By Andrew Ramirez
The Pasadena library was closed because a bullet was found lodged in the wooden door. It got people nervous. A couple of cops were walking around, talking into their radios.
Since I couldn’t go in I was sitting on the concrete steps, trading words with a homeless guy bundled in sweaters and sweat pants and talking through his beard.
“I’m not a reader,” he said. “I just take naps in there.”
“I fell asleep in there one time. But the chairs are all wooden. I couldn’t nod off for more than a minute. They should get some sofas in there.”
“The Pasadena library is the easiest library to fall asleep in.”
“You like sleeping on wooden chairs?” I said. “You’re worse than Richard Ramirez. You know about him? He used to sleep in cemeteries.”
“So some grass, maybe under a tree. That’s like sleeping in a park. What you got going—nodding off in wooden chairs like that… ”
“Well,” he said. And then: “Hmm.”
He introduced himself as Chong or Trong. I think he was trying to get at John.
We both laughed. Chong/Trong made a gun with his thumb and index and started to gun me down. “Night stalker,” he said. “Fucking night stalker.” He reloaded and put one in his brain, laid down on the steps. “I’d sleep on the floor in there if it wouldn’t get me thrown out. It’s not the chairs. It’s the ceiling. Have you looked at that ceiling? I’d never fallen asleep with my eyes open until the Pasadena library.”
The cops were talking to an older lady in a yellow cardigan. Probably the librarian or something. Definitely old and fragile and lonely-looking enough.
Chong/Trong said, “Hey wait a minute. You’re crazy. Their ain’t no fucking grass in El Paso.”
“You calling me crazy?” I almost said: Look who’s talking, but didn’t. “I’m from there. I should know.”
“I drove through there once. It’s all dirt. El Paso is all dirt.”
“You had a car?”
“Easy,” he said, and then we were quiet for a little while.
The yellow cardigan lady was using her hands to talk. The two policemen were listening but gave off the impression of being bored, tired, the taller one looking a little distracted like he was hung over.
“You know what’s cool?” Chong/Trong said, reaching underneath his sweaters and feeling around at the waist. “Check this out.”
I went, “Uh-oh.” Chong/Trong was about to pull his junk out or something. I’d seen homeless dudes do it all the time. One time I saw a barefoot homeless guy pissing on the freeway with his sunglasses on. Another time this one homeless guy who used to hang around my house would get a kick out of dropping his pants and pretending nothing was wrong. My gramps’ used to pay this one older guy, El Tigre, ten dollars a week to sweep the alley and sidewalk of the Laundromat. And I wasn’t sure if El Tigre was homeless but one time I passed by and saw him sweeping the alley and when El Tigre saw me looking he put the broom between his legs like it was his package and gripped it, saying: “Hey carnal. Good enough, right?”
Then Chong/Trong reached down into his pants and said, “Got it.” He pulled out a footlong loaf of stale bread and started tearing it into little pieces. “Do the other half.” He tossed me the bread and I started to tear. “Feels good, huh?”
“Why are we doing this?”
“Okay now dig this,” Chong/Trong said. He took a handful of torn bread and threw it at the grass. “It looks stupid now but when the pigeons catch on to it, it turns into a freaking circus.”
I threw some bread too. I thought we’d get yelled at or something but the cops and cardigan lady didn’t seem to care. The hung-over looking cop had a roll of yellow caution tape in his hand but I guess the bullet in the library door wasn’t a big enough deal to mark anything caution, and after all, an already-shot bullet is about as harmful as a pebble. After another minute the two cops walked by Chong/Trong and me on the steps and got in their cruiser.
“Here those little bastards come,” Chong/Trong said. “Wait till the flock hears about this. There’s gonna be a million of them eating. Have you ever seen that movie The Birds?”
“I love Hitchcock.”
“You love what?”
A few birds came, then a few more, pecking at the bread until it looked like they were just pecking at grass. Chong/Trong took the rest of the bread in his hands and threw it in the air like confetti, like a firecracker.
I liked sitting and talking there. The Pasadena library was quiet and clean but lonely too. I wanted to stay sitting and talking all day, for the rest of the day, up until Chong/Trong took out the gun and started to shoot the pigeons, making a healthy amount of noise.