Linguist, lexicographer, writer, editor, broadcaster


Waiting for the train, filthy tall drunk, black, lecturing, badgering, cursing at short dark Indian girl. He’s got a bottle of Boca Chica in his back pocket. Cheap shoes, soles gone, laces knotted. New black zippered sweatshirt. Dirty slouch hat. She and he standing in front of the newsstand. She’s staring straight ahead, not looking at him, not looking at anything. Still. Arms down at her sides, straight. “What dyou mean excuse me.” There’s no question in his question. “I’m not in your way. You in my way. You in my way. I walk where I want to bitch. Fuck you, bitch. I’m the boss. I can walk anywhere I want to.” People standing around, cautious. Not interrupting, but watching. There may be a call to action. The drunk is an advertisement. “This is not yours. ‘Excuse me. Excuse me.’ What do you mean excuse me.” No question. “I go uptown, I go downtown, I go anywhere I want. I’m just standing here doing what I do and you say ‘excuse me.’ I’ll excuse you, little bitch. Fuck you bitch.” I buy a newspaper. I apologize to the girl on behalf of everybody and everything. She talks back, London accent. “That’s okay. It’s okay.” Drunk walks on, up to the track overpass, standing by the turnstiles, he’s shouting. “You gotta pay. Everybody’s gotta pay. That card ain’t gonna work. You gotta pay.” Everybody who had been watching now to does the knowing, “I thought there was something weird going on… Did you see… Man, I remember this one time, a friend…” All the bad stories come out. Everyone’s pleased to have fear confirmed, and a story.

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Grant Barrett