The Phases of Don (short fiction)


            Don entered the convenience-mart on the corner of Jackson Ave. and Eleventh Street.  He knew it well, though it had changed hands a number of times, since his birth and subsequent reception into the neighborhood, nineteen years ago.

            Don, or "Dirty Don[1]," as he's been known in the Long Island City neighborhood since he was seven had always been a bit of "fuse-box" (another affectionate "nick-name" he's since acquired, via his own volition).  Though he was still a young man, he was criminally wise beyond his years.  His first offenses would occur around his mother's purse, which would carelessly be left atop the dining room table.  He would rattishly scavenge around the purse's interior until making out with at least a dollar in loose change, and a stick of chewing gum - usually worn beyond its time, frayed ends and the like.

            Don went through a number of phases growing up, like most children I suppose.  From the age of seven to nine he consistently wore his pants and shirt backwards, insisting that it was halting his aging process (a Peter Pan complex, perhaps?).  After that, there were the two years of "bread-sacks for boots," and "ice-cream pail helmets,” in which name brand clothing was out and garbage was in - the fashion trend never caught on, but I suppose it saved him a little money in the “dressing normal” department, anyway.  Next there was the Backstreet Boy phase.  Then N'Sync.  Then Backstreet was back. “All right!”  And last but not least there was the era of “dog-man." This occurred after receiving his driver's license (on the fifth attempt, and an undisclosed bribe of course), and subsequently purchasing a 1983 Datsun short-cab-long-bed-pick-up-truck for thirty-eight dollars down and a promise of more to come.  It was really more rust than vehicle, but Don cherished that truck, and he cherished it for one reason alone; he could comfortably fit up to twelve stray dogs in the back at any given time, and it was always "any given time."  He would zing up and down the avenues howling out his window, getting his hounds to join along and sing with him. 

            “Ah Ooo Werewolves of London!” They would bellow. 

            The smell was recognizable for a two-block radius, and the whirlwind of fur and fleas that would accumulate around him sort of resembled a giant tumble-weed; yep, a giant tumble-weed of filth. 

            "Dog-man!"  The neighborhood would shout as Don would zoom by in his rusty mad-house of a car.  Of course like all good things, this too, had to come to an end.  Not to get into the pesky details, but needless to say never trust a Chihuahua behind the wheel - they are reckless, and have terrible night-vision.

            It took a while after that but Don did recover, and found himself nineteen years old and needing a new identity.  And a new idea.  The women in the neighborhood could tell you that Don had actually grown into quite a handsome young man.  Tall and slender, both feet practically the same size (well an eleven and a twelve and a half - not bad), stronger than average forearms, and a chest that threatened any shirt with a weak thread-count.  His face was gentle and sweet, with soft chin, pouty lips (always dry as dirt, which added to his supposed sex-appeal, as he was always licking them, to prevent cracking) that were adorned with a wispy gold mustache (which he had begun growing early in life - birth) that hung over his mouth, like a sparse and separated eye-lash.  However, it was from the schnoz up that really drove the ladies crazy.

            "Oh, if that Don gets ahold of you with those blue-yellow peepers of his, you're in deep trouble," It's been heard said once or twice (well, maybe just once).  Don's eyes had managed to accomplish something that has confounded color-wheel loyalists ever since.  They managed to combine yellow and blue without creating green.  This tends to leave one staring hard into them, in an attempt to blend the two, leaving the starrer with either a massive headache or in love.

            It was Don's Nineteenth Birthday, as he entered the corner mart, now run by a lovely family of Canadian-Texan decent.  The patriarch, Richard Dale, a stocky fellow with a paunch-gut and buck-toothy smile was behind the counter.

            "How ya'll doin, eh?"  He said as Don approached the counter.

            "Reach for the sky!" Don exclaimed, as he simultaneously went for his waste-band.  There was an intense pause as the two locked eyes (remember what I said about the eyes?  Rich felt he was in serious trouble).  The only sound that could be heard was that of the youngest dale working on her science project in the back room - measuring the decibel levels of the average pin’s dropping.

            "Now reach to the left a little bit and grab me that can of cat-food - the meat flavored one." Don pulled his hand out of his pocket and slammed it on the counter.  There was fifty cents - four dimes, two nickels and a half stick of Juicy Fruit.

            Rich breathed a sigh of relief, reached up and to the left, producing the can of food.  "Thirty-five cents please." 

            Don pushed the cash and gum forward,

            "Keep the change." 

            Don turned and walked out the door with new purpose.  He had an idea.


[1] You see Don, since birth has always been a creature of comfort, this includes his excretory comforts, which is the reason Don decided to forgo his "potty training," and continue wearing diapers deep into his childhood.  When Don raised his hand in Mrs. Tangren's first grade class and asked if he could be excused to change his own diaper, it left his class-mates no choice but to give Don the moniker of "Dirty Don" (nice alliteration too [the LIC block has always been known for it's literary prowess])