The King glides in slow measured strides along alabaster sidewalks beneath his very own diamond-studded 3am sky. His treasure chest overflows with jewels – traffic lights at night – brilliant emerald greens, shining yellow golds and shimmering ruby reds.
Beholden to no one, he scoops up old cans – the currency of his Realm – and upon their redemption buries the coins deep into the pockets of his soiled, greasy jeans – now colored more black than long-ago blue – and hoards them until he can buy a pack of American Eagle cigarettes from the exotic man who purveys tobacco products and such at the corner store. Until then, he’ll make do with the butted remains he plucks off the ground, “tiny tributes offered up to me by my loyal subjects,” he knows.
His Regal cape is an old grey Tuxedo jacket that fits just right – almost. He’d granted this unfortunate garment a royal reprieve after discovering it – only somewhat tattered – in the garbage can behind the Men’s Used Clothing store. His crown – a long, grey, crocheted sock hat stuffed with locks of matted curly hair – bounces to and fro in tune to the rhythm of his gait.
Each day the King arises from one of his many secret palaces – a thicket of bushes by the river perhaps, or a sleeping bag tucked behind a secluded dumpster – and makes his Royal rounds.
A cheerful, “Good Morning,” to the apartment owner or manager who stuffs a five-spot in his hand in trade for hauling out some trash or trimming a hedge.
With a wave of the hand he greets the merchants who line the streets of his Kingdom (always from the alley, never the street). They proffer him various wares, a coffee here, a bagel there, whatever they can spare. The King’s heart is always warmed by these gestures of kindness. As a measure of his gratitude he might take out the trash, sweep around the back door or just repay them with his absence (this is the method most preferred by both parties).
Come rain or come shine, some pain or he’s fine, the King keeps moving along. He’ll seem to disappear for days, only to show up in the corner of your eye passing between two buildings or shrinking from your view as he drifts away down a twilight alley.
And so the days and nights go for the free’est man I know – His Most Royal Highness, the King of West Fifth Avenue.
**Originally Posted on 15 Dec 2017**