Saturday, April 17, 2021

Pope Urban by Stephen Lisle

 I was dressed as the Pope and standing in the sunshine at the intersection of Flatbush and Snyder. It was so hot that the asphalt bubbled.

The cars crawled, with their windows dropped, too parched to go faster, and on the street, a chef sat on a plastic chair, head slumped between his legs, sweat pooling.

The walk sign was white hot and the crossing tutted at me to cross. I couldn’t hear it because underneath my Papal tiara I wore my headphones. A ridiculous flourish to my costume.

The robes were now anything but pure. Around the collar and cuffs, they were soiled where my sweat had leached. This was just one of the outfits they supplied at the start of the contract. A banana suit, unbranded superhero and knight in man-made fibres.

It was easy work. As long as I had music, I just kept moving, along Flatbush, and kept my sign up high. I kept moving and Dave’s Costume Shop kept pushing the money to my account.

A man leant out of a car and shouted. I took off the headphones.

“What you doing?”

“What?”

“What you doing with that sign?”

“My job.”

He looked unsure as he drove off and when he reappeared on foot.

“I own it, Dave’s.”

“Really?”

“How long have you been standing there?”

“Since 9.30. Honest.”

“No, I didn’t… Look, the shop closed two years ago. Dave, my dad, he died. I guess no one said.”

I took off my hat.

“Are we still paying you?”

“Someone is. Every week.”

He stood for a moment then he said he would keep paying me to advertise a shop that died. I saw him, maybe every other week, driving slowly past, smiling at the sign in my hand.

© Stephen Lisle

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