The ticket

Seattle Times

A short story

By David Iseman


Sven, yeah he was crazy. But he was good for something. He knew how to get by, to make do. He taught me some things. Weren’t for Sven, I wouldn’t have that ticket.

No, I wouldn’t call him my friend. It’s not like we were hobros — yeah, that’s a funny word, huh? But we were hooked up for a while, had each other’s back for a couple months, even shared a rigadoo.

Ben and Sven. Sven and Ben. Karma. Karma freakin’ licious. You see what I did there?

Yeah, yeah, get to the point. I know. I like to talk too much. Sven, too. We hung mostly down there in the doorways on Greenwood near 85th, side-by-side, a couple of those cold nights in January. Not really friends, though. That bipolar crap made it hard to know when he was talkin’ serious or just sass.

He couldn’t drink for shit. One 40 of Mickey’s and he’d get all agitated, turn homeless Bluetooth. You don’t know that saying? That’s something those UDub kids say, when one of those mental cases on the bus looks like he’s talkin’ on a cell phone but ain’t. You know, when those nutjobs get all excited and talk but there’s no one else there.

 Still, Sven knew his shit. Before he got sick and all crusty, and his leg got infected, he showed me stuff, the best grift, well, more like just a move, or a  tricky play, sorta like you might see from a Binbo. Ha, you don’t know that word either? You cops are supposed to be so smart and all. In tune with the streets. Ha! Don’t they teach ya no homeless lingo at the academy? No offense officer. Just fuckin’ with ya a little. Joshin’.

A Binbo. It’s one of those chicks that don’t have a pot to piss in, gotta eat out of the garbage bins but still tries to look all fancy. They steal makeup from cars, keep themselves clean, brush their hair, maybe trick a dude into buyin’ em dinner, fork over a 50 for a handjob. Not that they’re whores. Just tryin’ to get by like the rest of us. Usually, the binbos know some clever plays, got some stuff up their skirts if you know what I mean. Sven was like that. Clever. Crazy ass but clever.

Where was I? Oh yeah, you were asking about the ticket, and I only found it cuz of Sven. It’s what got me into this whole mess with you all pulling me in and asking so many questions. Well, not a mess really. I guess I actually got a lot to gain, eh? But I don’t like you guys putting me through the ringer. I’ll tell ya again, from the beginning, like I told the other 5-0 fucks. You’re all right. Those fucks were dicks. Ha, I guess, actually you’re all dicks, right, like Dick fuckin’ Tracy. Ha!

Sven was the one who showed me the grift. We called it the Dorka, you know, like Orca, like on the bus cards, the transit system. We named it after those fools on the bus with so much cash they can’t keep it in their pockets, especially over there in Cap Hill.

 I use’ta do the Dorka lotsa days. Mostly when I was Jonesin’ for a 40 but didn’t have no cash. You know you can’t always hustle up the spange. And there’s too many Homeless Joes these days around here. Lotsa days, all good intersections are taken. The Dorka bailed me out many a night. Was pretty reliable. Just had to be smooth, not cocky, take your time. I always carried my walking stick, the one I found in the Washelli cemetery up off Aurora, where they got all those urns buried in little tiny graves. I thought it was a buncha midgets got buried there. Me and Sven set up a tarp on the down low one night up there against the mausoleum and I got pretty freaked out. I couldn’t stop thinking about a whole freakin’ parade of midget ghosts coming out the ground grabbin’ at us.  Sven knew about the urns, though. He knew shit, lotsa shit, if you could sort through his crazy talk.

 Anyway, this grift, this play, the Dorka, only works if you get on one of those older buses, and ya gotta ride when they’re pretty empty. Then, like Sven said, you keep something handy like a walking stick to cover for the noise. You start at least four rows back from the driver, stay low like you’re sleeping and you use both hands, all your fingers at once, to pull up, hard on those green cushiony seats.

 If you get good at it, you can pop a seat without much noise. Sven called it bumpin’. Not sure why. Puttin’ the seat back in place is what makes the loud noise, like a thunk, like a door shuttin’. If you got your walkin’ stick, though, you can time it right and just drop it — you know it’s got this silver heavy handle part. I try to thunk it right down there on the bus floor at the same time when I slam the seat back. You don’t wanna leave no seats loose. Someone will fall. And that’ll piss off the bus driver. Someone will call in with the Bluetooth, real Bluetooth not like Sven, and then the bus drivers get shit from their bosses. That’s when they get pissy and start givin’ us the shit.

 The riders don’t seem to care. They’re too tired. Sven called them the Workin’ Dead, the 9-to-5 zombies. Usually, they don’t give a shit unless you make too much noise. 

Sven says it’s always better if ya clean up a little before the Dorka, you know at least use some corn starch or some  hoboderant. There’s some street talk for ya, chief.  It’s like if you find a chunk’a Old Spice in the dumpster and store it away for getting rid of the hobo that starts sticking to ya after a couple days. Funny, huh? Hoboderant. I came up with that one. Sven was ramblin’ about god or the devil or the rain that day. He didn’t even laugh.

 It’s better if you plan a Dorka day after  you’ve had one of them free showers down at the shelter. Like I said, the other riders leave ya alone unless they have to change seats cuz’a the smell. You don’t want them changing seats cuz then they gotsta stand up. They might see a seat’s loose, or if you’re scooping up change. Then, they go turn snitch, and the driver’s on your ass. 

  You’d be surprised how much coin you can find. The shit just falls right outta people’s pockets, especially the skinny ones. It ends up under the cushions, in these metal wells. They’re like little coffins. I don’t think anybody ever cleans ’em out ‘cept us.

Coins ain’t the only things down there, either. You got your paper money, candy, cough drops, even pills. Sven found a skinny-ass cell down there once. Pretty new. Couldn’t open it but sold it for $20. The key is to take your time. Bump one seat. Pop it back. Move back a bit. Do another. You know that saying, if at first you don’t suckweed. Ha! You see what I did there. No, but seriously officer, I never worked a Dorka that didn’t turn up at least enough for a Mickey’s 40.

Anyway, the night you’re talking about, the one you guys asked me about like 10 times already, I was trollin’ the No. 5, you know that starts up there in Shoreline and goes down past the Space Needle and then turns into the 21. Yeah, down there around Belltown. But that’s not where I got on. I got on up north, around 120th and Greenwood. There was only one dipster dude — yeah dipster, like a goofy looking hipster. Sven and I use’ta make up our own words sometimes, to pass the time. This dude was sitting way up front, and the grift went pretty smooth at first.

 I found the ticket a few stops later, down in like the sixth row, right behind some blue-haired boy, looked Vietnamese or maybe Cambodian. Couldn’t tell. Not sure he was a boy either. Kinda cute though, either way. He got in about 80th, by the big library. He didn’t say nothing, even when I got clumsy and bumped the seat behind him. Hard, too.

There it was, folded up pretty neat like, between  crumpled up transfers and tissues. People push their used up stuff down in there all the time, as if that makes it not litter, and them not lawbreakers. The ticket looked like it was a check so I just grabbed it up. I remember it cuz I found some pills there, too. I  didn’t know if it might be good for something, maybe a free ticket. Figured I’d show Sven. Forgot he already bused himself away, down to California somewhere. He wanted somewhere warm, with no rain. I didn’t pay much mind to the ticket cuz I don’t play myself. Save my money for my Mickey’s.

Sven, when he got in one of his moods, used to make me go buy him a ticket at 7-Eleven. His dreams would tell him to play. Like right then, like right away. Never won though. Crazy ass. Heard he ended up somewhere in some vets clinic, down around San Diego.

 A couple dimes and nickels were under the seat with the ticket and pills, if I remember right. I was more interested in the pills.  Picked the dustballs off and they looked like Oxy, at least some of the numbers were the same. Looked like a 215, or at least a 21. I popped two, hoping for the best, and moved back to bump the last seat that was still vacant. That bus filled fast.

I didn’t think hardly nothing of that ticket til I hear the TV report at the shelter. Pretty sure it was the next day. Coulda been the day after the day after. Things got a little hazy after those pills. I think they were some kinda Morpho cuz I was listin’ on the bus, ya know, like I couldn’t walk right. Slid almost all the way off the back seat. Kept sliding. Like that night I got lucky with the schwill back a’ the bars down by the Link. Those joints get so much business the busboys toss the bar bottles out before they’re empty. Still got some tang in ‘em, some firepower. Gotta fight for the schwill now. Word’s out. Go Hawks! Kick some fuckin’ ass! Woohoo!

 Anyway, I laughed at the news on the TV.  I figured that ticket was long gone, or someone went batshit and got too scared to bring it in. I was waitin’ down at the Transition House, you know where they give lunch away til they run out. We used to joke, Sven and me, that you could go there to get a sex change. You feel me, right? Transitioning?

That house keeps an old TV going so the lunch line don’t get too antsy. That’s where I heard about the ticket. No, didn’t know squat about it til then. Not til I found it. Fair and square.

No, you jackboot jackoff, I didn’t steal it. I didn’t steal nuthin’ from nobody. I didn’t do nuthin’ to nobody to get that ticket. Nuthin but what like I told ya, what Sven taught me. I don’t have no clue as to who sat in that seat before I bumped it.  That’s kinda no-shit-Sherlock, right. You’re a smart cop. I couldn’t bumped the seat if someone was setting there, could I?

I know I ain’t the most proper citizen, but I ain’t no liar and I got that ticket fair and square. Yeah I was doin’ the Dorka, but I didn’t hurt nobody or steal nuthin.’

Okay, okay. Thanks, officer. I’ll wait while you check. Don’t really have a choice, do I?

I’ll just sit here and relax. Warm in here. Nice. Okay. Thanks. I can leave now? I can really leave? Just like that? Yeah, I know. Sure, I understand. I gotta be careful. Nah, no. I don’t need no help. I got a sister up there in Vancouver who’s bound to start talkin’ to me again. Hasn’t in a while but I guess she will, now. Ha!

She has some kinda attorney in-law if I remember right. I’m sure he’ll have a plan to help a guy out with this kinda problem, huh? What’s that officer? Nah, I don’t need nobody to hold the ticket for me. I’ll just take it when I leave. Thanks.

You sure it’s mine, right? I guess I’m lucky after all. Only took 50 years. Sven would be shittin’ himself. Better late than never. I’m buying me a whole truckload of Mickey’s. Yeah, yeah. I understand. I’ll pay any fine you guys need me to pay for bumpin’ those seats. But they shouldn’t have no damage. They pop right back. Good as new. Sven knew his shit.

That ticket sure was missin’ a long time, huh? Stupid sucker who lost it. Guess The Dorka name fits after all, huh? I know I ain’t gonna be losing this ticket. I gotta place where—

A booming voice interrupted. The bus driver spoke angrily. “Sven! Yo, Sven! Can’t you just shut up a second? Look at me!”

The driver shook used his gloved hand to gently shake the shoulder of the man crumpled with his backpack and blanket into the handicapped seat, near the front of the No. 5.

“Sven, C’mon. Ya gotta get off now. You’ve been blabbin’ nonstop ever since ya got on. Acting like you’re talkin’ with the police or some nonsense. It’s me, Ed. You’re on the 5. Time to get off. C’mon. Ah Jeez, Sven. You made a mess. C’mon! It’s time to get off.”

At the man’s feet, a puddle formed. The left pantleg was two shades darker than the right. The diver wrinkled his nose and pulled his jacket up over his face. He leaned in closer to the man’s head, shouting.

“We’re headin’ outta service, Sven. C’mon. Ya gotta get off. Ya can’t sit in here all night.”

The man looked at the driver but continued talking to himself.

Yeah, OK officer. Don’t worry about me. I got a new partner. Name’s Ren. Waitin’ outside. We got a plan in case anyone tries to steal the ticket. He came up with it. He bought five other tickets. Anyone fuckin’ with us won’t know which one they’re after. Besides, I got a real special hiding place if ya know what I mean. Guys like me gotta know how to hang on to our kits. Ya know. Where we end up sleepin’.

I do got a question, though. Do you know if they keep track of the sick vets in the clinics, ya know, like down there in San Diego? Yeah. Sven’s the name. No, don’t got no other name for him. All I know is Sven. Never talked last names. Don’t matter much on the streets. And like I said, Sven wasn’t much for the buddy-buddy talk. Had that bipolar crap.

He had him some skills, though. Taught me a thing or two. Wouldn’t mind lookin’ him up to say thanks.

What’s that ya say there, officer? Ha, yeah, there ya go. Call him with Bluetooth. That’s a good one. I guess you are smarter than you look.


Author: David Iseman

Longtime newsguy. Retired. Tinkering with words. Lemme know what you think.

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