rotten. His brain, for example, which was barely more than a gelatinous mass of sewage, lacked the slightest trace of insight, such lack of wits being the first symptom that the streets perceived during their hunt for their next prey. He was, in summary, dependent. And it seemed to me that what he needed and what I and my people were willing to offer were small puzzle pieces that fit well with one another, so I gripped the old man’s crumbling hand and led the way towards Turd’s sewer. There I would parley with my comrade, and he and I would resolve what it had to be done with that miserable creature.

The Company – 5

I was patrolling my park, assessing the contents within my favourite trashcans, shrouded with the expectation that in one of them I would find my lunch. In more cases than not, something would end up appearing. And today was a happy day. In this occasion my booty consisted of the remains of a half-eaten, homemade pastrami sandwich in a crisp baguette. Wrapped in aluminum foil, spotless for a change. A finding to smile and revel in.

I sat down with dignity on a bench, next to an old man that was dozing in a very rustic fashion, with his legs wide open, his hair a mess resembling a dead and flattened rat, his head tipped to one side and a whitish dribble sliding from his mouth.

The bench was at the summit of a path that descended in both directions to a lower extension of lawn scattered with parterres and lined in the distance  by a barrier of various species of trees. Very calming, overarching views. I took a tremendous bite of the sandwich. Delicious, moist, and satisfying. The pastrami melted in my mouth like cream cheese, fusing and dancing with the stretchy bread.

I looked at the old man again. Unshaven, ragged clothes. The atmosphere around him was as pungent as mine. And, similarly to me, he exuded the bitter smell of a old man. A vagabond without a doubt, but judging by his foolishness he was a novice, and most likely he hadn’t been in the streets for more than a week. No experimented vagabond would have exposed himself so blatantly and in such wretched state during the central hours of the day, showcasing his condition in such an obvious way while disregarding any sense of alertness, certainly the best combination of behaviors if the sought outcome was for a brainless member of the police that happened to be strolling around the park to packet him and send him like a sausage to the closest penitentiary.

I decided to finish my sandwich as quickly as possible, before my amiability  demanded that I should wake up that old man, in all probability starving if he was half as inept as I thought he was, and offer him a portion of my delicacy. The thing is that sometimes one needs to be selfish, because selfishness is a good ally of the forlorn, especially those with recently acquired pastrami sandwiches.

So it is that only after having taking care of the last crumbs that had collected on my lap, did I wake up the old man applying to his side a well directed jab with my elbow. CrazyEye was disposed to educate him, to offer him the best vagabond pieces of advice that there are. Given that he was starting at such an advanced age, the old man required an immediate and accelerated education in all the basic precepts. No matter how much of a lout he seemed to be, lounging on the bench like a slug with the stupid face of one that is waiting for death, for better or worse he now belonged to the guild. CrazyEye couldn’t abandon the old fart, do nothing and thus allow that strangers would jail him and transform him in dog food.

Maybe I could, on second thought. Maybe all the assaults that could happen to him and his death were indifferent to me, but it boiled down to not wasting the pleasure of snatching his body right from the hungry mouths of the policing officials. Maybe something else. Maybe it was even simpler than that, and I just wanted some entertainment as a dessert following a memorable salami sandwich.

The Company – 4

I’ve already mentioned the reach of my territory: between my park and the sewers that spill on the river. The park is my main dominion. Most of my awaken hours I’ll spend traversing the sandy paths, assessing the contents of the trashcans, sitting down on a bench or behind a statue. I must point out that even though my park belongs to me in its entirety, I’ve never been opposed to sharing it with other homeless people, and I’ll benevolently allow nocturnal lovers to seek their pleasures on my lawn.

I’m also the owner of all the trashcans that can be found between my park and Turd’s sewer. From that point on, his area starts. His is not a bad area at all, in my opinion, but Turd has never known how to exploit his estate in any efficient manner. He wields the excuse that he is above any notions about properties and hunting grounds, he says to have enough with his sewer, and he’ll even accuse me of being a bourgeois, although I have my doubts he really appreciates the meaning of that word, poor insect.

It’s true that he obtains from his sewer all his clothing, and also, I fear, most of his nutrients. Nonetheless, I think it’s a waste, a real pity, all those trashcans going unattended. A true pity. Similarly astonishing is how, given what he eats, he’s still alive.