Jesús swept. Hank’s Hardware Shop (“We want your screws to be loose!) closes at 6 pm on Sundays. Watch check: 5:50. He kept sweeping, still wondering whether his technique was more efficient than that used by mentally handicapped workers. As always he quit caring pretty quickly.
Wood shavings clustered and cuddled with bent nails in an amorphous orgy. Like Woodstock with actual wood thought Jesús as he moved the free loving mass along. The bell chimed. Jesús turned to see who’d chimed it. Was it one of the usuals, a typically homogeneous group of Curly lookalikes wanting to know how to make a birdhouse that didn’t fall immediately apart? Jesús prepared himself. He’d perfected a helpful close mouthed grin that paired well with a slight yet respectful head lift. Looking around a shelf of overpriced drills with defective batteries, he hoped to glimpse the “always correct” customer. They better not keep me past six or I’m—Legs. Bronzed, hairless, and attached to a very unmanly red skirt.
She, the first she he had seen in too long, was more than an elegant lower body. Above that skirt was a flat midsection which seemed the aesthetic and moral opposite of the “beer belly”. Covered by a black shirt and red coat, she moved in Jesús’s direction. Suddenly the broom became foreign and awkward in his hands. Jesús tried to place it against a post, but it seemed stuck to his fingers. Brimming with panic, he shook his hand, and the broom, finally dislodged, clattered loudly on the tile floor.
“Are you okay?” she said.
“Urm…I mean my name is Jesús, like Jesus, except with a soft “J” and not the son of God or anything. Ha hah, I can help you make a cross if you want…not that you would want to because that would be weird…Uh..’Welcome to Hank’s where we turn your screws…” Impaired neural impulses flashed late and loud. Jesús was an irreparable dumb ass.
“Um okay, do you know where Hank is?” she said, speaking softly with that unreadability only large sun glasses could provide.
Staring at the tinted eye protectors, Jesús zoned out in such a way that the language centers in his brain were allowed to make his mouth say, “Hank leaves at 12 on Sundays. That is when he gets to pick up his daughter. Sundays and Wednesdays, or “barely ever” as he likes to say. Why do you want to see Hank?”
“Nothing, nothing at all. Thank you for your time,” said the woman, strained and slightly shaky.
“Wait…,” but she had already turned and moved quickly to the door. Fluidly she opened the door and walked through. She paused only to toss a sheaf of paper into the garbage can next to the column outside, and then he couldn’t see her anymore. The ringing of the door echoed in his ears and was replaced by the ringing of his watch. Watch check: 6 pm. Jesús sighed and reached for the broom on the ground.
That night when a homeless man reached into the garbage can next to the column outside to grab a half-eaten sub, his gloved fingers brushed the sheaf of papers. If he’d looked at them, he would have noticed a certain section of the first page circled repeatedly in pen. The section would have read: “Biological mother: Tanya Olsen, deceased. Biological father: Hank Greenberg, living.”