Jackie Fresco

 

Jackie Fresco – he’s no friend of mine. No. No. Not at all.

Washed his face in the frying pan, like in the old song. Yes he did. Maybe it was just when you were watching. Make an impression. Try to toss you the jinx. Maybe not.

Then he scrambled the eggs.

Jackie Fresco. Fleece you in a back room. Fleece you in the mighty Metropolis. He don’t care. Fleece you anytime, anyhow, anywhere. Always try to take you from behind. He got a big roll, he don’t need yours. Plush from time to time. Throw down a twenty dollar bill on the tabletop. Not to be impressing me. I ain’t some dirt farmer.

Jackie Fresco, now he could play the small town rube, down to a tee. Suit dusty and a way too big, funny looking haircut from the barber school and bet your ass they had to pay him for the pleasure.

Tell you a joke and you laugh and buy him a drink. Way it used to work.  Folks always needing a good laugh. People used to tell Eisenhower jokes in the fifties. Innocent stuff. Not vicious, the way they talk now. Hitler jokes, they lasted for a good two decades. Then things got ugly in the sixties. Jokes weren’t funny no more.

“Knock knock,” Jackie says to Sonny Malone. You too young to remember these times.  People used to tell knock knock jokes, riddles and tall tales. I was right there on the street when Jackie strode by.

Didn’t have to use a lot of dirty words back then. Nahh, not like I never heard them before – I was in the Navy four years, you know, Korea – just that people didn’t have to say the f word to be funny. You didn’t cuss in a joke. Different times.

So “knock knock” he says, and Sonny being a regular guy says “who’s there?” Sonny was a nigger but he was a regular guy kind of a nigger. Not all angry all the time like these days. It was a different world back then. Sonny, me, we used to shoot a little nine ball from time to time.

“Who’s there?” Sonny says, and Jackie Fresco, face all smiling and mean in the eyes at the same time, he says “Eisenhower”. I didn’t have a good feeling about it. I don’t know. Maybe I’d heard this one before. I don’t know. But I started edging away from Jackie. Not like I was there with him anyway. Just standing there on the street watching traffic when Jackie walks by. I didn’t know anything would happen, but if it did, I didn’t want Sonny to think I was standing there with Jackie Fresco. Although I was, but it was not a purposeful kind of standing there.

“Eisenhower who?” says Sonny, being a good sport. Because he looked tired, he didn’t look like he felt much like joking. Lost his job at the processing plant a week prior, and now taking any kind of job he come by to keep his family fed I guess. Looked tired, but he was game.

“Eisenhower late for work again boss, please don’t put my coon ass back on the street.” Then Jackie just stands there with a toothpick jutting out of his mouth like Roosevelt with his cigarette holder, just stands there and grins, and he walks over to me and punches me on the shoulder like I’m in on the joke. And that was that. Last time I heard about Sonny, there was a funeral.

Everything’s different now then it was then. Got older, learned how to make friends. I didn’t grow up knowing that – it’s learned behavior.

Everything’s changed almost, but not Jackie Fresco. Never left town, old and mean as sin. You know, he had running water all along. That ‘tater pan', that was just to frighten you. Make you think he was psycho. But he was, he was.

Jackie Fresco – he’s no friend of mine. Things change. Not that.


© 2003, Mark Hoback