For some reason the cement tasted like butterscotch pudding when I got shoved to the sidewalk, face hitting first, teeth bent, nose shoved to one side, forehead gashed, and the worst of it… Eyebrows completely scraped off, now two little brown caterpillars on the sidewalk dying in the morning sun.
When I got up and brushed myself off, the people streaming by in both directions stared at me. Some pointed and laughed, others showed disgust. Not a single person stopped to make sure I was okay. Not one. Even with blood trickling down my face. As usual.
It was the morning, and I was hungry and had been on my way to the bagel shop for some breakfast like I often do when I get shoved to the ground. I was aching and banged up and without any eyebrows, but I was still hungry, nonetheless. I decided I would carry on with my plans and go into the bagel shop anyways. They have a chocolate chip bagel there that will blow your balls off. Of course, with all my other injuries, I suppose I didn’t really need to have my balls blown off, too.
I found some fast-food wrapping paper discarded in a nearby trash bin and cleaned myself up as best I could. Then I made my way to the bagel shop, my stomach growling. The place was packed, as usual. I stood in the lengthy queue, craning my neck to see if Cliff was working beyond the throng somewhere. It was crowded and noisy and I could tell people were looking at me and mumbling things that I am sure weren’t flattering at all as I stood there looking like humanity’s most puzzling freak. As usual.
Cliff was a longtime counter clerk at the bagel shop, and he was nice to me. If I ordered a medium coffee, he’d make it a large. If I ordered one bagel, he would slip me another one for free. He looked at me funny sometimes, too, like he was in love with me or something. Maybe that’s why he gave me extra coffee and bagels. I was okay with all that for sure, but I just wanted to be friends.
Cliff was short. He was the shortest person who worked at the bagel shop. I always wanted to ask him if he fell under some sort of special classification of very short people, but I never did because I figured he’d get pissed off about that. His shortness is the reason why I always have to put in the extra effort to see if he’s around. I don’t really care if he’s that short, but maybe he does. He’s loud, too. I suppose he’s trying to make up for being short. It’s like he screams everything he says or thinks whoever he’s talking to is horribly hard of hearing. If I don’t see him, I can usually hear him.
“Hey, Ernie!” he called out when he had finally caught sight of me. He had a big grin on his squarish concrete face, colored a smooth peppery gray because of a recent clean, close shave.
I raised my hand and smiled to acknowledge him, but I didn’t yell anything like he did because I’m just not that type of a person. When I finally got my turn at the counter, Cliff looked up at me and made a face. “Jesus Christ! What the hell happened to you!?” he screamed over the din of the crowded bagel shop. “Did you get in a fight with a lawnmower!?”
I laughed about that. “No. I didn’t get in a fight with a lawnmower, Cliff. That would probably prove to be fatal. No. I got shoved down out on the sidewalk.”
“Shoved down!? Why!?”
“The city’s a crowded and animalistic place, Cliff. Someone was in a big hurry or maybe running from the cops. I just don’t know. Guess I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Cliff scoffed and reached into the case for two chocolate chip bagels without even asking me. He knew what I liked. “And what the hell happened to your eyebrows!?” Cliff wanted to know as he shook a small white paper bag open and dropped in the bagels. He curled the top of the bag with his fingers and set it up on the display case. “It makes you look like a freak without any eyebrows!”
I chuckled even though I was embarrassed. “Yeah. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that. I hope eyebrows grow back.”
Cliff looked at his co-workers who were scrambling all around him. “Do any of you guys know if eyebrows grow back!?” he shouted to them.
A tall young woman with red hair and a pale face who wore far too much makeup stopped and touched at her own eyebrows as she thought about it. “I think eyebrows grow back.” She looked at me and made a face like she was super grossed out. “God. For your sake, I hope eyebrows grow back.”
“I mean, come on, it’s hair right,” Cliff said. “Hair grows back, so, yeah, eyebrows should grow back. Don’t worry about it, Ernie. Hey, hey. Maybe you could take one of those crayons the ladies use to draw on their eyebrows… What’s it called?” he said, snapping his fingers as he thought about it, and he looked at the tall redhead with too much makeup. “Come on, Sally Sue. You should know this.”
“It’s not a crayon. It’s called an eyebrow pencil,” the pale Sally Sue said, shaking her head like Cliff was a real idiot.
Cliff pointed at me and grinned. “There ya go. An eyebrow pencil. Get yourself an eyebrow pencil.”
I shook my head for a moment as I considered it. I reached for my bag atop the display case and sighed. “I don’t think I want to wear makeup. That’s sort of weird. And just going into some place and buying makeup. That’s really weird.”
Cliff chuckled. “Weird? Hell, Ernie, anything would be better than how you look right now.” He handed me a large coffee.
“Cream and sugar?” I asked to make sure. I must have cream and sugar. As usual.
He winked at me. “I got you covered, my friend.”
“Thanks. I’m going to go sit down now and maybe read the newspaper or just stare dreamily out the window as the city slides by like corpuscles in human blood. See you later, Cliff.”
Cliff gave me a friendly wave. “Take care, Ernie.”