Jason Teal

WE ARE DOWNTOWN. There is no celebration of Marjorie. The rich kids are hard to soothe, perpetually spoiled and hungry, unloved and angry. We are mad the company sent the worst car. A smudge on the windshield, half-tank of gas. Several friends have glowing recommendations for other homeless. We make a note to fire Leo. And we know Simon is trying his best, conducting traffic, but can’t he see her coming first? This is our livelihood. We must see the parade or perish. Without this, we are nothing. We can’t risk falling out of range of Marjorie. Every year, we toast Marjorie for her honor, courage, and civility in the face of defeat. She took on homelessness and won, losing her job, kitchen staff, and cars in the process. Her skills made her uniquely marketable. We saw the biopic. She stands for privilege and hard work. We are downtown for the same reasons. We hope she spots us from the motorcade, waves. If she doesn’t, it could mean lights out. We could be anybody.

The paparazzi, poor freelancers looking homeless, snap photos for our social media. We have hundreds of thousands of followers, not counting paparazzi. Because of Marjorie, we are innovators. We say this every morning on rising. We hear our neighbors bellow the same witness to Marjorie. We listen, all of us hollering before 4 a.m., confident ours is loudest. Her name is spilled across sides of buildings as a testament to sound decision-making, and we are secure in our finances. All of us drinking imported bottled water at the parade. We read Marjorie’s new book, about the keys to success in every relationship, and this is the only book we will read again. We read it for the few next years, keeping its dog-eared pages close to us, memorizing passages until another one is written. Marjorie is not on the jacket. It is a representation of Marjorie. Limited exposure creates brand awareness. The homeless work under us without benefits, and they are given the day off for the parade, but many choose to work. We aspire to a brand, like Marjorie. The homeless should be more dedicated to their families. The rich kids will learn one day, and their uniforms will glean crisper than ever, their content smiles examples that orthodontists show in after photos. They will be grateful.

We hate making small conversation with the driver amid screaming rich kids. The truth: We respect the suspense. Marjorie knows anticipation is paramount. The celebration, organized by politicians, isn’t far from our buildings, but we hire drivers anyway, fearing everyone will show up in better cars. And they do. Several friends have debuted fashion lines this spring to rousing success. Several friends have rich kids in the best colleges. Several friends own high-end restaurants. We eat out occasionally because we know the owner. We are moments away from being homeless, wretched, and without. We vote in our best interest, because sponsored legislation doesn’t let the homeless vote. We are upstanding and moral. Our votes count.

Everything hinges on the inner workings of the parade. Traffic is at a complete standstill: Simon failed to keep two walking homeless from crossing into the street, and now the city crew is cleaning up the horror. We are aggravated, and our shirt collars seem tight. We look unshaven. Here comes the parade. Down the block. We have to chase it by foot. We can see the back of the motorcade. We are running but the rich kids aren’t coming along. We will leave the rich kids, we threaten them. Look around you, we say, look at all the homeless people you don’t know. The rich kids button up, trained in table etiquette from birth. They snap to attention like robot soldiers, running disjointedly, like something in them is broken but this makes up the distance in no time. We are available to the poor for a price. Several friends have acquired shares for major networks. We strike exclusive deals with major networks. A prequel, tracing Marjorie’s birth to present day, is in post-production, and we can’t wait for the red carpet event. This will be hosted inside The Gala of Marjorie, the exhibit ripped from her closets and garbage and sold to us by the homeless for pennies. Some homeless, wishing for more, have probably gone home—and we will dock their pay accordingly. Home, their families have gone missing, too, waiting at the end of the parade. We know because we read the lifestyle articles. Educated poor write lifestyle articles that feature the homeless. These run on the back page. The homeless contribute free writing to major publishers, and we own the major publishers. Marjorie is a promise to the poor, but she is most like us. We turn the corner, pushing through homeless friends and neighbors, but she’s already gone: We can’t see Marjorie. This year, it was rumored she would be wrapped in signature furs behind bulletproof glass. The rich kids hang their heads. The space between their legs is exploded by gloom. They have no life experience. I avert my eyes.

Jason Teal is a writer and editor living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Fiction from Northern Michigan University. He hosted the 2016-17 Bards & Brews Creative Reading Series with Andrea Scarpino, 2015-17 U.P. Poet Laureate. His work appears in Knee-Jerk, Vestal Review, SmokeLong Quarterly,, Big Muddy, and elsewhere. Former Managing Editor for Mid-American Review and Production Assistant at Drunken Boat, he currently runs Heavy Feather Review. He has worked as a substitute teacher, production supervisor, delivery driver, and lifeguard. He volunteers with Harbor House Domestic & Sexual Violence Program Services in Marquette.