The buskers work Balboa tonight, and that’s an honest living. Their wails, their sounds, fluids in the air, and I’m feeling them. And I watch the living stroll by the buskers. And I watch the living reach inside their pockets. And I watch the living dump a dollar here or there into those instrument cases. Not bad!Buskers have it alright –an honest living – It’s a good night for an honest living. A good night for that job. A good,lazynight in the park. Please, God, no action tonight, I hope while easing in the park bench. Now that’s agoodthought.No Actionis a very good thought in this job. The Cantrels put me in this, you see?... Fuck, well, that’s another story… Maybe, I put me in this. I don’t know. But it was this or dodging their bullets! So here I am. Here I am, and the girls are over across the street, over along the sidewalk, like a line up, like a buffet. And Ana’s got those Come-Fuck-Me boots on, and they’re working. And Shelia’s got that long black hair, and that’s working too. She may be the main course tonight. And the cars ease by, inside them eager heads turning, glancing out through windshields, through side windows. And the girls watch the cars, and the girls watch those little heads inside, and if a car stops, the girls look to me, and I give them the nod. Or I don’t. I give them the nod if I get the call. But no calls yet. There’s a system to all this. I check my cellphone, make sure the battery’s up, make sure the sound’s up. Can’t miss a call. Not on this job. That would be bad. That could beverybad. I slide my cellphone back in my pocket. Then, behind me, I hear a voice. “Hey, Big Boy, I need to ask you some-ting” I turn my head slow, just an inch, my eyes all the way to the side. I see an asian kid there. He’s twenty-years-old maybe, a hundred pounds MAYBE, and I think,FUCK! There are reasons why the Cantrels put me on this job. I can give a beating, and I can take one. I can take A Good One. Then I can rise in the blood haze and ache, in the flashing strobes, stand back up and get it some more. On the street, it’s a skill set. But the asian kid’s there and asians don’t fight. They shoot. “What do you want?” I say. “Stand your Big Ass up!” He’s got a hand in his pants pocket, a little point pushing the fabric out. It’s like a tiny pecker down there below his hip. “You don’t want to do this kid.” I say. “Just go back to your side of the park, run your girls over there like normal.” “I say, FUCKING-STAND-UP!” I turn full now, and look at that little pecker sticking out, then my eyes roll, scanning him, torso to face. A scaled fish tattoo wraps his neck. “Don’t do this kid. Just let it go.” I say, then I hear those metal clicks, that tiny, little, pecker gun’s hammer going back, and I thinkfuck,this is how it ends.I begin my rise. I do it slow. Then I stand before the park bench. “We walk the park now, you understand?” The kid says. “You lead” I say. “You no give meno shit! You Go!” he says and flicks his head “You Go That Way.” And I look that way. Lamp posts that way. Further into the park that way. I move that way. The busker’s sounds becomehintsin the air, and now, a quarter mile from the girls, the kid orders me along a jogging path slicing through the park woods. Beyond the trees, there’s a highway overpass coming up. A wide, eight-lane one. Dark underneath. The jogging trail goes there.He’ll do it in there, I think,Where you at, Padre? We move closer, trucks blasting air up above,rumblingechoes bounding off concrete walls underneath. Every step it’s getting louder. The kid wants me under that bridge. Out of sight. Hard to hear in there. A good place. I stop in the middle of the jogging path. “Keep moving!” I turn my head slow, looking behind me, looking at him. “I’m not going under that bridge, kid.” “You Go Where I Say!” “Kid, if your going to do it, do it now. I’m not walking under that bridge.” “tiu-nia-ma-chow-hai!” The kid looks around, and nobody’s around, and I turn and face him.It’s on me. It’s all on me.A beat. It starts. The kid’s pulling the pecker gun. I’m moving sideways. The gun’s angling for me. I’m raising arms to my chest, to my head. Then everything stops. The kid stops. His head gives a little jerk. Then nothing. I never heard the shot. I watch his eyes. One’s up and to the right. The other stays straight on me. Lidstwitching.Spasming. They stay open as he collapses, knees buckling, a hundred pound pile of meat and clothing. I look all around me then. Nobody’s around. I walk five steps away and pull my cell phone. The call comes. “Thank you, Padre” I say. “Your room needs cleaning.” “I will clean it now, Padre.” “What did your friend want?” “He didn’t say, Padre.” So on the park bench, I give the nod to Shelia and her long, black hair, and I watch her long, black hair wave in the night as she enters a white Escalade across the street, as guitar and sax fill the world. Then it’s Ana’s turn in those Come-Fuck-Me boots, and I get the call and give the nod, and I watch the living stroll by, and I watch the sky’s single star making it through this city’s massive light, as the buskers make an honest living.