The Small-Potatoes Confidence Artist

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The Small-Potatoes Confidence Artist

Greg used to come into my shop to sell tools
he’d just stolen from Home Depot.
“You in need of a monkey wrench?”
he’d ask, and dredge one from the sweatpants
he was wearing under his trousers,
the packaging still on it.
“No thanks.” I’d say.
“Is there anything you do need?”
“I don’t know,” I’d say.
“Does your supplier
carry diamond
blades for angle grinders?”
He’d scratch his head and brainstorm for a moment.
Confucius
couldn’t have looked deeper in thought.
“I’m pretty sure they do,” he’d say.
“I’ll have to check.
I’ll get back to you.”

He’d then exit the store and
I wouldn’t see him again
until he’d come back with something else,
something other
than what I needed,
and the cycle would repeat itself.

Then one day
Greg disappeared.
I don’t know what happened to him.
I figured he was either dead, in rehab or in jail,
and eventually
I forgot about him,
for the most part anyway.
I would sometimes
laugh thinking about how
he’d come into the shop,
his trousers stuffed
with tools
and me pretending everything was on the up and up.

It was like seeing a resurrected
god.

About a month ago,
when I was sitting in the shop, I glanced at the
surveillance
camera aimed toward NE 3rd St.
and saw in grainy black and white
a man
that looked exactly like Greg
pushing rapidly an empty
wheelchair
along the west side of the building.

At first, I thought it was just someone who bore
his resemblance.
But two nights later, as I was driving through
the parking lot of a shopping mall a few miles
from my shop,
I saw the same man sitting in the wheelchair
he had so rapidly been pushing,
a tin cup in his hand,
a down-in-the-mouth expression.

An old lady approached him. “Good evening,
ma’am,” he said. She dug in her purse,
something flashed
in the sunlight. “Thank you, thank you,” he said,
and complimented her
on her dress.
He peered into his cup.
“Yes,
yes, yes,” he went on.
“A lovely
dress
indeed.”

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