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Tie Dye Tim scattered assorted seeds across the lot. Upon striking the dusty asphalt—which hadn’t been paved in probably a decade and was cracked and filled with the temporary fix ups of white, chalky gravel—the seeds were flung wildly in every direction. A sunflower seed spinning upward like a rocket-frisbee was caught amid the diving swoop of a black-capped chickadee.  The bird flew off in bobbing fashion before finding a safe hiding place inside an outdoor reclining chair. Twitching its head chaotically like an addict, it shoved the seed inside the cushion of the chair.

The crowd was building.

“Gonna be a good fucking day,” said Tim to himself as he turned up the volume. Wilson, by Phish—one of the many live versions—sprung out from Tim’s speakers and filled the small depth of the booth before being swallowed by the jabbering mass of the thousands of other people filling the lot.

Tim loved Phish Tour; it was one of his best money-making times of the year. It was like an Easter Egg Hunt, but the candy was money, and there was candy everywhere.

Tim strode the country selling his wares and food—he was most famous for his Thanksgiving Day burrito, a wrap filled with turkey, stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce—and he always got excited for Phish Tour. He wasn’t the biggest Phish fan—he liked them well enough—but he was a natural Dead Head. Jam Bands in general were his favorite, so he could deal with Phish. He loved going to the tours of his favorite acts, such as The Werks, and Greensky Bluegrass, but they didn’t pull near the cash that Phish Tour brought in.

Timmy loved cash; he was a very capitalistically minded hippie; the kind of businessman straight out of the 60’s—like the guy who walked out into that field in New York, shielded his eyes from the sun with the flat his raised hand, and foresaw Woodstock. The kind of guy who saw shit and then got it done; like Ken Kesey and Neal Cassady, driving that bus across the whole damn country. That was Tim.

Another bird picked at some seed. This one wasn’t flying, though, it was bobbing along the ground. It was a cardinal. It snipped at the gravel and spat it out in disgust while searching for the seeds it preferred. It found them eventually, then it flew out of the lot into a nearby, bordering wood. 

There was probably litter all across the floor of that damn wood, Tim knew that. Not from the birds—from the hippies. 

“What’s this all about, man?” came a high-pitched voice from the other side of Tim’s booth. It was a slouching, wavy bearded guy wearing a loosely fitting tank top.

“Those are friendship bracelets, my dude,” said Tim, smiling as if revealing a special secret. “If you give me the name of my favorite song of the day, I’ll give you one for free.”

“No shit!”

“No shit.”

The customer then removed his phone and Googled Tim’s booth, quickly finding the answer.

“It’s Farmhouse,” he said.

“Ko-rekt!” said Tim, handing the guy a bracelet, “Cluster flies and fucking lice, my dude. Right on!”

The customer slipped it on his wrist and walked off, smiling in a paranoid, wincing way into the midday sun. He smelled like shit.

“God dammit,” said Tim. The friendship bracelets were supposed to draw business. It seems they had in fact drawn a person, but the bastard hadn’t bought anything. Tim checked his phone. The fucker hadn’t even liked his Facebook page.

“Fuck,” said Tim, angrily sliding his foot into the dusty ground as if he were Mickey Mantle stepping up to bat.

Another bird swooped to the food. This one was a bluejay—the most aggressive of common small birds.

Tim turned and looked back to his row of previously prepped Thanksgiving burritos.

“About time to put these dudes on the griddle,” he said, twisting the knob of the griddle to turn it on and removing a stick of butter from the fridge, peeling of a couple heaping hunks and tossing them atop the now sizzling cooking surface.

The butter began to melt into a brownish color—the griddle was never fully clean; Tim thought that gave his food some extra flavor. It was intentional; he hated cleaning it with soap.

Tim was a penny pincher in most aspects of life, but he took great pride in his food. Soap fucked up the season of his griddle, he thought. Skimping on the butter would severely damage the tastiness of his burritos, he knew, so for that reason he would never go small on that. 

He slapped a flour tortilla atop the white cutting board, then grabbed a hefty spoon and smoothed a heaping bottom layer of cranberry sauce and then mashed potatoes across the bottom of the wrap. He then piled on his signature smoked turkey, followed by the vegetables and stuffing. Then he hit it with the salt, pepper, parsley, and paprika. Wrapping the nearly splitting colossus—he could wrap big burritos; he had watched them do it at Chipotle; he had watched them do it at the numerous street side shawarma stands in Moscow when he had visited Russia way back in the day—he then tossed it atop the buttered, sizzling griddle. It would be done in only a couple of minutes.

Tim realized he had forgotten to put up one of his poster board signs, the one that read: ‘Like it hot? Ask the hippie for some sriracha!

He had used a sharpie and drawn in the sriracha-chicken and everything; he thought it looked fucking nice

Another bird swooped to the dirt. Tim noticed it was a brown thrasher. A bit rare for out west, but he saw them every once in a while.

They were cool birds. They were one of the few that didn’t take any shit from blue jays; them, mourning doves, and pigeons. Most other birds were horrified of jays; they would fly off when confronted by them, chirping as if assaulted.

“Hey, man,” Tim heard as he was digging in his wide, plastic Igloo cooler for a bottle of water. Tim had ripped his bowl several times before making the burritos and now his mouth was drier than shit. He needed some aqua.

“Dude; man! Hey!” the voice said again. Tim rose from under the table that constituted his booth. It was the same guy from earlier; the guy who had taken the friendship bracelet.

“Yeah, man?” said Tim.

“This fuckin’ trash-ass thing broke.”

His arm was raised; he was dangling the snapped friendship bracelet.

“Sorry, man,” said Tim, “I can get you a new one.”

“I don’t want a fucking new one.”

“Oh. No worries then, man. Have yourself a good one. I’ll see ya at the show! Trey’s been killing the solos this year.”

“What’d you say to me?”

Tim, not having previously paid much attention to this guy, now looked at him more closely. He was staggering, eyes bloodshot, knees near to crumbling. His arms flailed, waving spasmodically as if canoe oars amidst a frenzied sea. His mouth hung open; his stained, brownish-yellow canines were unsheathed like a fucking zombie.

“You need some help, man?” said Tim.

Ffff… Fuck you!” the guy spat. He then dove with the full, inevitable force of gravity like a suicide bomber into Tim’s plastic booth.

The dude crashed to the gravel like a blackbird pierced by the silent pthss of a BB-gun.

“Fuck, man!” said Tim, kneeling to help the poor bastard.

The poor bastard didn’t need any goddamn help. He leapt from the ground with the energy of a rabid coyote, doing some spit-filled, noisily laughing and gurgling thing with his abnormally twisting mouth, his jaw clicking percussively from some sort of aggravated TMJ situation.

“The fuck?” said Tim.

His Phish playlist continued. Bouncing Around the Room played loudly. The man’s jaw clicked like a drum set in rhythm with the song. He then fell abruptly back to the ground and began flailing around on his back like a gasping, shored bluegill, slapping and kicking the table holding the griddle as the burritos unfurled and ejected their contents floor ward atop the crazed individual.

“Shit man!” said Tim.

The guy, still lying on the ground, then grabbed Tim and began biting his ankles, digging in as if they were a rack of BBQ slathered ribs.

AHHH! Fuck!” shrieked Tim.

Tim’s arms flailed wildly, accidentally flipping upward the hot griddle, which shot skyward and did a kickflip before landing hard right atop the face of the gurgling, ravenous stranger.

The griddle didn’t move. The random guy shrieked and groaned, the boiling butter atop the heated surface melting his cheeks and singeing his beard, the fat of his face lubricating the cooking surface.

His arms slapped the ground percussively as if in tune with Trey Anastasio’s murmuring voice.

Tim, though at first frozen and startled, then reached down and removed the griddle.

The man’s wide-eyed face was a hairless, morbid Elmo. Cranberry sauce covered his burned red forehead, nose, and cheeks. Abruptly opening his eyes, he shrieked in that kind of squeaky Elmo voice, too. A grotesque Sesame Street. Can you say grotesque? Can you fucking spell it?

Tim stumbled backward, breathing heavily. He put up the hood of his tie-dye hemp hoodie—the well-breathing one he always wore in the summer—and heaved, his beard tickling his face as if requesting from him some sort of action, any action.

The man whimpered like an abused ghost.

“You okay, man?” said Tim, the man finally lifting himself from the chalky dirt and standing.

“No… I’m not fucking okay,” growled the man. His voice was threatening, but it was somehow also the soberest thing he had heard the guy say all day.

The man put his hands to his knees, heaving uncontrollably into the dirt, the force of it blasting outward from within this mouth and somehow ruffling the dust a few feet below.

“You’re toast,” said the man, “Toast as hell.”

“Uhh, what, man?” said Tim.

“I said you’re fucking toast!” The man’s teeth were gritted as if to snap out and uproot from within his diseased, blackened gums. His growling voice ejected from within his mouth putrid spittle, which sprayed Tim’s face and collected in his beard.

“It was an accident, man,” said Tim, “No need to escalate the situation, you know? I pulled the griddle off your face, man; I saved you.”

“Saved me? Ha! This deathtrap bullshit excuse for a food stand you have here damn near got me killed. I’m suing your fast ass; you can believe that.”

“What? Man, there’s no need! You want a free burrito? You want another friendship bracelet?”

“I don’t want none of your goddamn burritos; I’ve already got one all over my fucking shirt.”

“My bad, man,” said Tim.

“Tell it to the judge!”

“I told you there’s no reason to escalate this situation, man.”

Tim blinked several times; anxiety suddenly creeping over the entirety of his body, tingling vibrationally off his bones and weakening him. He felt like he might pass out. He couldn’t afford to get sued; his business couldn’t afford it. It would bury him, he knew. Tim kicked at the dirt, dust folding into his Jesus-sandals and wedging between his toes. He was trying to momentarily detach from the situation so that he could regain some confidence, some sort of command over what was happening. 

Something clicked in his straining brain. Tim suddenly felt energized. This dude wasn’t going to sue him. For one, he was a fucking crazy junkie; he probably had no idea how to even begin to sue someone. On top of that, it was a certainty that this guy avoided courts and judges like Tim avoided white picket fences, mortgage payments, and dry cleaned suits.

“Hey!” belted the man. He had noticed Tim spacing out. “You fucking zonked out or something, hippie? You over there living in your own little world; you need to retreat from the reality of this fucked up situation you created?”

“I don’t believe you,” said Tim, finally looking up from the dirt.

“The fuck you talking about? You scorched my goddamn face. This food stand you’re running is a shithole; there’s bird shit all over your prep-table!”

“Tim was afraid; the man was right—he didn’t run the cleanest food stand in the world. “It doesn’t matter,” Tim said finally, “I don’t think you’ll test it in court. Courts don’t like you; judges don’t like you; lawyers don’t like you; cops don’t like you. You won’t willingly put your trust in them.”

The man glared, gritting his teeth and salivating angrily like Gollum after losing his precious. He then stepped forward—his burned face red and bubbly like Darth Vader’s after removing his helmet—and raised his hands as if instinctively attempting strangulation.

He lunged forward, grasping wildly at Tim’s neck.

GAHHHHHHHHH!” he shrieked, now chomping at the air, hoping to connect with Tim’s throat.

Suddenly, the man’s eyes fell back into his skull. He began shaking convulsively before falling back to the ground where he continued shaking and then rolled over into a fetal position, silent and calm.

“You okay, sir?” came an until then foreign voice.

Tim looked over. It was a cop; one of the dudes patrolling the lot on horseback. His horse flapped its lips and grumbled like an engine struggling to start as it brushed its hooves back and forth in the dirt.

“Yeah, man…” said Tim, “I’m fine.”

A couple of other cops, now dismounting from their horses, scooped up the man and ‘cuffed him.

“Get him to the emergency tent,” said the first cop, “We’ll need to take him to the hospital after they do what they can to doctor him up.”

“Whaa… whaaaaaat?” said the man, flailing around like a cornered racoon before finally settling and heaving hard pathetically. “I can’t go to the hospital,” he said, “I ain’t got no insurance.”

“You should have thought about that before you attacked this salesman, here,” said the cop. “I saw you biting at him; no wonder the griddle spilled on you. After the hospital you’ll be going to the can, I’m sure. How long you’re there is up to this good fellow,” said the cop, nodding at Tim.

“Oh, man,” said Tim, “I don’t want to press charges.”

“I don’t blame you,” said the cop, “This guy doesn’t have anything to pay you with, anyway. What’s he going to give you?” the cop was pointing at the man, “Those dirty ass, filthy jeans?”

The cop laughed and slapped Tim on the back.

“I can’t go to the hospital! I can’t go back to jail! I ain’t got no money! I can’t afford it!”

The other two cops—the one gripping the man—paid no attention to the man’s rambling; they began dragging him off through the dirt toward the emergency tent.

Seeing them disappear into the crowd, the first cop then turned back to Tim:

“You okay here? Do you need any medical attention; any help getting set back up?”

“No, man; I’m fine,” said Tim, “Thanks, officer.”

Nodding, the cop, mounting his horse and taking the other two by the reins, trotted off back into the crowd.

Tim for some reason felt like an asshole; he felt bad for the man. That dude was going to be in such a fucked up financial hole once he got out of the hospital; one significantly worse than what he had already been in.

Fucking cops.

Tim set his things back up and began preparing Thanksgiving burritos; he would likely see a bit of a crowd before the show started. Two birds—a sparrow and a grackle—landed amongst the now sparse collection of seeds and began fighting over the remnants. Tim looked at them, thinking momentarily about fucking life, man.

Phish tour was always so wild.



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