Welcome back to Member Monday. Today it’s my pleasure to share a piece by my friend and fellow Director at Large, Laura Hernandez.
Blind Billy Bongos, Sleepy Jimmy, and Larry Two Shoes
By Laura Hernandez
Walking past the Courthouse, on my way back to the Public Defenders’ Office, whipping my yo-yo up and down real fast ‘cause I was pissed that the preliminary hearing transcript that I ordered from the court clerk still wasn’t ready for me to take, I passed Blind Billy Bongos. He wasn’t really blind. The cops call him that because he talks to himself and plays invisible bongos in the air, “blind” to what it looks like, hands floating side to side, slapping one lid then another, back and forth; while he stands, struts or walks around town. I know it doesn’t make sense, but the name has a ring to it, Billy seems to like it, and it fits. Blind Billy would say “hi” to you, if you said “hi” to him, but it wouldn’t necessarily stop him from talking to himself, nor would it stop his bongo playing. I said, “Hi, Blind Billy!” and he said, “Hi Miss Laura!” and slapped the air about four feet from the ground on the left, then the right, before I got all the way past him. “Nice day for yo-yo-ing! Have you learned to ‘walk the dog’ yet?”
“No, Blind Billy, not yet!” It wasn’t quite true. I could do the yo-yo trick a little bit, but I was inconsistent, so the trick wasn’t ready “for the street” just yet. It involves throwing the yo straight out, low to the ground, letting it zing for a second, and snapping it back with an under and back snap to the wrist at the same time you pull you whole arm back to your side. You also need to bend at the waist to do this, and usually I had a sheaf of papers in one arm, so this trick wasn’t always graceful for me. I can’t juggle yet, either, but I’m trying.
Sleepy Jimmy was crossing the street in front of me, and called me over to show me something. I try real hard to be nice to the Guys in the Street because you never know when they might have some information about missing witnesses or something you might need. It’s not that I would send them on some “intelligence mission,” but My Boss might be real interested in the information and could send a real investigator to do the info gathering. Sleepy Jimmy always had his eyes at half-mast, kinda like he was about to go to sleep at any minute.He talked slow enough to make you think he was about to drop off any second, too. Today he showed me he had found a baby bird that had fallen from someplace, but seemed to be alright. I looked into Jimmy’s cupped hands and smiled at the tiny, brown, feathered, fluff ball that wasn’t even struggling to get away. The little thing just looked snuggled into a new kind of nest. It seemed happy to be there, and Jimmy was happy to have it. “That’s real nice, Jimmy! What you gonna feed it?”
“I dunno. I was thinking of some hamburger but I don’t got some.”
“Why don’t you go to the Law Dogs hot dog stand and see if they’ve got somethin’ to give ya?”
“Thas’ a good idea, Miss Laura! I gotta get over there, then! See ya!”
I think it’s funny that all the Street Guys seemed to call me “Miss Laura” just cause they heard one of my bosses, a southern guy, call me that once on the street in front of a couple of cops we were chatting with one day. They passed the name on, I guess. Most of the lawyers I worked with weren’t southern. In fact, that guy was the only one. I guess the Street Guys wanted to call me something “respectful” but not stuffy, so I got the “Miss” with the First-Name-Casual. Considering the names I coulda been called, this is not bad at all.
As I crossed Main Street onto Market, I waved to Larry Two Shoes who was on the next block. I always liked Larry Two Shoes, ever since he picked me up from an almost fall on the sidewalk one cold day. I was running in my high heels over another cobblestoned street downtown when I hit a broken, sticking-up stone and started to go down. Larry Two Shoes had just turned the corner behind me with his cart and ran to scoop me up just before I could hit the hard street. He was surprisingly strong for a Street Guy who didn’t eat often. He had one arm around me and the other outstretched to balance us both, like a teetering dancer. He straightened us in one swoop and settled me on the ground upright, smiling like he had just shagged an easy fly ball. “God, thanks, man!”
“No problem, Miss Laura! Glad I was here!” I clutched my papers tighter with one hand while sticking out my right to shake. He pulled back his own hand, “Oh, no, Miss Laura, I’m too dirty for you!”
“Well, we’ve never been introduced, but you know my name, so it’s only fair you tell me yours!” I said.
“It’s Larry Two Shoes, Miss Laura!”
“Why Two Shoes?” I asked.
“Well look,” he said reaching back to grab his shopping cart full of his household things. Tied by their grimy laces to the handle bars like Footlocker’s fuzzy dice were two old, cruddy tennis shoes, his “spares.”
“Oh, well that’s handy!” What else? “It was nice to meet you, and thank you for catching me, Larry Two Shoes!” I called over my shoulder as I heel-click hurried back to the office.
“My pleasure, Miss Laura!” he called back, bowing slightly. I didn’t know it yet, but one day Larry Two Shoes would show up on the street outta nowhere to save my bacon again.
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