Little Enrique’s Grand Tuesday Morning
After his eighteen-hour graveyard shift at Ho-Ho’s Do-Dos Y Churros, Donut Man walks down Gobbet Street to visit CareLess KidCare, the 24-hour faith-indentured depository founded by Our Lady of Perpetual Wrath for parents who care less. Donut Man pats the children’s heads as they flop about his shins like drunk fish. He sets down his donut sack, filled with reject Ho-Ho’s do-dos and rests himself on the floor, surrounded by wriggling children. They play with blocks, bricks, dollies, a sponge, a spoon, and a multi-ethnic tangle of hair. They laugh at his doughy mush-mush face, his thick do-do-crafting knuckles; they tickle and poke, gambol and dance, and this vile neighborhood seems okay for sixteen minutes on a Monday morning.
To draw Little Enrique from the tuneless piano-bed he sleeps in, Donut Man whistles a fine, lonely cowboy song. Enrique squirms over hammers, across the rim, plunks down some jingle-jangle discord, and pushes his misshapen torso with his right half-foot to the filthy floor, schlepping his left stump behind him.
Donut Man hasn’t seen Punkrock Paulina, Little Enrique’s mother, in two weeks, and wonders if she’s been hired out for another violent spree—her dbol steroid addiction and trips to Crack Mountain cost her profoundly. Little Enrique reaches up, and Donut Man hands the gentle, wordless boy a sprinkle-covered chocolate cruller. He blinks his single bug-eye, moist with gratitude, and smiles with his half-mouth, flawlessly whistling the cowboy’s lonesome refrain.
CareLess’s Taskmistress Sister Bletch scowls at Donut Man’s glee. “Sumpin’s wrong wit ‘im,” she says to Sister Koff over gin rickeys in their corner huddle. “Shoulda been a priest, the way he plays wit dem kids.” Bletch stares Donut Man down with spider’s eyes, and Koff nods, lighting a cheroot. Donut Man sighs, rises, says goodbye to the children—Little Enrique, twins Laktose and Cheerio’, Lysol, Nathan-U-Quel, Prevacid, Ativan, and Bob—and exits with his donut sack.
Little Enrique’s jet-black Brill-O hair pops above his struggling elbow to the windowsill; he wags his boneless right hand. More than anything, Donut Man wants to take Little Enrique across the street to his apartment and read The Wind & The Willows to him. They’d eat popcorn, donuts, and play Go Fish!, but Bletch whips Enrique away as Donut Man waves at the empty storefront window.
“Yo, Donut Man!” yells Skidrow, exiting the alley where he lives in a box. “How’s about some high-test for a poor scallywag?”
“Got a custard filled,” says Donut Man, “two chocolate sprinkled, and a cruller.”
“Crullers too cakey. I need a flakier mouth feel.” Skidrow opens his 47-function knife, unfolds the steel scissors, and pares the grease-encrusted nails of his left hand. “A’ight,” he says. “Cruller it is.”
“One dollar for the children’s fund.”
“And one extra,” Skidrow says, pulling out two bucks, “for the kids.”
Donut Man hands Skidrow a cruller. “Heaven in my mouth!” he declares. “How Little Enricky doin’?”
“Enrique’s chair didn’t work today,” Donut Man says. “He crawled around guppy-like.”
“Furreal,” Skidrow says. “Punkrock was sposta fix it up, but she’s gone off guttin’ widows for pension checks. She’s charlie sheening again. Tole her I’d fix the chair for five dollars. She refused. E’rbody knows I can fix anything for five dollars! She wants Little Enrique’s life insurance furreal surreal.” Skidrow’s eyes scan Donut Man’s sack. “Sure you ain’t got no jelly filleds?”
“I have no jelly filleds,” Donut Man says. “How can Punkrock get Little Enrique’s life insurance money?”
“Eleven husbands dropped dead’s all I know. She smoked and shot up that dough but quick! She’s plotting, planning and scheming. You sure you ain’t got any jelly-filleds?”
Donut Man shakes his head and pulls a fiver from his pocket. “Fix his wheelchair.”
“Man, even if I gotta stay all night with The Bletch,” Skidrow proclaims, “thy will be done.”
Three A.M. Tuesday morning, CareLess’s zillion kilowatt candescence illumines Gobbet Street, coating rats, broken cars, and heaps of smacked-up junkies in a false moonlight glow. Donut Man stares from his second story window across the street noshing donuts, watching Little Enrique’s empty spot, hoping he’s swathed in willow wrens and cloud frog dreams. He waves to the emptiness where Little Enrique stood. Nothing waves back.
The wriggle-wraggle of a junkie hill on the corner of Gobbet and Bumm catches Donut Man’s attention. Punkrock Paulina muscles triumphantly up from the zombies’ depths with murder in her eyes, left red fist unfurling, right fist clenching a two-dollar gas can, as she slithers ‘round the corner of the building.
Donut Man dashes from his crib and flees crazynut down the glowing street. The inferno of CareLess flourishes instantly. Sister Koff eructs foul black smoke as Sister Bletch barrels past him out the door, screaming into the night. Donut Man scrambles into the blazing foyer of CareLess, drops to his knees, and scoops up Lysol, Toyota and Bob, and plops ‘em like three donut holes on the sidewalk.
Jacked and cackling, Punkrock Paulina chucks the gas can at Donut Man and slips out the door. Donut Man hits the floor. He crawls to the piano and pulls Little Enrique up from between the strings. Little Enrique signals with his blinking buggy eye to the gleaming wheelchair aside the piano. Donut Man straps Enrique into the seat, configuring his working fingers ‘round the control stick, three-speed on the tree. The chair revs low and loud, a lion’s growl, roaring alive as fire falls from all directions. Little Enrique punches it for all he’s worth: Donut Man realizes he is worth the world. He races down the sidewalk, grin spreading to both sides of his face for once, teeth agleam in the raging fire. Punkrock Paulina blocks his egress, but his TurbFirm 1265 mag wheels maneuver straight over her rotting loins, bones crushed, muscles torsioned, tendons snapping.
Donut Man lies on the sidewalk with all the children bouncing on his belly as Little Enrique roars from death down Gobbet Street into a grand Tuesday morning.
Jamie Fueglein writes every day. He holds an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University where he teaches writing. He has taught writing classes for VCU and the University of Richmond English departments. He currently teaches fiction writing at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond and holds novel writing workshops. He has also edited many works of fiction and non-fiction.