(Pictured above: A Canadian penny. They don’t make them anymore. Somebody in government decided they weren’t of any use. Of course. A friend of mine told me that if you have one that sticks to a magnet, it’s worth a lot of money. I have hundreds of these in a big plastic container. Someday I’m going to buy a magnet and maybe glean enough magnetic copper to buy that six pack of beer I’ve always wanted. Or just eat the fucking pennies. Copper’s supposed to be good for something in the body. Read that on the internet.)
“So you think you’re going to find a big mind out there, do you?” said the fox
“Don’t know,” I said. “But I’m sure as hell going to try.”
“Where you gonna start, Biff,” said the fox.
“Thinking about it, fox.” I said. “
(Pause while Biff thinks. And thinks. And thinks. Until he remembers. Thinking hurts. Like hell. So he stops thinking and returns to his natural state. Mindlessness.)
“Hey, fox,” I said. “I know a guy who stands around on the street and offers to recite a poem for a penny to people walking by.”
“Must have a hard time making a living now that they don’t have pennies here anymore,” said the fox.
“He still says ‘Poem for a penny’ only now he says ‘Poem or a joke or a penny.’ He’s branching out,” I said. “I think people just give him whatever they give when they give to someone who’s livelihood depended on pennies.”
So there I was on Queen Street, the poem for a penny guy’s happy reading grounds, but he wasn’t there (timing’s always been my downfall), so I told the fox, “Pretend to be the poem for a penny guy.”
“Aw, c’mon, Biff, I’ve never even met the guy,” said the fox. But I knew he was secretly smiling.
“Just pretend you’re dressed in tattered clothing, with a mangy beard, wearing an impossible toque, mittens that look like something returned to the Salvation Army a thousand times, a backpack with all your worldly belongings splitting the seams and you have a mind that the entire world has stepped on all your life,” I said.
“Just the kind of person I’ve always wanted to be, Biff,” said the fox, still smiling secretly.
“OK, you stand by the curb and I’ll walk by and you say, ‘Poem or a joke for a penny’ and I’ll take out my gun and shoot you dead,” I said. And savored the look of horror on the fox’s face. “Just joking, fox. I don’t have a gun. At least, not today. Maybe tomorrow.”
The fox caught on quickly and laughed. I hope, someday, I’ll be able to erase that image out of my head.
So I walked down the street a bit, turned around and walked toward the fox who didn’t look anything like a fox. He was dressed in tattered clothing, had a mangy beard, wore an impossible toque and mittens that looked like something returned to the Salvation Army a thousand times, had a backpack with all his worldly belongings splitting the seams and looked like he had a mind the entire world had stepped on all his life. As I walked by, he said, “Poem or a joke for a penny.” And some other stuff that I couldn’t make out…just like the real penny poem guy. He even shuffled around as he talked and looked at me and the sidewalk and the road and the street lights and everything in the world all at the same time. Just like the real penny poem guy.
“OK,” I said, and handed him a cheque for two million dollars. (MS Word thinks I spelled ‘cheque” wrong. Fuck you, MS Word…it’s cheque. Woah…three wrong spellings in a row. I’m on a bad boy spelling high.) “I’ll take the poem.”
So the poem (or joke) for a penny guy read a poem. Not sure what he said. Not sure what the title was. Not sure what the poem was about…something like life in the modern world and how we ignore the little things that matter. But I was too mesmerized by his delivery to focus on the words. I watched him express the words with his body and face…the physical conviction of every word he said. This was a truly big mind, a mind so big that it was integrated with every cell in his body.
And he was reading poems (or jokes) for a penny. On the street.
He reached his hand toward me and snapped his fingers. I was in Wilser’s (my favorite bar) sitting at the counter with the fox, drinking Pina Coladas imported directly from Cuba.
“Find a big mind, Biff?” said the fox.
“Yeah, I did, fox,” I said. “And I realized something.”
“What’s that, Biff?” said the fox.
“Those minds are out there, everywhere…right under our noses,” I said. “Peace isn’t in a council or a treaty or meeting of so-called world leaders…it’s in the mass. In the street poets (or jokesters) and the people who scoop up a handful of soil with their heads full of big thoughts about what they’re holding in their hand…the ones who’re still connected.”
“Connected to what, Biff?” said the fox.
“Just…connected,” I said. “To wherever, whoever and whatever they are.”
“Getting closer to finding peace, Biff?” said the fox.
“Yeah, fox,” I said. “Getting closer.”
(To be continued. In a big mind sort of way.)
“Kind of enjoyed that, Biff,” said the fox.
“I know. Saw the smile,” I said.
“Want me to smile again, Biff?” said the fox.
“No, fox. I don’t have enough wine left for that,” I said.
“It’s a Pina Colada, Biff,” said the fox.
“Right. If you say so.”