Archive for August 8, 1993


Posted: August 8, 1993 in Writing
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Leopold sat on the steps of the 3 story apartment building with a paper bag between his knees. He was wearing a torn red flannel shirt that draped over it, so it was a little bit hidden. It looked like there was a sandwich in it. I sat across the street on my fire escape in the hot shade with a sketchbook and drew him.
“Leopold!” yelled a woman from inside the apartment building. He didn’t answer. She screamed again and he didn’t even react. I squinted through the shimmers of the sunlight cracking the pavement and decided that Leopold was drunk. I drew some lines around his eyes and turned his mouth down at one corner. That made the drawing look more like Leopold. Maybe I could sell it for a few bucks to his old lady to get a bottle of 7-Up.
Two other tenants walked up to Leopold. They had come back from the corner store. One of them, a fat Mexican man everyone called Tio Ramon shoved a bottle of wine in Leopold’s hand and told him to drink up.
“You’ll get better!” he guffawed, then tore the wine out of Leopold’s hand and drank some, red liquid spilling down his chin and making dark spots on the cement. Leopold didn’t move much; once he looked up at the other man whom I didn’t recognize for a moment, then went back to staring at some point on my apartment building.
The man I didn’t know leaned on his cane. It was a black lacquered cane with about the last six inches of it painted white and it looked like his prize possession – he leaned down with his other hand and patted Leopold gently on the head, then turned and started walking into the courtyard. Tio Ramon shouted some filthy Spanish into Leopold’s ear and walked after him.
Leopold sat there, quite nicely for another fifteen minutes, then, as I was drawing the trash cans to the right of the steps, he got up very slowly. I glanced over the top of my sketchbook and watched him pick up his paper bag carefully by the bottom and walk around the corner down the alley towards Giuseppi’s, which started serving cheap keg beer about this time.
I finished the trash cans and thought about putting a cat in by Leopold’s feet to make him look a little less sad when I heard a single gunshot tear around the corner and sing Hallelujah to the rest of San Diego.