William Tell

“Now that is good music” said The Roller Dennis while listening to music on his computer. He turned a bit toward Lawyer Joe as he made ready to roll another cigarette, or square. “What are you listening to?” he ask Lawyer Joe.

“What are you listening to?” Lawyer answered, returning the question. He was also creating cigarettes the same way as The Roller while listening to his own music on his own system. On the small round table in the warehouse he had a pile of tobacco and some tubes, that is, empty cigarette casings with attached filters. He would pick up a pinch of tobacco and push it into a small depression in a cigarette making device. Then he’d insert a cigarette tube, close the machine and manipulate a slide mechanism which pulled the tube inside around the tobacco in the depression, filling the tube with tobacco. Reversing the slide pushed out a stuffed cigarette ready to smoke, after a few table taps to settle the tobacco and perhaps a pinch at the end to make sure it was tight. To his right The Roller was doing the same thing the same way. To The Roller’s right sat Raccoon Man Jimmy Smits, who was simply observing and chumming it up with his pals here at the table. Completing the crowded foursome was Nano, also listening to music on his computer. Three people listening to music on three computers while two of them made cigarettes and the fourth just stared gaped tooth listening and occasionally chortling a ‘whoohooo’ to whatever seemed funny or a polite jab at another.

The Roller, “I ask you first”.

Lawyer Joe, “Yeah, but I thought of asking it first.”

Laughter from Raccoon Man, rubbing his nose that was healing from a lost nose bout with a wall. That is, his face contacted cement when he took a tumble off his bike while DUI, on a bicycle. Fortunately, no police were involved and there was probably no law broken. He suffered a busted snout where his face first made contact with the road and some fractured ribs.

So The Roller answered, “Well, if you must know, I’m listening to …. uh… hmmm. I forget the guys’ name. You know the guy that wrote ‘Baby Got Back’. The Roller glanced over at Lawyer to see if he had heard it clearly in the warehouse, full of noise as it usually was, including a half dozen black guys yelling at their normal volume while standing next to one another. Then there were the other nearly two hundred voices echoing in the nasty, soot covered, metal roofed, cinder-block structure. It was a wonder the warehouse mice got any sleep before their nightly scavenging activity of finding food on the floor. The spiders, mosquitoes, biting flies and other insects had long ago given up being smashed, hunted and even dying from the bites they had inflicted on dirty humans. Being an insect in the warehouse was tough. Biting people who had no good smelly soap on them from lack of wash facilities was a mortal mistake. Even insects can only stand so much filth to bite through to a nice good meal.

“Your listening to rap?” said Lawyer to The Roller. “You can’t do that, your white.”

“Whoohoo”, said Raccoon Man, grinning, his gaped teeth showing. He was a very pleasant fellow, good humored and friendly. While one might get some charity dental service for a problematic molar or some dental emergency, any major service like teeth straightening or dentures was not going to happen. As it was, Raccoon Man slurred his words since he had no front teeth to help form consonants. Raccoon Man laughed and pointed at The Roller, driving home Lawyer Joe’s quip.

“I can like rap if I want to” replied The Roller grinning. They always did this with each other, back and forth, teeter-tottering on any subject that gave them the chance to poke each other. It was like a form of psychotherapy in that it was a bit of fun, a bit of perceived sanity protecting one from all the really horrible conversation constantly battering oneself like waves crashing on sea cliffs. The warehouse is a condensed, concentrated place of some of the worse human traits and to stay sane requires an active defense. Continuous conversations about prison, wanting to hurt someone else, who stole what from who, who said something nasty to whom, who was or is now drunk, high on drugs, making out with whom, sleeping in the park on cardboard, hid alcohol and where, an endless stream of depressing subjects by nitwits pretending they were ‘normal’ was no way to keep one’s sanity. Humorously jousting with a pal was an active defense even if the subject was a bit childish. To The Roller and Lawyers’ credit, they often talked about more serious subjects, like when they had to be in court, how low they were on tobacco or tubes, what status of repair where needed on their bikes, where they were headed each morning, usually a selection of two McDonalds, the library, two other soup lines in Aurora to eat at, plus the odd store visit or friend to be met for a ride to somewhere for something.

“Well, I’m listening to Celine Dion” said Lawyer, proudly representing a better choice in music and finally answering The Rollers’ initial question.

“Celine Dion” snorted The Roller. “She’s Canadian isn’t she? Canadians can’t sing, only say ‘Eh’ and go to hockey games.”

“She makes millions of dollars in Las Vegas” defended Lawyer. “Better to listen to her than some rapster.”

“Oohhooo!” said Raccoon Man, which paused the conversation as The Roller and Lawyer quit rolling for a second and stared at him.

“At least we got computers to listen with” said Lawyer to Raccoon Man. “What you got?”

“Hey, I don’t need no computer. I can go to the library and listen to music on the computers there anytime I want.”

“No you can’t” corrected Lawyer, living up to his querying and contrary ways. “You can only use a computer for forty five minutes at a time, once per day at the library, unless they aren’t busy. Then they can ‘extend’ you if they want to.”

“Well, I don’t have to have a computer” said Raccoon Man.

“He doesn’t know how to use a computer anyway” said The Roller.

“I know how to use a computer” argued Raccoon Man. “I even have an email address.”

“When is the last time you checked your email?” queried Lawyer.

“Oh, last summer, I think”.

“Last summer?” Lawyer laughed. “You forgot how to check it didn’t you?”

“Yeah, well, I still don’t have to own a computer” and Raccoon Man rubbed his nose again where the large bandage covered his wounded snoot.

Trying to avoid more, he dodged toward Nano who’d been quite as usual, but listening with a small half-formed smile. “Admiral Nano” said Raccoon Man grinning, “What are you listening too? Country?”

Nano, “No. The William Tell Overture.”

“Whoohoo” said Raccoon Man, pointing at Nano and looking at Lawyer and The Roller. “I bet he misses the apple.” The Roller and Lawyer shook their heads.

Nano smiled, turning his memory again to days long ago when composers struggled to feed themselves. Mozart, Bach, Rossini, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin and many more created music that would last for centuries. Their operas and music halls were attended by royalty and peasants. They were the stars of their day. Patrons vied for their service, to be that noble man who retained great artists in their employ or for their kingdom. It was called The Renaissance. If only mankind could have another renaissance now of higher thinking and ethics.

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About Admiral Nano

A man exploring homelessness in Aurora.
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