Fifty bows a day, even slight, was the average. My tips, come Christmas, were only five dollars to the day. That’s a dime a kowtow, I thought. Barely a cent a sin.
After a day’s work–you know, a day’s work my father never knew–I counted my blisters from standing so still. Two socks a foot, and even motionless at the door of 401 East 22nd they wore out; couldn’t afford those neither. Chipped pleasantries are what I got, between suitcases and missing keys. A call or two for stuck plumbing. I wasn’t a plumber, though father would have given me a singular hug for it. Honest work, he would have said, grimy and sweating beer, honest work means you do no wrong. That’s who he became after he fell from grace. Father called what I did being a toy poodle.
It was two that day, just two, that came up without shoes on their feet or food in their tennis ball bellies. Like the rest they begged for a restroom, or water not dripping from a hydrant. I could see them staring down a well and drooling until they died of dehydration and all they needed was a bit of rope and a bucket. So, my charity of twenty cents, I bowed for each of the lads and let them in. I knew, staring into that beady security camera lens, I had done wrong by some cheap but mighty perspective.
Jono Naito is a recovering New Yorker and MFA student at Syracuse University. His work has appeared in Bard Lux Literary Magazine, Paper Darts Magazine, and the Eunoia Review, as well as online at jononaito.com.