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Economic Fertilizer

“Before we go any further, I need to know if you suffer from hemophobia.”
“No, no,” I assure him. “I love gay people.”

Story by Greg Linfield - gregrlinfield@yahoo.com photos by Icaurs Blake

Career day Photo ©Icarus Blake

I step off the bus, licking my fingers clean of greasy McFishwich crumbs. I’m forced to stop and stare, wondering where Craigslist has led me to this time. The warehouse looks completely run-down and more than a little ominous, with the windows boarded up tight, and the words ‘Absolutely NO Solicitors’ spray-painted bright red across the thick metal door. A Chinese takeout menu hangs from the handle.
Taking a deep breath, I rap loudly on the door’s hard surface. A small panel slides open, and two beady, suspicious eyes glare out.
“I’m, uh, here for the job,” I say, mouth bone-dry.
“You the one that called earlier?”
I nod.
The panel slides back shut. The clattering of seemingly dozens of locks come unlatched, and the door swings open.
The man inside is a foot shorter than me. Bald too. He could be an accountant, or a banker, or a million other people I pass by on the street. The word ‘harmless’ pops into my mind, though I realize that’s not necessarily true. His name’s Proximo, and this is his establishment. He waves me inside, resealing the door behind us.
“So as I mentioned on the phone,” Proximo says, leading the way. “The position would be custodial in nature: moping, cleaning, that sort of thing. I pay competitive rates, time-and-a-half for overtime, double pay for holidays. Oh,” he stops short, thinking of something. “Before we go any further, I need to know if you suffer from hemophobia.”

Hemophobic Photo ©Icarus Blake

“No, no,” I assure him. “I love gay people.”
“Blood,” he corrects me. “Are you afraid of blood? You’re not some knock-kneed, quivering lamb that goes all woozy on the first splash of red, are you?”
“Uh… no?”
“Glad to hear it. And don’t worry, it’s not as hard to clean up as the rumors might suggest.”
He leads me through a hallway, out into a wide-open area. Bleachers, filled with people of every age, race, and social standing, circle around a large central ring. Bet takers flow throughout the crowd, giving odds and taking cash, while confectionery salespeople peddle their wares, mainly sugared snacks and alcohol. Proximo has brought me to an Urban Arena, hidden just out of plain sight of the ordinary, law-abiding citizen.
In front of the crowd, and accompanied by the blaring chords of Black Sabbath, proudly stands the arena champion, ‘The Invincible’ Ian Mann, dressed up in the full-bodied red and yellow armor of his favorite Avenger, which he painstakingly handcrafted himself, following the detailed instructions of an online site.
He wields in his right hand the whirling ball and chain of a morning star, once used as a prop in the movie Kingdom of Heaven, and signed by the film’s star, the paragon of thespianistic excellence himself, Sir Orlando Bloom. Ian Mann had long sought after the weapon, and through arduous research and countless re-viewings of the classic film, finally managed to secure a small discount on the seller’s outrageous asking price, when he discovered that the 1.7 second shot in which the weapon is seen, appears only in the director’s cut, having been cut entirely out of the theatrical release.

Monkey Do Photo ©Icarus Blake

He holds the morning star up high, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
I recognize the face of his opponent, if not the name. He’s an ex-pro football player who blew out his knee in his very first season. He faces Ian Mann wearing the padding and helmet of his game, and wielding a baseball bat, rife with exposed nails running down the length. He grips the bat’s shaft tightly, nervously anticipating the fight’s start. I’d wondered what had happened to him.
“That will obviously be your main area of focus,” Proximo tells me, indicating the arena floor. “But I also want you concentrating on the bathrooms and bleachers. I want those urinals clean enough to eat out of, and the stands gum-free by the end of every week.”
He’s forced to pause in his instructions as his assistant comes over to tell him that Fred Savage has rejected their offer.
“See if you can get Chevy Chase on the line,” Proximo tells him. “He’s famous enough to draw a crowd, but washed-up and deranged enough to actually consider doing it.” Proximo turns back to me. “We’re trying to get a ‘Nostalgia Night’ together,” he explains. “People eat that kind of stuff up.”
The bell sounds and the fight gets underway. The two men slowly circle the ring, sizing each other up. There are a few brief flourishes, but neither seems willing to fully commit. The crowd eggs them on, hungry for blood.
When I turn back to Proximo, he’s in the process of signing for a huge crate. I can hear furious scratching against the wood, as a large number of somethings trapped inside, try to claw their way out. On the side of the crate are the words:
‘Everybody Loves Raymond’s Rabid Racoon Discount Emporium – Now with Badgers’.

Luchador Photo ©Icarus Blake

“The business didn’t even exist before I came along,” Proximo proudly tells me. “In fact, dozens just like it have sprung up all around me. I’m the fertilizer growing this local economy. But where’s my key to the city, huh, Mr. Mayor?” This last bit is loudly directed towards a finely dressed gentleman in the front row. The gentleman gives a knowing wink and an ‘oh-shucks’ shrug, before turning back to his conversation with the pimp seated beside him.
There is a heavy thwack, and a dented red and yellow, homemade helmet lands at my feet. The crowd goes ballistic. The lucky spectators, who bet on the unknown, rush to claim their winnings. The new champ stands victorious over the fallen form of ‘The Just Plain’ Ian Mann.
“That’s going to cost me,” Proximo mutters. “So when can you start?”
I shrug. “Now, I guess.”
“Great. Go clean that up for me. I want the floor spotless by the time I pry open this crate, or you my friend become part of the main event.”
Oddly enough, not the worst job I’ve had. Maybe the second.

2 Responses to “Economic Fertilizer”

  1. vico says:

    i’d like to camp in your brain for an hour. is that weird?
    this was great.

  2. Teo J. Babini says:

    Ha!