Mel Bosworth


Lou's fat. I'm skinny. We're bums. Every Saturday night we perform a dance routine in the alley behind China Dynasty. Our audience is usually just wait staff that knows us by name, stage and birth. When I'm on the cardboard, I go by Petrol. Lou goes by Dr. Phil. We get inspiration for our act by watching America's Got Talent through storefronts. We think we've got talent. I think Lou pays too much attention to Oprah. But I digress.

One Saturday evening we put on a raucous show. I'm not sure what gave us the extra energy—maybe it was the full moon, or the egg rolls, or the crisp autumn air—but when Dr. Phil started spinning me over his head, I had a feeling in my guts that this was our night, this was our night to really make it. It wasn't indigestion; it couldn't be, not this night.

Beyond the cheers and blurred faces of our dedicated following, I glimpsed a new pair of eyes flickering in the crowd, a new pair of blue eyes that belonged to a square jawed, clean shaven professional type, starched collar, slicked hair and all. An agent type, standing tall behind the locked shoulders of Lin and Mingxia. With great deftness and timing, I tapped the greasy mane of Dr. Phil with my big toe between dizzying rotations.

“Our night,” I sighed, the wind pulling my words.

Dr. Phil, deaf to my call but sensing my urgency, spread his feet and crouched low, an urban sumo wrestler. He grunted as such, and spun me harder, and harder, and harder, both of us knowing the inherent danger of our forthcoming stunt but lost in the moment, the stardom.

Mingxia squealed.

“Yes, Petrol! Yes, Dr. Phil!”

I could feel the pressure building in the behemoth beneath me, a churning machine of flab, muscle and cheap wine, and when he loosed me to the stars, the silence cracked my mind like a whip, and I spun, and twirled and somersaulted.  I owned the air, the night. And I saw, through the dry-eyed gauze of my flighty flight, the broad smile of the square-jawed man as I reached the apex, my chance, our chance for…everlasting bliss.

I crashed hard into an open dumpster, my ecstatic high meeting a sudden and embarrassing low. With trash. The beefy mittens of Lou pulled my body to the surface, but my mind wallowed in shame. Then I saw the blue eyes and the square jaw of the man from the crowd. He too offered a hand to help, and my spirits again dared to lift.

As I frantically swept rice and lo mien from my chest and arms, I noticed Lou staring, quite inexplicably, at the ground. Rattling off the rudeness of my partner, and once more befitted with some manner of social grace, I sucked a deep breath to introduce ourselves as the long suffering Milky Way Boys. But as I raised my eyes, I noticed the crowd had dispersed, and that the man with the square jaw also wore a silver badge. I swallowed my words like a sour fortune cookie.

“Listen, guys,” he said. “Great show. But I gotta tell you….”

He leaned close then, close enough to get a sobering whiff of his musky authority.

 “If I catch you doing this shit without pants again, I'm gonna have to lock you both up. Are we clear?”

I nodded. Lin brought us two aprons, and the man left us in the alley.

“He said we had a great show,” I later muttered to Lou as we spooned in our soggy hut. “We're on our way, my friend.”


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