He would smoke and drink from sun up, and continue for the rest of the day. His front teeth were black-yellow nubs, and the rest looked like termites had crawled from the cigarette smoke, through the filters and bored holes in every one of them. The skin on his face was pockmarked, scaly, and came off when he moved his head. His eyes and nails were the colour of jaundice and stale nicotine.
Though, despite this outward appearance, he had a certain charm.
He made you laugh, and he was so self-effacing that it made you feel warm, giddy, and good about your own life in that morbid kind of way you only get when you feel better than somebody else.
“I can do card tricks you know?”
He botched them, every time.
“My father was the only person outside of Africa, to have been kicked in the chest by a zebra. Any higher and it would have killed him. Sent him shooting across the room and broke his glasses.”
Somedays he would lose his mind.
“Your grandfather was a criminal associate of H.G. Wells. A spy in the emerald castle, 1884. Look it up. Ask your parents.”
When I asked him if it was my mother’s, or my father’s side, he couldn’t answer.
“Did you see that? Someone’s just died. I saw it through the T.V screen. An EMP just burst out of it. Someone’s having a bad time, somewhere.”
I asked him why he sat on the street all day. He didn’t know why.
“It’s been, ‘the day of the stingy git’. Are you feeling slightly benevolent this afternoon, by any chance? Do you think you could spot me twenty dollars, so I can get a pack of cigarettes?”
I told him that I couldn’t give him money if I knew I was contributing to his smoking.
“Well, you can be an arrogant, self-righteous prick if you want.”
He was still there at two a.m, when I finished my shift, sitting cross-legged outside the record store, waiting for money to fall into his lap.


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Joel Lester is a Musician, Composer, Poet and Writer from New Zealand. This blog is an online portfolio of his collected works. Joel is currently working on a book of poetry to be released next year, a novel, an album of original music, and several chamber ensemble pieces.

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