“My leg fucking hurts,” said Jerry the bum as he sat on the stoop of an apartment building. He smelled very bad. A woman carrying a baby came out of the building’s door. She smelled Jerry before she saw him, but when she did see him, she turned around and went back inside.
“Oh that’s right, bitch,” cursed Jerry, “you go right back in and hide. Don’t bother to help the poor bastard out here, just wait until he freezes to death, then get someone to throw the body in the dumpster. You’re a real goddamn peach, you are.”
The woman, safely inside, called her husband on her cell phone, but the baby started fussing and crying and she had to hang up. She took the elevator back up to her apartment, where she stayed for the rest of the day.
Jerry sat on the stoop, rubbing his sore leg. A flock of pigeons flew overhead. Jerry expected at least one of them to launch a well-aimed poop at his head, but none of them did. A man turned the corner and was so deeply lost in his own thoughts that he was oblivious to being hit by a wall of Jerry-stenc.
“Hey,” said Jerry. “Fuck you.”
The man neither reacted nor slowed down; he remained completely unaware of Jerry. “One, two, three, four,” said the man, as he ascended the steps of the stoop.
“Cocksucker,” shouted Jerry. “Hey, come back here, cocksucker! What, don’t like fruit, fruitcake? I got some real ripe fruit down here!” Jerry burst into a long fit of laughter, broken only by a hacking cough. Jerry didn’t cover his mouth when he coughed.
Suddenly, Jerry realized there was a man sitting next to him.
“Good morning,” said the man.
Jerry whimpered at the sight of cloaked figure sitting very casually next to him. Behind the figure, a shiny scythe leaned against the brick of the building.
“Have you come for me, Death,” Jerry stammered.
“Your time,” growled Death, “is up.”
Jerry’s bowels released themselves. Death turned his hooded face to look upon Jerry. The fire in Jerry that had burned so bright a moment before, was now little more than a burning ember. Death himself burst into a wild, jolly, though very unsettling and oddly raspy cackle.
“I’m kidding,” Death said, after regaining control over himself. “You’re dirty and gross and I don’t want to touch you. I don’t suppose you have a cigarette on you?”
“You won’t touch me, but you’ll smoke one of my cigarettes?”
“Lighten up, Jerry, and laugh at my damn joke. And give me a cigarette if you have one.”
Jerry reached into his many layers and pulled a crushed pack of cigarettes out of his coat pocket. Handing one to Death, he said “you’re not very good at telling jokes.”
“Who the fuck asked you?” Death took a cigarette and Jerry handed him a lighter. It didn’t work. Jerry dug into his layers again and produced a second and third lighter. They didn’t work either. ”Jesus, Jerry. Do you have a lighter that works?”
“What do you want from me,” he snapped.
“I want a goddamn cigarette, Jerry, but apparently that’s too much to ask.” The end of the cigarette spontaneously lit. “Moron,” muttered Death.
“Hey, fuck you! If you’re going to kill me, just do it already. What the fuck is this, stealing a cigarette from a man before you kill him. Who does that?”
“Ballsy, Jerry. I told you I’m not going to kill you. That was a joke. Irony? You know, because the whole Death thing?” Jerry stared blank-faced. “Whatever.”
The man from earlier exited the building with a bazooka in his hands. He passed between Death and Jerry, counting the stairs. He turned the corner and became one of the passersby.
“What, no one notices the guy with a bazooka in his arms?”
“Welcome to the city,” Jerry replied. A pain exploded in his leg. “Fucking leg!”
Death flicked the ash off his cigarette. The pain in Jerry’s leg disappeared. Jerry was so shocked by the relief, he was speechless. After a moment, Death spoke again.
“What happened to your leg, anyway?”
“Broke it pretty bad back in the war. I was running. Stepped in a mud puddle that was deeper than it looked.”
“Why are you here, Death?”
Death was momentarily silent, distracted by a passing thought. “Boy, you sure do stink, Jerry.” He tossed the stub of the cigarette on the ground and stood up. “I can’t be around you anymore. Not until you clean yourself up.”
“I don’t fucking understand. Is this some kind of joke? Do you get your jollies by tormenting bums? You like to make people shit their pants? You feel better about yourself by treating others like animals? You’re lucky I don’t throw my shit at you, like some monkey.”
Death adjusted his cloak and grabbed his scythe. “Just take a shower, Jerry. Thanks for the cigarette.”
Jerry reached into his pants and grabbed his fecal matter, throwing it just as Death rounded the corner of the building. It splattered against the brick, steaming in the crisp morning air. A passing mother pulled her daughter out of the way just before she stepped in it. Jerry cackled.
“You’re disgusting,” raved the mother.
“Come closer and say that, whore.” Jerry was feeling himself already. “Hey little girl, I bet you don’t know who your daddy is, seeings how your mom is a whore.” The mom pushed her doe-eyed daughter onward. “You and I have something in common,” Jerry shouted after them.
After a few minutes, Jerry got off the stoop and went to find a place to take a shower.
A tank drove by. No one gave it a second look.