By Jack Somers
I’m a king. My kingdom is called Exit 5. It stretches from Interstate 490 all the way to East 55th, 300 meters of gorgeous black asphalt divided into four wide lanes.
I’ve ruled here for three years — long enough to get to know my subjects well. There’s Sandy in the red Corolla. She’s a nurse at Metro Health, a divorced mother of three grown sons who all moved out west. She comes by each weekday afternoon between 5:00 and 5:30, and if she gets stopped at the light, she always rolls down her window and pays me tribute. I know I can count on her for at least a dollar.
Then there’s Frank in the black Honda Civic. He comes by on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings around 6. He works at an architecture firm in Lakewood, but he lives in Shaker Heights because his wife teaches at one of the elementary schools. He typically only gives me a quarter or a few dimes, whatever spare change he’s got in the console, but I don’t hold it against him. He’s always pleasant, and he always asks me how I’m doing. He says if anything opens up at the firm — a secretarial position or something at the loading dock — he’ll let me know.
Every morning at seven, I see Moira in the light blue Pontiac. She’s hit or miss. Sometimes she ignores me, and other times she gives me the grandest tribute of the day — a five or a ten, once even a twenty. I still think about the morning she gave me a twenty. I took the rest of the day off.
Making twenty dollars in one day is a once-a-year kind of thing. My average daily income is about three bucks — just enough to buy some Two Buck Chuck and a couple strips of beef jerky. I can live off that. I don’t have many expenses. I don’t pay rent. I don’t have a mortgage.
My castle isn’t in my kingdom. It’s the abandoned munitions factory at the corner of Carnegie and East 55th. I moved in about two years ago after a year of sleeping in the Cleveland Clinic parking deck.
I live in my castle alone. From time to time people sneak in, junkies mostly. They creep in at night, shoot up, and zonk out for a few hours. I don’t mind sharing my castle with them. I’m a generous king. As long as they don’t disturb me, I don’t disturb them.
Some day I’ll give up being the King of Exit 5, but not anytime soon. There aren’t many jobs out there for a king like me — a middle-aged man with a ninth grade education and a misdemeanor. But something will come along. And if it doesn’t, I’ll be fine. I have food to eat, clothes to wear, a roof over my head and subjects who care about my welfare. What more could a king want?
Jack Somers work has appeared in Prick of the Spindle, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Atticus Review, and The Beorh Weekly. Jack’s Twitter handle is @jsomers530, and his web site is www.jacksomerswriter.com.