Pinto Pete, who had gotten his nickname years ago while riding the rails because he refused to eat pinto beans even if that was the only type of beans available, could hardly believe his luck. Here he sat on the Today show couch surrounded by these shiny people who smelled great, and he was wearing a brand new sweater over a brand new shirt with brand new pants and everything, and he didn’t smell so bad himself if he could be so bold as to say such a thing. To think that just a few days earlier he had been sleeping under a tarp tied between a rotted out tree trunk and a burned out Chevy, picking at scabs on his shins to pass the time. The shiny people with their hair and their teeth looked at him with these eyes that just seemed to take everything from inside of him and make it their own. How did they do that? Like magnets, they were. Human magnets. Were all people like this? Pinto Pete didn’t think so, but it had been awhile since he’d been in “polite society,” so to speak. Perhaps there was something in drinking water now that made you almost painfully charming. A medicine that made other people want to cower in the shadows but also warm at the same time, as your beaming face just pushed and pulled them, as these glowing faces pushed and pulled Pinto Pete now. He didn’t want to think about it too much because sometimes when you thought about things too much they went away, and Pinto Pete wanted to stay on this couch forever. He could live on this couch. It beat where he’d been living before heh heh. Whoops. Pinto Pete realized that the woman with the makeup and the fresh skin was asking him something. “What’s that?”

“Can you believe all the attention you’ve been getting lately? It’s really incredible.”

“Nope,” Pinto Pete said, and then clammed right back up. Like thinking, talking too much also had the habit of making good things be nothing at all.

He had spoken true, though. Pinto Pete could not believe the attention he’d been getting lately. It was really incredible. It had all started when a young woman with a video camera walked up to him on the street where he usually sat for up to 12 hours at a time asking passersby for change and asked him to say something for the camera. “Like what?” he had asked, his voice a little creaky from disuse.

“That’s amazing,” the young woman had said. She asked him to tell her his life story, and Pinto Pete got some of it out, mental illness, a brief stint in a low-security prison, but there wasn’t much to tell, so mostly he just didn’t tell it. She thanked him, handed him a dollar, and walked away.

Pinto Pete didn’t know what was so amazing about anything. There were ants in his pocket and he didn’t even care, that’s where he was at. It wasn’t that he’d given up hope that maybe someday the world would recognize his inherent humanity and allow him to live his life the way other people seemed to so easily live theirs: with dignity, and food, and sleep. Normal people, he figured, didn’t get woken up three times every night with Old Beard trying to steal their radio while they were sleeping on pillow made from rain-soaked newspapers and a child’s t-shirt. They also ate their food off of real plates, probably, not just out of the cans in which the food came, or the wrappers in which the food had been casually tossed away. Sometimes Pinto Pete was handed a bag of leftovers by someone and it was just like, the fuck I’mma do with this? Pinto Pete preferred money, thank you very much.

Two days later he’s on the Today show. He had an offer from a Chicago television station to present sports news even though he hadn’t followed sports in years, had dropped out of high school his junior year, and over the years his nose had been broken seven times so that it was now a zig-zagging lump on his splotchy, sun-crisped face. Also, a woman had offered him a rent-free apartment for a year in Florida after hearing his “story” on the news. How he was supposed to live in Florida and work in Chicago he did not know and why people were doing these things for him was even more confusing still, so mostly he just kept quiet.

“Well thank you for sharing your amazing journey with us, Peter,” the shiny man said in his wonderful suit. “I think I can speak on behalf of all of America when I say that everyone is pulling for you, and best of luck with everything.” Pinto Pete wasn’t sure what to do with his hands, so he ran them through his neatly cropped hair. Dragged his fingers slowly across his recently shaven chin. He felt OK!

Then, with a shudder, Pinto Pete woke up in a library bathroom. It had all just been a dream.

Comments (45)
  1. But what about all the rest of the imaginary homeless people out there, GABE?

    • they’re all fine. literally every single other imaginary homeless person. they all tied for first place in a sean connery impression competition, and they all got houses today.

    • Why can’t you all just shut up and be happy for the homeless man with no discernable skills?!

  2. yall remember when the bouncer or doorman or who ever thought Al Pacino was a homeless person and didnt let him in to the party or the restaurant or whatever?

  3. Pinto Pete’s my nickname too, but that’s because I have been known to spontaneously explode

  4. they should let randy quaid be on the today show

  5. Gabe I have some advice for you. You’ve gone too far with an obsession
    when her name starts appearing in things you write.

  6. Then, with a shudder, Pinto Pete woke up in a library bathroom. It had all just been a dream. Pinto Pete did smile though, because at least there was no blood. Why was there always blood everywhere when he wake up?

    Yep, ol’ Petey thought to himself, no blood or body to clean up after this time. No one else’s skin decaying and turning black under his long yellow fingernails. Why, not even a single drop on his trusty Hushing Knife.

    He open the door to his stall to wash up a bit and he noticed it.

    And as usual, it was everywhere.


    There you go Gabe, FTEndingFY.

    • I feel like maybe you missed the point?

      • Look, “it was just a dream” has been the most pointless ending to pointless story since storylines evolved to have a point and I am just the point man making pointent observations about this point.

        • Actually, its status as a pointless ending is kind of the point. Better luck next time!

        • Okay not to get Belabortheobviousgum, but what I meant was that imagining that the homeless and destitute are *just as unlikely* to be mentally ill knife murderers as they are to be “secret radio superstars” or whatever. Both the fantasy that the homeless are insane criminals AND the fantasy that they are secret undiscovered geniuses, just waiting for their big break, are stories we tell ourselves to mask the much, much more terrifying reality: that they are human beings exactly like me and you, born with the same right to human dignity and the same human dreams and desires — and furthermore, that we are all a few bad decions and a few adverse events away from sleeping in the bathroom stall of the public library ourselves.

    • Is a hushing knife anything like a shushing knife? Because if so I have one.

  7. Thanks Gabe for the depressing come down after the opiate high 30 viewings of the Audition video gave me.

    • This comment + this story is reminding me so much of Infinite Jest. Everything reminds me of that book. Like,cdgthy-o[fkl;hjk;d #dontfeellikeorganizingmythoughtsandilooklikeanassholealreadyanywaysoletsgowithit

  8. maybe this has been pointed out in other alleys of comments today, but the Bing ads are gone now?

    Steve was kind of prophetic yesterday when he said they were SO 2010. they were almost EXACTLY 2010.

  9. Then, with a shudder, Pinto Pete woke up in a garbage can. It had all just been a dream. Pinto Pete did smile though, because this was the first time this month. He said to himself: “What did I do? Why did I wake up in a garbage can?”

    • There was a soft clatter as a few pieces of trash rattled together. Snooki leaned over and planted a soft kiss on his cheek. “I made breakfast,” she breathed hoarsely, pulling a mostly-empty can of refried beans that looked like it had recently played host to some small rodent from underneath her. Pete wasn’t sure how he consistently wound up in situations like these, but then again, he wasn’t sure of much these days.

  10. Pinto Pete’s name reminds me of the 700 hobo names. Has anyone here not read John Hodgman’s ’700 Hobo Names’ from his book, “The Areas of My Expertise”? There is even a a website where people began, quite some time ago, to illustrate hobos based on their names. http://www.e-hobo.com/

    Here are five hobo names from the book that i’ve pulled randomly to give you a taste- Slow Motion Jones, Waspwaist Fritz, The Goose, Not the Goose and El Top-Hat Swindlefingers.

  11. hold so, pinto pete becomes famous because he is especially skillful at refusing to eat pinto beans.


  12. Hey, this is America. Those without skills dream. Those with skills sometimes, once in a blue moon, luck out and get somewhere.

  13. Then, with a shudder, Pinto Pete woke up in a library bathroom. It had all just been a dream.

    Except for the scientists. The scientists were still there, as always, taking notes. All crowded into the opposite stall at the moment.

    “Hey Neutron Bob,” said Pinto Pete. He was always super suave with the scientists. They always knew what he was gonna say before he said it – it was part of their projections, they’d foreseen it in their graphs – so there was no pressure. Whatever he said, it was the Right Thing To Say.

    “How’s it hangin?” asked Neutron Bob with the sly smile of someone who knows what’s coming next but can’t WAIT to hear it.

    “Long, loose and fully juiced,” said Pinto Pete. “But now I have to take a piss. Avert your eyes, gentlemen. And ladies.”

    “Ha ha ha,” the scientists said, and applauded, but of course they didn’t avert their eyes because they were scientists, it was their job to observe and take notes. And of course Pinto Pete hadn’t expected them to and he found it comforting that they never did. Sometimes he wrote a mystery word on the urinal cake with his pee, something for the scientists to rewind and try to decode. An easter egg embedded in his life.

    “Yowza, Neutrino Jim. Supasalutz, Dark Matter Dick. Keep on keepin on right on, Pulsar Steve. Realsies, all y’all.” Pinto Pete was angling towards the exit. High fives for everyone. Dark Matter Dick even moved in for a hug but then decided to scratch some super irritating and hard to reach spot on his back instead when he realized he was just outside Pinto Pete’s peripheral vision.

    “I know I’m not the centre of the universe,” said Pinto Pete, turning to face the scientists at the exit, a single tear collecting gravity in the corner of his left eye, “but you guys make me feel like I am.” The heartfeltness of these words was enough to cause the single tear to become a bead and tumble playfully end over end down his cheek. The heat of joy contained within it caused it to vaporize about two inches down. The scientists made a note of that.

    “Don’t forget us!” called Complexity Kim, squished between Quark Abdul and E Equals MC Kevin, as Pinto Pete turned towards the light outside the bathroom, the outside of everything he’d ever known. He knew that he’d always have them with him, scribbling notes and attaching labels to his behaviours. And that was enough. It was all he’d ever needed.



  15. You’re all batting .400 right now!

  16. Fucking human magnets, how do they work?

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