Friday, 19 April 2013
'The Chestnut Thief' by Ben Matthews
So here's that story: this guy ends up sellin' these chestnuts, like really good, primo chestnuts, year round– pushes around a cart downtown, roasts them for you right there on the spot. Gives you a warm brown paper bag full of them, and they are fucking delicious let me tell you. Toasted black, shells falling apart in your hand- and the meats sweet and smokey and soft. Anyways, so like one day I ask him, "Hey Chuck" everyone calls him Chuck, I don't know what his full name was, I say, "Hey, these fucking chestnuts are fucking good, Chuck, but I can't figure out how you sell em so fucking cheap." I mean like I see em at the store sometimes, unroasted, and they cost like twice what Chuck gives em for. And he says to me, with this cutsie fake little cockney accent he pulls out every now and again, he says, "Georgie O'Kieffe, me boy, I don't fuckin afta tell ye, and I don't eva do what I don't fuckin afta." Real cute, the guy is, and off he pushes his cart and up the street, yelling in this fake cockney accent still, "Get ya hot chessies, now boys, lighten me load!" But I found out soon after that from Donald Dicks at the station that Chuck got a boss and that that boss were a real piece of work. Had him lotsa vendors in town, mostly all young kids, like orphans and such, and beat em up pretty regular if they didn't make the nut. And that still got me thinking, why's Chuck selling these primo fuckin chestnuts so fuckin cheap and how's he dealing with this guy he's got on. I'm just a harbor beat cop, a glorified security guard but still I get curious and I happened to like Chuck for all his charm and eccentricities, what-have-you. So I got off work kinda early one day and followed him to an alley where the vendors all usually congregate after hours or on slow days, inclement weather etcetra. And I ducked into the cover of an awning and up a stoop to see him park his cart right next to the fruit cart mule, Curly. He looks around, and then after a bit he kneels down and starts pawing around behind Curly's massive hind legs and gathering something into a mound and then pulling off smaller bits, Pattin em into balls and tossing them into his cart. Another vendor rolls in, Stan the "A Hotdog" guy, and Chucky pretends to be tying his shoes, but when Stan gets past 'im he goes right back to pulling these balls off this soft mound in the street and tossing them discreet into his cart. Well I just don't know what the fuck and along comes the big man and starts cussing him up one side and down the other and Chuck's just there smiling like he's hearing the sweet sermon and big man goes to and raises his cane and just then Chuck pulls out a wad of bills and tosses it to big man who falls nearly over and harrumphs and has to stoop to pick up a few bills and he waddles away grumbling about this smart-ass he's gonna let have it. And Chuck checks out the inside of his cart and I guess now he figures he's got enough and packs it in, pushing his cart outta sight. I go home and next day I see him down at sports center and I say straight up "I'll have one free bag of horse shit, if you please." He gets taken aback for a second, looking like he don't know or what. But I smile at him, I says "Hey, man I'm just kiddin, I gladly pay full price for horseshit around here, you know that." And he busts out laughing like I just told him the one about Old Lady Train, and gives me my bag, "No charge, Sarge," he tells me with that fucking stupid accent of his, and moves on up the street, maybe a little faster than usual, I don't know. But I ain't never seen him since, and I ain't never had a chestnut as good as when Chuck made em, and no one's ever replaced him.