Monday afternoon was quiet. Thanksgiving only days away and The Valley was real loose. The everyday people were taking off work, readying themselves for family and turkey. Or tacos. Whatever they wanted. The Van Man was just ready for a paycheck. It had been nearly four months since the last one. The sporadic acting gigs and shit unemployment payments had gotten him by, but the holidays were upon him. And they were unforgiving on the soul. It was one thing to be broke and starving with a cough only Satan, himself, could love. It was another thing to possess those talents on the day of giving thanks. Alone in a van with a small, pumpkin-scented candle for warmth. Van Man smirked at that sublime misery. It was delicious. More so than a buttery turkey. He even had the candle.
Van Man had rediscovered a pair of necklaces from his youth and decided to sell them. He was no expert, but the jewelry looked like gold and had fourteen karats inscribed on the clasps. Seemed like a good chance for a few extra bucks. Van Man had been down that road before and knew of two particular gentlemen that paid top dollar for gold. One was a gay Armenian in Burbank, the other did not play around and was stationed in Toluca Lake. Van Man tried Mister No Bullshit first. Closed. Fuck, he thought and walked back to the van. On to The Armenian.
Magnolia Boulevard was alive and well. The restaurants were filled and the shops had their share of window shoppers. The van pulled into an open space. Van Man walked up and down the boulevard. Nothing. The Gay Armenian was gone. He realized it had been a while since he last sold gold. Damn, he must've closed shop, thought Van Man, wistfully. He would miss The Gay Armenian and the pink sweater tied around his neck. That dude always gave Van Man a good deal.
With no money, it was time for the coffee shop. Van Man arrived and quickly found two crosswords from the Times. Los Angeles and New York. It was his lucky day. He also brought an empty coffe cup from the previous day. The baristas would think he had been there earlier and give him a free refill. It was a trick he had learned when really broke. The Barista smiled.
"Hey, man, just a refill", said Van Man, casually, as if he had the world on a string.
"Sure", replied the Barista.
Van Man sipped his victory. Coffee swindled was twice as sweet as coffee paid for. He worked away at the word puzzles and Steely Dan's "Dirty Work" blared through his earphones. He smiled, kind of happy. Then a woman caught his attention. Van Man glanced and took inventory. She was in her forties and happy with a bright smile. A rare combination to find in LA. The Woman spoke to her friend with enthusiasm. But something about her mouthing of words seemed odd and a little absurd. Van Man popped out the earphones to hear their lively conversation. No sound eminated from The Woman's mouth, yet she replied to everything her friend said. It dawned on Van Man. She was deaf. And she could read lips like a motherfucker. The Deaf Woman spotted Van Man and he looked away. He put the earphones back in and put his attention to crosswords.
After some time, The Deaf Woman left and Van Man finished the puzzles. Music played, he listened and the smile was gone. He could hear, she could not. He lived in a van at a park, she did not. He arranged for his struggle, she was born into hers. Van Man looked around at the caffeinated customers. They all had struggles, had to. That was life. One long struggle. He was lucky, indeed. He could hear and see. And on Tuesday, The Van Man would try and sell some gold for a Thanksgiving meal. Yeah, he was thankful.