page contents

Southside Park
by Peter Clarke

GOT AHOLD of some cheap street chalk. With my buddy Sam, went to Southside Park. It’s the Sacramento place to be homeless and either Catholic, Muslim, or Buddhist, judging by the big ugly churches that border the park on all sides.

    “Ready to go do your thing?” Sam asked over a pre-game coffee.

    “What thing?”

    “With the chalk.”

    “Ah, yeah. There’s no thing—just all this chalk.”

    “So what’s it for?”

    “I’ll show ya.”

    Who says you need a plan. Better to roll without one. Got to be ready to shift and adapt. Plans can only fuck up a perfect day of spontaneously making the world more beautiful.

    At Southside we found a place in the middle of the park partly shaded but still a little sunny. A few homeless guys getting drunk and hoping to sell some crystal meth sat by watching.

    I started off with my trademark image, the Purple Bowtie Monster Man, and Sam drew the picture closest to his heart, a cartoon toilet with a thought bubble, “Don’t shit on me!”

    Next I drew my best guess at a satanic symbol and Sam drew a traditional upside-down cross with the unambiguous phrase, “Hail Satan!” Now we were getting somewhere!

    It’s freaking hard being funny under pressure. You can’t do a chalk drawing in a park and have it be lame. The worst thing ever is a public display of a lack of imagination.

    “I got one!” I said.

    About fifty seconds later, bam: Buddha with a crack pipe.

    “Awesome!” said Sam, and he’s not easily impressed.

    “Okay, I got one,” said Sam, getting down on his knees like a professional.

    He outdid himself with this one: Osama Bin Laden with big titties and a stunted dick and balls.

    “That’s so good!” I laughed, not knowing how I would ever top that.

    I kept at it with a picture of a stick figure pissing. I was still trying to figure out what he should be pissing on when a kinda ghetto woman stopped and screamed at us, “Hey, you know little kids walk through here!”

    As if to prove her point, right at her heels was a herd of fast-food-eating little brats. They looked shabby and wily but at least you couldn’t say undernourished.

    We just ignored the lady and her posse of juveniles. Obviously kids need to learn things at some point. Also…kids know! They know who’re the good guys vs. the bad guys. They know well enough this lady is the bad guy and we’re the champions.

    Unhappy that she was ignored, the lady erased Osama Bin Laden’s titties and dick by pouring water all over the picture.

    God, that hurt!

    We let her take her anger out. No sweat. Let her be that person everyone hates. She’s necessary. It’s cool. She has to do that. Like Jacques the Fatalist would say, it was written up yonder.

    We carried on drawing more vigorously than ever and I hardly even noticed the rise in activity in the park. Church had let out…

     I was slaving away at the following work: a gargantuan talking hamburger speaking the classic Shakespeare quote, “Peace, ye fat guts!” Just then a group of elderly Buddhists came up behind me, belligerent as hell. I couldn’t figure out if they were speaking English or what. Evidently they were pissed about my Buddha with the crack pipe.

    When Sam and I snubbed their belligerence, they started spitting heavily on my artwork. Who knew Buddhists had so much damn spit inside themselves!

    Pretty soon, my Buddha looked like a sloppy, pixelated Cartman at best.

    By that time, the Catholics, the Muslims, more Buddhists, and a bunch of non-affiliated overweight mothers had gathered. Sam and I could barely keep up creating art and beauty as quickly as it was being destroyed by one ill-advised idiot or another.

    Thank fucking god for the kids. That’s who came to our aid! Jesus, and I thought I was a pervert. Those kids, armed with chalk, were like next level John Waters Minis! I swear I’d never seen so many dicks and balls, pussies, middle fingers, defaced religious symbols, etc. in multicolored chalk!

    There was hatred projected at police officers, teachers, political figures; there was fun poked at the mass media, terrorists, poverty, drugs, dumb governments, schoolyard bullies; most of all, there was lots of lust for sex, carnage, and money.

    Most kids, I’ll admit, started out with pictures of hearts and flowers and smiley faces. But these kids, I knew right away, were independent thinkers if I’d ever seen any. When no one was looking, they’d sneak a hand down their pants or up their nose and scribble an explicit sex aphorism they couldn’t possibly have understood.

    This went on all day, us and the innocent youth warring in silent chalk pics against the religious authorities and parents of Southside Park.

    Everything was going cool until the original ghetto woman went over to score some crystal meth from the homeless populace. A homeless drunk guy she approached stood up, suddenly huge and burly and mean. Right away, things soured. The woman was throwing crap out of her purse and yelling how someone owed her money. Then the homeless guy threw off his homeless man coat. Oh shit—he was a cop!

    “Serves her damn right,” said Sam as the cop brought out the cuffs.

    “That’s what you get for being all high minded about art on a beautiful day,” I agreed.

    “Dude, I think I’m out of chalk,” Sam said a minute later.

    “Me too,” I said. “Plus, I’m starved.”

    “Screw this place. Let’s get some burritos.”

    All the homeless guys in the park started throwing off their coats. Turned out they were all cops the whole time. I guess everyone probably got busted for something. God bless America, brother. What a shit show!

Peter Clarke is a writer native to Port Angeles, Washington currently living in San Francisco. His short fiction has appeared in 3AM Magazine, Pif Magazine, Curbside Splendor, Western Press Books, Hobart, and elsewhere. A law school graduate, he works as a legal editor for Thomson Reuters.