When I was in college, my mom and aunt would often come up to visit their favorite starving student.
In addition to taking me out for a free meal, they would also buy me some food at the grocery store.
Awww. Ain't they nice.
On one particular visit, we were walking down High Street near campus and a bum approached my aunt for some money. She reached into her little purse and gave the bum some change.
Less than a minute later, another bum asked my aunt for money and again she slowly reached into her little purse and pulled out some more change. Then it happened again. And Again. On more than one ocassion, she would even toss a bum a dollar bill or two.
This happened five of six more times before I decided to toss in my two cents.
"You know," I would tell her. "You don't have to give money to every single bum that you see."
"Oh, but I have to," she retorted. "Because you never know if one of them is an angel in disguise."
"Well," I said obviously annoyed. "Then, I guess there are a lot of angels walking around Columbus then."
She grabbed my arm and glanced up to me with a tender smile.
"You never know," she said. "You never know."
Back to reality...
In addition to being right next to a mental health facility, the intersection of King and High Streets - also known as the location of Ghetto Kroger - could be a considered a bum paradise.
Plenty of liquor stores. Rich, spoiled college kids to hit up for money. Tons of discarded clothes and food to be pulled from a plethora of garbage bins.
Like I said, bum paradise.
It was no surprise that Ghetto Kroger would get its fair share of angels, er bums, coming in and out of the store on a regular basis.
Almost every single day that I worked at Ghetto Kroger, I would have at least one bum approach me and ask me for money to 'buy some food' or 'get some gas'. No lie.
There was this one skinny black guy who carried around a gas can as a prop device to get unsuspected sorority girls and their parents to give him dough.
"Awww, man," he would say, "I've got my wife and two kids in the car a couple blocks away and I left my wallet at home. All we need is just a couple of bucks to put in the tank to get home."
And people would actually fall for this guy's story.
To be brutally honest, the first time I heard his schpeel, I felt sorry for him as well. Hell, I'm sure that I probably gave him a couple bucks too.
But, when I saw him around again and again and again almost every other day, I would glare at him with disdain mixed with a little pity. He would see me and know that I knew that he was lying. So, he stayed away. As did most of the regular bums after they realized they weren't getting shit from me.
Same grift. Different day.
Suffice to say, when you're sitting outside, staring at a parking lot for eight hours...the shit gets old. So to pass the time, I would strike up a conversation with a bum or two sleeping on a bench or just sitting around outside asking people for money.
(I should also note that the store manager really frowned upon this type of activity and quickly hustled the store cops to get the bums out of the front entrance. I guess it was bad for business or something.)
In any event, one this one particular night I met this bum who was sitting on the ground, drinking what appeared to be some purple stuff, which I believed to be Mad Dog 20/20. He was strategically sitting behind this big Double-Coupon Days poster outside the store, which was just out of viewing range of the store cop and manager.
He was a white guy, about 50-years old, scruffy beard and scruffy clothes [much like the picture you see above].
Oh yeah, I should also note that he also smelled like rotten eggs mixed with urine.
Suffice to say, I kept my distance.
He took a swig of his mystery bottle and offered me up a drink. I politely declined.
"So," I asked. "How's everything going?"
The man's eyes lit up like I offered him up a hamburger and french fries.
Then he started to talk.
Then he talked some more.
Then he wouldn't shut up.
Then I started to get a little annoyed.
As it turned out, he was a Vietnam Vet, who sort of lost his mind on a tour of duty. Somehow, (I forget) he wound up in Columbus and had to stay close to the Mental Health facility to get hold of his daily prescriptions or as he called them, 'scrips'.
He told me that the facility would only give him a day's worth of scrips so he (a.) wouldn't abuse them, (b.) try to sell them on the street for money or (c.) try to kill himself with them.
Then he mentioned that he used to be married. And that he had two kids.
"A wife and kids?" I asked. "Really?"
"Oh yeah," he shot up. "I had a wife, house, kids, dog. Everything."
"Here?" I asked. "In Columbus?"
"No, no, no." He said. "Indiana. Yep, they're over there and we'll, I'm right here." He tossed his arms in the air and took a look around at his surroundings.
"I lost it all," he laughed.
I left to grab a view carts and help a couple customers. About 10 minutes had passed and I peered over the corner to check on my new bum friend. He was crouched over, huddled in a fetal position and dead asleep.
"Oh well," I thought to myself. "I'll let the cop deal with him." It was time for my lunch break, so I went inside.
About 30 minutes later I returned to find the bum sitting up, drinking the rest of his mysterious purple Kool-aid wrapped in his cliche'-ridden paper bag.
"Howdy," he said.
"Hey there," I shot back.
Out of nowhere, he sauntered up to me. Almost face-to-face like he wanted to whisper something in my ear. Or kiss me. I wasn't sure. In fact, it was a bit too close for comfort for my taste. The smell of rotten eggs and urine permeated my nostrils.
I took a couple steps back, lowered my brow and gave him my 'You best step back mother fucker' stare.
He looked back and forth. Then stared straight into my eyes.
In a million years, I would have never guessed the next thing to come out of his mouth.
"So," he whispered. "You're probably getting some steady poontang, huh?"
I thought about it for a second. Then I made the brilliant deduction that he didn't really know who I was. The man completely forgot the conversation we had about an hour and a half ago.
Maybe his meds kicked in. Maybe it was the agent orange from 'Nam. Maybe it was the Mad Dog 20/20 in his gut. But you could just tell that this guy wasn't right. You could see it in his eyes.
He was crazier than a shit-house rat.
So I did what any college kid would've done. I decided to lie.
"Fuck Yeah," I said sarcastically. "I got a wife. Two kids and a dog too!"
Just in case anything weird was about to happen, I scanned the inside of the store for the cop. I didn't see him.
"Must be nice," he said. "To get some regular pussy action like that."
"Yeah," I said. "It's fucking great."
In actuality, I was pushing on a six-month dry spell of no poontang action at all, which feels likes five years when you're 20.
After a couple seconds of awkward silence. He looked at me again with those crazy bat-shit eyes.
"You know who I like to fuck?"
Realizing that this conversation was totally going south, I was one-second from heading inside and grabbing the store cop.
But, after sizing up the bum, I knew I could take him out with one quick punch to the face. So I decided to play along with his little game. Plus, I was really curious what he was going to say.
"No," I said acting extremely uninterested. "Who do you like to fuck?"
He quickly held up his hand six inches from my face.
"Goldilocks," he said rolling his thumb around. "And her four little friends." He then moved his fingers back and forth.
I pushed his hand away from my face.
He then smiled a toothlesss grin and started cackling like the Wicked Witch of the East when she released the winged monkey creatures to attack Dorothy in the forest.
Then he glared at me. I thought maybe he was going to stab me with something. But instead, he walked over to his paper-wrapped bottle and started to pick up all of his belongings, which wasn't much.
Still cackling and coughing, he meandered and weaved out into the darkness of the parking lot.
But, right before he was out of sight, he turned around and looked at me with his arms held high.
"Goldilocks," he yelled at the top of his lungs. "And her four little friends!"
Then he started laughing again.
Then he disappeared behind a building to God knows where.
I could hear his cackles echo into the cool, silent Autumn night.
Sigh. Another day in bum paradise.
Other Stories from Ghetto Kroger:
Story #1: Intro
Story #2: Magic
Story #3: Big Head