Interlude: Pigeons in South Station

“Mr. Lion, Mr. Lion!” says the monkey.  “If you’re the king of the jungle, why is it you’re down there and I’m up here?”
-Joel, at South Station

Editor’s Note:  Read while listening to Jethro Tull’s Aqualung.

Too much caffeine; too little sleep.  South Station in Boston, just coming back from the New Hampshire primaries.  Nice guy, name of Joel.  Don’t know his story, but he likes a good joke.  We got to talking.

Joel was worried about me; saw me dozing off at the table, falling asleep over my food.  He figured it looked to him I might be having heart trouble, ’cause he has heart trouble.  Neither one of us us supposed to have alcohol these days.  I’ve cut it out entirely for the moment; he’s decided to cut back on all his other habits, but he’s decided to specialize; he’s doing vodka only these days.  I guess you do what you’re good at.

He told me about doing drugs on the road in Texas.  He’d go about getting money — “Step up!  Step up!”, he said — and take it straight to where he knew he could score something.  He remembers the heat the most, stepping up onto the highway and just basking in the sun, ninety-eight degrees.  He doesn’t do drugs any more, though.  Figures it’s bad for him.

Joel tells me a joke, but he’s forgotten how it goes.  It’s a good joke, though, and I laughed along with him.  There’s pigeons walking around in here, and I opine they might be good eating.  He just looks at me, a little shocked I think.  Which is impressive; my guess is Joel’s seen about all there is to see and then some.

To take his mind off it, I tell him the story about going fishing without any bait on my hook.  He’s never heard it, or if he has he’s forgotten, so I take my time and tell it right.  This one time, I say, I was sitting under a tree just enjoying the day, the butt of my fishing pole just stuck in the ground beside me.  And I was so out of it, and the day so restful, not only had I left off the bait but the hook wasn’t even in the water.  I just stared off and enjoyed the day.

Feller came up to me shaking his head; he’d been watching a while.  Looked like a preacher; ‘course, I couldn’t tell.  But he looked some disgusted; look on his face was indescribable.  “Well, if that isn’t the laziest thing I ever saw!” he says.

Well, there wasn’t anything in that for me so I didn’t say nothing.  Just cocked an eye at him to be sociable.  He just fumed, looking at my pole where I couldn’t feel the fish, the hook all bare of bait, and out of the water at that.  “I’d give a good clean dollar to see anything lazier than that!” he says, I guess to get a rise out of me.

“Just roll me over and stick that dollar in my wallet,” I said.

Joel laughed; he enjoyed that one.  And we talked a while about fishing without bait there in the station.  Might be we’d hook a bird.  Nothing else to catch.

Except that’s not quite true; he hooked me for eighty-five cents before he left.  He’d only asked out of habit and was embarrassed to take it, but I figure it was honest pay for honest work.  Man kept me awake long enough for me to make my train.


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