Mud People, No. 17

Mud People, No. 17 (2019). House paint on paper. Artwork and text copyright Danny Grosso.

Smashing bottles in the alley. His feet, cold and wet from the slushy pavement, give him a strange sense of comfort. This is what Christmas is supposed to be like, like it was when he was a kid, sneaking sips of liquor behind his uncle’s tavern, running back inside to warm your feet and watch the holiday revelers drink their bonuses away. He’d learned to smoke at the bar, and to play dice in the back room behind the register. When the holidays came he made extra money walking the inebriated to their apartments. They’d tip him, if they were awake when he slumped them into their beds, and if not, he’d reach into wallet or purse and tip himself.

There were no Christmas songs on the jukebox back then, so the drunks would just belt out carols all night, accompanied only by laughter. Now, he hears them inside, blending their voices with this year’s Christmas tune, playing on the new stereo sound system. Not bad, he thinks, as he raises unsteady fingertips to the night sky holding a butt still lit, a holiday light, a Christmas star.

Somewhere in an apartment high above, a kid looks down at the lonely little light in the dark alley. It reminds him, somehow, of the star of Bethlehem. He thinks, because he sees this, that perhaps he will someday be a king.

-Danny Grosso 

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