|Clear the street - laundry emergency!|
"Out of my way, people!" spat Antigone Spit, as she barreled through the shoppers on Main Street. Her best friend, Mallory Many-Bruises, trailed twenty feet behind, struggling to understand not only Antigone's rush, but why she appeared to be starting to undress as she hustled up the street.
"Say, where's the fire, Antigone? And- whoa! Don't take those off! Have you lost your mind? If you have, I'll help you look for it, but I assure you, it's not in your trousers!"
Mallory's many bruises complained bitterly, but she managed to catch up to Antigone, just as she made a hard left into the Uptown Laundromat and immediately began disrobing in earnest. Mallory quickly doffed her long, raggedy coat, and held it up between her frantic friend and a handful of stunned launderers.
"What on earth has gotten into you? This is the expensive laundromat. We should go to the one on Tenth."
"It's fine," Antigone said, slipping her makeshift burlap dressing gown over her head. "Two loads for twenty-five cents. It's worth it."
"That's ridiculous. How is it worth what I assume is your last two bits?"
"I have to wash these clothes right away," Antigone insisted. "Loving Vincent Hugsalot is back in town."
Mallory Many-Bruises needed no further explanation. But for the rest of us...
Born Vincent Gates, he had been a hobo for fifteen years, since just after the economic catastrophe of 1929. He described his childhood home outside of Chattanooga as "the most huggin-est house in America," where even the mailman got hugged daily. Within weeks of the onset of the Great Depression, he lost his job at the lumber yard, his sister married and moved to California, his younger brother moved to Atlanta to look for work, and his parents died in a beekeeping accident. His transition from life in the world to life on the road was a story oft repeated in 1930. It was hard, blah blah blah, but he learned and survived.
Vincent's affectionate nature made hobo life even more challenging, as he was simply unable to meet a person without attempting to hug him or her. The wandering homeless of the thirties were not huggers, and thanks to a glandular disorder, Loving Vincent Hugsalot was an especially smelly and lousy hobo. No one wanted to touch him. His embrace attempts were universally spurned, from Chicago to New Orleans. When he did manage to land a hug, his unwilling partner would flail and struggle, so that it looked as if he was wrestling a giant, flapping duck. Once, he tried to give Ol' Barb Stab-You-Quick a friendly greeting, and he was quickly stabbed.
"Oh, Antigone," Mallory said, "You should save the twenty-five cents, and just burn those clothes."
"I got away after only a few seconds, so a good hot washing machine should do the trick," Antigone said. "Honestly, as gross as he is, I feel bad for the guy. All he wants to do is hug people, and no one - no one - will hug him back."
Mallory nodded. "I once saw him try to hug Overly Familiar Fung. That guy loves everybody, but even he was having none of it. It must make him terribly sad." She sighed heavily, and the two women fell silent for the duration of Antigone's emergency laundry session, as they ignored the disapproving stares of the non-hobo patrons - something to which they had become well-accustomed.
Ninety minutes later, as they approached the railroad tracks at the end of Main Street, they saw him. Loving Vincent Hugsalot was trudging along the tracks alone, heading out of town. They stopped, and Antigone groaned at the sight of him. Mallory turned to her friend.
"Hold my bindle, Antigone. I'll be back in a minute."
"What? What are you going to do?" Antigone asked.
"Many bruises be damned - I think it's about time somebody hugged that man back."
This post brought to you at the prompting ("Unrequited" and/or "Spurned") of my friends at STUDIO 30 PLUS. Check 'em out!