Bullets Pass Through
It’s the coat I remember. The flapping tails proclaimed him, splayed hood the filthy halo of a holy fool. Zipper-shot, the color of tinned meat, his name written around the collar in Sharpie. Collis Flowers. My hand closed on it in the split second before I pulled him out of traffic on Eureka Avenue.
It was easy to spot in the backlit elbows at the ends of the long hallways of the skills center. Shapeless in the way an abandoned tarpaulin on a windy job site always seems to be floating aimless out of your field of vision, the building hardly up to the task of confining it. In fact, there wasn’t a classroom that could hold him in that coat. Collis wandered restlessly, flashing everyone he met a Steinway grand of pearly white teeth.
He spent crowded days sparring with the voices in his head, a grandee greeting people up and down the hall, cadging black coffee in a styrofoam cup. The torn pockets of the coat, in an alternate life, would have contained a dog-eared passport or a nickel-plated revolver or a diamond ring in a small hinged box. Instead, they concealed twists of paper, unremarkable stones, packets of Domino sugar, some Heinz catsup, and dried shit fashioned into fussy little beads. Only a few of us knew about these curated treasures.