The Profit of Avenue A
Michael Roth has a sinister five o’clock shadow. His t-shirt is dotted with blended milk from the three bowls of corn flakes he had this morning. He pulls on his boots, the most expensive things he owns. He laces them up slowly. They are the color of murky blood. He leaves invisible footsteps as he stomps out his front door.
He waits at the bus stop for the #2 bus. This morning it never comes, so he gets on the 115 instead. He sits in an orange seat half way down the right side. A girl with frizzy, clean hair sits near him. Her eyes look like eggs, sunny side up. He wonders if she is just high or if she could really be that naïve.
Michael Roth exits the bus nine stops too early. He is hoping that the girl will follow. She doesn’t and the 115 pulls away, each window passing by, displaying its passengers prominently. A man has already sat in the seat that Michael Roth vacated.
He debates three destinations. One, the art supply store: It was early enough that he should be able to steal six charcoal pencils easily. But it’s Tuesday, and that is not the day to shoplift. Two, Francine’s: There would be enough drunks by now that he could coax free coffee from the bartender. He keeps a key from a Pontiac Fiero on his key chain for just that purpose, though he’d left the key ring at home. Three, he could go to work, despite being over an hour late.
Michael Roth paces six blocks in a vague direction. Head down, back arched, forward leaning, hands clasped behind his back for balance. He isn’t so busy counting the cracks to notice from the periphery that a twenty-dollar bill had apparently fallen lifeless to the ground several steps away. It fell from the pocket of a man who was too preoccupied to miss it.
He pulls to a stop and his thoughts crash against his forehead, some even fall out on the ground. Pure instinct takes it from there. A man in a white suit, holding an umbrella has also noticed the wayward bill. He is equidistant from Michael Roth, the twenty evenly placed between them. Boot and umbrella collide as the scramble unfolds. Poor twenty nearly shredded. There is no time now for polite exchanges. No time for debates. Interests need to be served.
They each succeed in getting a portion. The man in the suit smiles glibly as he’s pretty sure he has at least 51%. That left a large minority for Michael Roth. Dialogue ensues but the two parties reach a stalemate as to which bank they would use. The man favors 21st Trust as it was on his route. Michael Roth of course prefers the Bank of Dimley, Watts and Raticker, for obvious reasons.
It is agreed that they would disagree and meet again tomorrow at the corner of Kings Lane and Moniker Street. This would give Michael Roth a slight time advantage.
Michael Roth backs away from the man for half a city block. He turns around only when a car horn sounds because he thought it suddenly felt like a race and one that cannot be run or won backwards. He puts his hand in his pocket as he hurries along and feels the confidence that only an investment in dirty cotton allows. Tomorrow, he will be nine dollars and eighty-four cents richer.