Fiction — “The Wheelbarrow Queen”

Look at the sympathy and bravery of the Wheelbarrow Queen. Look at the tattoos of endless scrolls that unfurl down her arms. These signs carry murderers and lovers, boring summers and drunken falls. Look at her blue parka lined with orange fur. Look at her best fishnet.

Look at the sympathy and bravery of the Wheelbarrow Queen as she proceeds past soup kitchens, rescue missions, signs reading Se Habla Espanol and We Finance Dollar Sign Dollar Sign. Look at the transport: green cart, jangling keys, Christmas ornaments, and cardboard signs reading HIV Negative.

Over a glade flattened by tarps and snoring dogs the barrow is pushed. Here in Dogshit Park are gathered the ratlings and hobos, the littluns, the savages, passing dope and brown bags filled with brown bottles, smooching fifths of fifths dug from college dumpsters. They have come to see the Wheelbarrow Queen.

Look at the foster child of the dark porch. The babe’s skin learns the cool blues of alleys, the hot pinks and greens of liquor store windows. The babe licks beer bottles. Once, hot blood inaugurates her to the streets. Not long after, a broom-knife is pressed into youngling fingers. The protector of the realm performs her first duty: the wretched shalt not suffer to live. Then there are none who come to press on her.

She is freed by the birds and treble cliffs inked into her, later covered like a palimpsest by rolls of ink parchment and a biography of lies. The youngling hurts. The youngling learns. The princess grows.

Look now at the procession of downturned royalty. The outfit is ill-fit. The rank and vile. The spiders and psychos. The peerage: peeping toms. The clergy, mostly men who listen to the whispers of goats. All of them in newspaper hats and armor cut from tire. Some with the royal paraphernalia: porn, church pamphlets, a broken popcorn machine, a chalice for free refills at Subway.

The procession passes by coughs and sleeping bags and the free peoples. They’ve camped here overnight, every night. It is their pain the Wheelbarrow Queen carries. That, and 100 lice.

The Wheelbarrow Queen is dumped on a park bench tagged with broken stars. She sits and whispers hoarsely.

No Joy, she says,

No Sorrow here was seen.

A grave for all

but the Wheelbarrow Queen.