short story

Richard and Poor Boy

by Dana Mills

I met a guy a few years ago. Richard. Soon enough we were good friends - Richard and Poor Boy (that's me). Although we are Richard and Poor Boy, we are sometimes Richard and Richard. But I can be Poor Boy at the same time as being Richard. And Richard - him, not me - could never be Poor Boy. I hope I'm being clear. Richard and Poor Boy - that's us.

Sometimes Richard asks me: "Richard, are you rich?"

"I'm so poor."

"You are?" Richard says with concern. "How poor?"

And then I mumble something about sleeping on the floor, using an old shirt as a pillow and garbage bag for a blanket, and Richard laughs. He loves how poor I am. Richard and Poor Boy - that's us.

One night we went to see Oh Bijou, Ryan C's band. Steve Lappano was Deejaying, and he played Richard's song - Toto's "Africa." Me and Richard sang along to it together. Bless the rains down in Africaaaa. Did I mention that Richard has the sweetest voice you've ever heard?

Richard and Poor Boy - that's us.

Richard had a party at his new apartment. There was a bonfire out back. Pieces of unripe fruit kept falling off the tree behind us, and every time one hit the ground, someone would turn around and ask, "Was that the cat?"

"Meow," Richard would say. And then later he made some lovely hooting sounds. "Hoo, hoo," Richard said. He was an owl. It didnšt seem as though anyone at the party had ever heard Richard make this particular sound.

"What was that?" people said. But everyone knew they had heard an owl.

"Hoo, hoo."

At the end of the night, when I was leaving, I held up my bag so Richard could do up the zipper.

"Oh no," I said, "one of the zippers broke."

"Do you like broken zippers?" Richard said, putting as much emphasis as he could on "zippers." Richard loves broken zippers.

"I hate broken zippers," I said. "What - you think I can afford a new bag? I could barely afford to pay my rent last month."

"Are you poor?"

"So poor. Poor Boy's so poor."

Richard laughed. He gave me a kiss goodbye. I could tell that the poorer I got, the more he'd love me.

Richard and Poor Boy - that's us.

Dana Mills' fiction has appeared in Geist and subTerrain magazine, and he's been shortlisted for Canada's Journey Prize. Currently he's putting the final touches on his first book, Enough of a Sign. He lives in the Annapolis Valley.

Dana is one of an extended community of artists, writers, musicians, actors and other creative people whose careers have been supported by Gabe (Huck, Richard - not Poor Boy) with flexible free-lance work as his assistant in his ongoing quest for a good life.