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Homeless Guy

By H.G. Miller

I had a friend once who postulated that the crazy people walking around Los Angeles and talking to themselves were actually just actors who never got a gig, constantly reciting the lines they had memorized for auditions long passed.

My response was always that it must have been auditions for student films, because the kind of nonsensical drivel that most maniacs scream at me on the streets can only exist in the 8-minute shorts I’m forced to watch every time another friend drags me to some ‘festival’ of undiscovered ‘talent.’

At any rate, I learned a little more about these street profits this weekend.

I was bored and thirsty and waiting for my pure vanilla frozen blended drink at the local latté café. Like most of the people in line, I was happy for the convenient availability of such a tasty treat, and slightly wary of the threat these coffee shops on every corner posed.

Well, some of us were concerned. Most of us didn’t care. They just wanted to get their hands on some caffeine in the most socially acceptable way available. One of us had more on his mind, though. A conspiracy theory so complex it would have been a much better plot between the credits of some of those student films I’d seen.

This homeless guy was on some diatribe about a government constituency that funds genetic research on oranges so the general consumer can enjoy the tasty fruit year-round, only to remain blissfully unaware of the internal chemical reactions that are slowly turning us all into socialist robots with a bloodthirsty lust for salt water.

“Wow,” I said when he took a moment to breathe. “Do you really think so?”

It stunned him for a moment. Perhaps no one had ever responded to his rants before. Admittedly, most of us in LA have become accustomed to the tuning out such lunatics.

I asked him again: “Is that really how you think it’s going down?”

“Well,” he said, “I’m not positive, but it’s a theory I’ve been working on.”

It was at this moment that the powers that be prompted a collision between my frozen vanilla concoction, the pimpled kid making it and his manager, an Assyrian dude who seemed resigned to his fate as the king of this small coffee shop on the edge of Hollywood. A delightful display of ice crystals, flavored cream and Middle-Eastern swear words soon followed, and I had some more time to kill.

So, I decided to find out some more about my new friend.

Well, it turns out that before space aliens started beaming conspiracy theories into my man’s head, he was an accountant.

“They let you handle money?” I asked, somewhat stunned.

“Not really handle the money, just the numbers,” he explained. “The agency I worked at had a lot of creative ways to avoid paying taxes. I was responsible for auditing the various shelters we were hiding under, making sure we had a good balance.”

“Sounds interesting.”

“Not really. You could do it, if you knew the math.”

“I was an English major.”

The accountant laughed at me. “You should be the one with all these crazy thoughts in your head, then.”

“So, where did it all go wrong?” I asked him.

“Well, I was on this business trip. Spent most of my time in the office or on the road, never got married. Anyway, I was having dinner one night at this restaurant, and I still had my suit on. I think everybody thought I’d been stood up for a date.”

He paused for a moment, reflecting.

“Yeah… it was just me and this steak dinner. I kept staring across the table at the empty chair on the other side, and thinking about a life of loneliness, and I guess I just decided that I couldn’t take it any more.”

“Wow,” I said, taken aback by this candor. “That’s why you quit your job and moved to the streets?”

“Nah,” he smiled wide. “It was drugs. Lots and lots of drugs. And the government conspiracies, of course.”

Of course. I sighed, grabbed my freshly-made drink and walked away to contemplate how I’d just been had by the crazy homeless guy at the coffee shop.