Charles Bukowski

Wax Job

man, he said, sitting on the steps your car sure needs a wash and wax job I can do it for you for 5 bucks, I got the wax, I got the rags, I got everything I need. I gave him the 5 and went upstairs. when I came down 4 hours later he was sitting on the steps drunk and offered me a can of beer. he said he'd get the car the next day. the next day he got drunk again and I loaned him a dollar for a bottle of wine. his name was Mike a world war II veteran. his wife worked as a nurse. the next day I came down and he was sitting on the steps and he said, you know, I been sitting here looking at your car, wondering just how I was gonna do it, I wanna do it real good. the next day Mike said it looked like rain and it sure as hell wouldn't make any sense to wash and wax a car when it was gonna rain. the next day it looked like rain again. and the next. then I didn't see him anymore. a week later I saw his wife and she said, they took Mike to the hospital, he's all swelled-up, they say it's from the drinking. listen, I told her, he said he was going to wax my car, I gave him 5 dollars to wax my car. he's in the critical ward, she said, he might die . . . I was sitting in their kitchen drinking with his wife when the phone rang. she handed the phone to me. it was Mike. listen, he said, come down and get me, I can't stand this place. I drove on down there, walked into the hospital, walked up to his bed and said, let's go Mike. they wouldn't give him his clothes so Mike walked to the elevator in his gown. we got on and there was a kid driving the elevator and eating a popsicle. nobody's allowed to leave here in a gown, he said. you just drive this thing, kid, I said, we'll worry about the gown. Mike was all puffed-up, triple size but I got him into the car somehow and gave him a cigarette. I stopped at the liquor store for 2 six packs then went on in. I drank with Mike and his wife until 11 p.m. then went upstairs . . . where's Mike? I asked his wife 3 days later, you know he said he was going to wax my car. Mike died, she said, he's gone. you mean he died? I asked. yes, he died, she said. I'm sorry, I said, I'm very sorry it rained for a week after that and I figured the only way I'd get the 5 back was to go to bed with his wife but you know she moved out 2 weeks later an old guy with white hair moved in there and he had one blind eye and played the French Horn. there was no way I could make it with him.

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