Thursday, June 21, 2012

"The Location of the Welfare Office." A Drama in One Act

Here's an after lights-out conversation I recently overheard in the Mission dormitory.  The subject is the location of the welfare office where the homeless apply for General Relief (Mission residents can get 28 dollars cash each month if they document 50 work applications every two weeks) and Food Stamps. As I'm sure you've noticed, the needy and homeless no longer need shuffle through actual stamps to buy state specified staples like apple juice, sugar, and flour.  Now they have a nifty ATM style card that allows them to buy just about anything except alcohol or hot items like a rotisserie chicken--I imagine the concern is that heat equals weaponry equals potential violence. You can buy all the candy and ice cream and pastry you want, but in most stores you can't buy vitamin supplements or some varieties of protein or ''health bars."

Generally, a thoughtful homeless person with a 200 dollar per month card allowance--street cash value 75 dollars if you want a few hits of crack or some meth--can buy a healthier, tastier range of food than the average middle to lower middle class family struggling with household bills, car and credit card payments and worrying about medical insurance.   Homeless people get free medical care as long as they don't mind waiting 8 hours or more in crowded waiting rooms and using up their cell phone minutes on hold for 9 hours with the clinic "operators"--actually a single harried bilingual girl named Rosa.

Back to "The Location of the Welfare Office."

Dramatis Personae:

Raymond, a Mission old-timer, sixty-ish, heavily muscled, ultra street smart, steeped in arcane welfare bureaucratic lore.

Wayne, a newbie, bipolar parolee with several D.U.I.s, S.S.I benefits pending.(About 700 to 800 dollars a month if it goes through; he'll spend it each month on gambling, motels, whores, drugs, and electronics)  Earnest, jittery, late 20s.

Connie, the Mission's beloved but spectacularly scattered and annoying village idiot, lover of nature and animals, show tunes, jingles, Tai Chi, Singing in the Rain, struggling with his relationship to Jesus,  bottomless repository of movie trivia, all of it dead wrong.  Typical Example: Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds starred Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando, who was sued for cruelty to birds.

Scene: Men's Mission Dormitory after lights-out.  Only the silhouettes of men prone in their metal racks can be discerned.

Raymond:  Like I be telling you, youngster, you fill out that form before, I said BEFORE! you goes down to the office--everybody else can't get no form until they get in the building, that's why I always grab a bunch of those motherfuckers for motherfuckers like you don't know better.  Just giving you a boost, right? And you don't even think about taking that early morning 30 bus.   Tell me what I said.

Wayne: I don't have a pen.

Connie: Many will tell you that a pencil is not acceptable, but I say unto you if you have faith . . .

Raymond: Shut the fuck up, Connie!

Connie: They put it in the computer so as long as you use a sharp pencil and press hard . . .

Raymond: Don't you listen to nothing that dumbass white boy says.  He crazy!  I'll get you a motherfucking pen.  If that's your problem you got really BIG problems!  Don't have a pen!  And what did I say about the bus?

Wayne: It's a really long walk.  What about breakfast?

Connie: Tomorrow is biscuits and gravy.

Raymond: You won't be eating nothing without your teeth, Connie!  You gotta walk to get there at least by 5:30 or you ain't gonna get in.  And get up early and fill out that fucking form!   If you past the Ralley Burger you gone too far.  Repeat that for me.  And the street!

Wayne: G street?

Raymond:  We on G street right now.  My God. . . Mother . . .We on Ground Zero G street here at the Mission.  If the office was on G street you could just lean out the motherfucking window!

Connie: The office is right next to the Mexican restaurant.

Wayne: The Mexican restaurant?

Raymond:  Fools!  You fucking fool, Connie!  Shut the fuck up!  Mexican restaurant?  Here I am trying to give a brother EXACT COORDINATES to sink the Battleship and you talking about Mexican restaurants.  You forget where we living?  This is fucking Fresno!  Mexican restaurants up the fucking ass!

Connie: There is a beautiful senorita there.

Wayne: The Ralley Burger is by the Mexican restaurant, I think know where that is . . .

Connie: I like Chile Verde--Verde means "green" in Spanish--Pork.  Pork is forbidden, though.

Wayne: That's Muslim shit, Bin Laden shit . . .

Raymond [sitting bolt upright in his rack]:  HOLY SHIT!

Connie: I don't know her name but I think of her as my Mexican Rose . . .ah, Senorita . . .

Raymond: Listen to me, motherfucker.  You can blindfold this brother, give him a donkey tail spin his fucking ass around and point him anywhere you want in FUCKING FRESNO MEXI-FUCKING-FORNIA!  and he'll pin the tail on that fat fucking Senoritas ass every time!

Connie: She is slender and willowy . . .swaying in the wind . . . eyes like a sea otter's.

Wayne: They got that adult sex toy store down there!  Shit, I know where all that is!

Raymond:  Game. Fucking. Over.  You all on your own.  You all in the valley of the shadow of mother fucking Death from now on!


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