SALVATION    ROAD  

by   KAL and   ROA

OSSIFIED OFFICER

EXCERPT:

FESS: OSSIFIED OSSIFER

 

Ok, I'll sing, O Ossifer Lucifer Sir.   I mean, Officer, Sir-- yes, I 'fess, I mean, I'll sing! 

 

So he say. 

 

So he turn to me as I 'm waiting for the bus at B'way and 3rd.  So he raise his voice.

 

I'll tell you everything I know.  Yes Sir.  Yes Sir!  For bread and bed n blues I'll fess up to da whole mess up, Sir.  Guilty! 

 

At this he caper.  He slam an imaginary gavel.  He pronounce Guilty! like an auctioneer --Souled!-- while he wait for the promenading crowd eddying around our busbench to wash up ashore his busy Saturday night streetstage.

 

I'm just getting off work at the coffeehouse.  People gather, spot his guitar case, expect a performance.  I watch him start to work.

 

Then outta nowhere he grab my hand, turn himself round, yell out in fake anguish, pretend I'm twisting his arm, shout, O, Officer Ossifer! until even more of the people coming to check out the commotion laugh.

 

Then he say, loud to crowd, Everyone stick round cause I got good songs I'm gonna sing for you all!  Yes sir, Ossifer, I will tes-ti-fy!  Whole ocean, sewers, streets of dis Saint Mona--  she foul!  But heal this boy and you heal the bay! 

 

Then, to me:  Ah Ossifer--  Don't wave those cuffs at me less you mean it!  He bind his hands behind his back like I got handcuffs. Yessir, Aryan boy, I can see you more'n a bit kinky.  Cuff me now or lose me forever!  He bat his eyes.  The crowd giggles and more assemble. 

 

He wiggle his ass, he make sexy voice.  Take me to yo big house with those little beds and bars where I belongs!  I needs a good spanking.  He make his hand go slap!  Yessir.  Take me to my Father's house downtown 'long the Five 'n the Ten freeways for my five to ten!  Send me off to Sing-sing! For everyone know it be illegal to be poor.  Everyone know homeless is a scourge and a blight pon this fortunate city! At that he make eye contact with the crowd.  Everyone chuckles. He knows that's what they think, that Santa Monica's experiment to keep the homeless as pets has failed.  He wink. 

 

Then he shake open a guitar case that say "Help Support Homeless Musicians," lift the guit out, strap it around his neck, and go on barking.  Yes sir cause cagebird sing no songs for nothin less than bread.  'N some butter too.  Daily.  Hmmmm. Yes, n beans maybe, then I'll be singing yo praise!  Three squares n underwears!  Yes, this be da Whole County Blues!  From Po' Mona to de fair Saint Mona by da sea.  Yes'm, I be your star wit-ness.  I'll take the stand!

 

He shift his guitar.  He Strummmmm. 

 

Meanwhile, I'm looking for my chance to cut out.  After all, I'm just waiting for the bus.  But everyone gathering has given me a little space in the circle they've formed.  They think I'm part of the act.  They know he's saving me for something. 

 

Through a crack in the crowd I can see the Number Seven at its birth outside the Broadway Deli.  I see it pull away and start rumbling toward my stop. 

 

Meanwhile, he say, Yes sir!  Beans will spill!

 

I open my mouth to tell him I have to go.  He just grab me by the wrist, press hard, motion to me that there is everyone watching. Then he bellow, Folks, let's give a hand for our volunteer Mr. Ossifer Lucifer Enforcer Da White Debbil!

 

Everyone claps wildly for me.  Even a few hoot.  He himself laughs heartily.

 

The bus pulls up to my stop and the door sighs open.  Inside I see the driver see me.  He knows.  The other people at my stop board.  I stay planted.  The door closes. 

 

Folks, this Ossifer be wanting to take me to jail for being poor and lookin ugly but are we going to let him?  The crowd yells an enthusiastic, "Nooo!"  He smiles at me, his dupe. 

 

He say, Ossifer, I would never want to tell you how to do your job, but how come you don't want to ask me my name?  He nod vigorously for encouragement.

 

I shrug.  What choice do I have?

 

So I take a staunch stance, adjust my imaginary mirrored sunglasses, fold my arms, unfold my arms, touch my mustache, take out my notepad --everyone's watching and giggling and clapping-- and I say, "Allright son--  what's your name?"  I lick my pencil tip.

 

He say, My name be Salvation!  Yes!  My name be Salvation. I got songs for you all!  Y'all like to hear em?  The crowd replies with a wave of affirmitive huzzahs. 

 

He say, I said, would you all like to hear me sing my songs?  They roar another "Yes!" 

 

An incredible burgeoning carnival atmosphere of laughter and talk rises up from all around. Myself, I can't help but laugh at his skills as a performer. 

 

By now his circle of gawkers is over one hundred strong.  I can see their circumference is so wide it seems to swallow up the whole street, tumbling up one sidewalk and down the other.  People passing have to lead with their shoulders, push by around the edges.  Some stop.

 

He say, Ok! Everyone gather in.  Now, I promised y'all a sing.  So it's I'm going to sing you all a spiritual tonight!  At this the crowd whoops and appauds furiously in approval. 

 

Then he open arms wide in a gesture that take in whole Promenade.  He bellow, Who here's gonna get saved tonight?  At this everyone hestitates.  Surely no one has come to be saved. Still, he be undaunted.

 

Brothers and Sisters!  Hear me now.  No one leaves here tonight without Jesus in their hearts!  He beam. He swallow them up in his hands and his proclimation.  Everyone!  Let me hear you say 'amends!'  He is rewarded by a smattering. 

 

Yes, yes.  I tole you I was going to testify.  Tonight I say unto you,  O brothers and sisters, that you must repent of your sinnin ways!  Pent, then do it again.  I say it to all you debbils of dis Satan DeMonica!  Repent! All you who swill at your troughs of privledge and sleep in your slop while your brothers go hungry and cold, repent!  Repent, O Officer Lucifer!  Repent O Yupsville Sickos! Repent, for I do declare that this be da endtime! 

 

He ululate while he say so, he dance around in a circle, he stomp his feets.  Then he pause.  He make to tune his guitar, eye twinkling.  He make like he can't hold back a chortle cause he talking doomsday talk. Everyone turns to a neighbor to catch a look of beguilement , others break out in a rush of hushed chatter.

 

Finally he put his left hand up.  He hail us all.  He put it down as if upon the good book.  Brothers and sisters, he say, can I get an Amen?  

 

So someone in the crowd yells, "Amen!" 

 

Again, he shout,  I said, I said, can I get an Amen!  This time more of the crowd roars, and everyone is laughing and pretending to be full of the spirit. So he strum his guitar. 

 

He say, I was blind!  Strum, strum, strum.  I was a wretch!  Strum, strum, strum.  But folks I'm here tonight to tell you all it takes is to give yourself up to the halleluja chorus in your hearts yer fightin back!  Strum strum strum.  Jesus wants you to sign your name in the book of life!  Even Mr. Ossifer here.  Come back to the fold, little lamb!  He grab me by the shoulders and give me a vigorous shake.  Yes, I'm gonna flock you, Ossifer!  I'm just about to take you to the bathroom right this minute and baptise you in the urinal,  sinner!  A wave of titters follows this. 

 

He squint comically.  What's so funny?  People titter at this too and so he grin to let them know it's ok. Then he quiet them by meeting their eyes as if for the first time.  He squint like he can not believe it.  Him, here on Santa Monica's Promenade, them. He wait.  Then he say, I reject Satan and all his works.  Prepare yourselves people.

 

Then Salvation take off his hat and toss it on the ground. He say,  Ok, that's for donations.  He pluck on his guitar jah jhank jhank a reggae upbeat on the two like jah jhank, jhank, uh uh jhank, jhank and he motion for everyone to clap along jah jhank n jah jhank n.

 

Then he sing:

 

They put me in jail for acts of sedition.

Free the dissidents, that's my position.

Put me on the news for their entertainment.

Sleep on the sidewalk cause I can't pay my rent.

Put me in the paper as a curiosity.

Thin as a rail, sometimes I don't eat.

Took unemployment but it's not enough.

Came back to find that the cops took my stuff.

        

They said, Ohhhh!  You-reek-a!

          (Strum strum strum strum strum strum.)

 

The sky is falling!  The sky is falling! 

 (ululate)    

 

This guy is falling! The sky is falling!

        

Put me in jail for lack of a position.

Tried to explain,  refused to listen.

Couldn't pay the ticket cause I don't have no cash.

Threw me back in and they gave me the lash.

They treat you like scum and they spit in your face,

As if they and I were not the same race.

Applied for a job but couldn't get hired.

At the end of the day you sure feel tired.

Went to Welfare, well they just shut their door.

Said I don't qualify, I can't take no more.

They sent me to Church for acts of contrition,

No delight for my unwashed condition.

        

Folks, they said, Ohhhh!  You-reek-a!

          (Stop.  In plain voice.)

Turned to the Lord and asked for his love.

He showed me his light from above.

 

          (Shout.)

          Lord, through you my mind swims in

          a thousand rich light waves!

          You are truly the impossible golden indolent retinaed

          instrument of Salvation!

 

                   (Strum Strum Strum Strum)

 

They put me in jail for axe of sedition.

Free the dissidents that's my position.

 

Eureka!"

 

As soon as the act was over Salvation started pushing his hat in everyone's face for money. 

 

It looked harder than trying to catch a fish with your bare hands.  Some clapped.  Some dropped a coin in the hat.  Some hurried around the edge of the crowd and tried to disappear.

 

11/02/93

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