The Cigarette Cartel

Every corner of the public bus had been overpowered by the stench of dog fart.

Eyes rolled, and the riders laughed, gagged, and tried to avoid smelling the atrocious assault from the lactose, corn, gluten-intolerant Great Dane. Not like I had choice about his food. Cheap cheeseburgers and the cheapest dog food were on the menu. We were homeless just like everyone on this bus, the DASH circulator bus that runs from downtown Phoenix to around the State Capitol buildings.

All of this area is known to the homeless as the “zone.”

Every thirty minutes or so one of the DASH buses rolls down Jefferson to 12th Avenue. During daylight hours, a crowd of homeless await the DASH.

At the next available stop, the entire crush of homeless vacates the bus leaving only the driver and my friends and one Great Dane. My friends started laughing again, with the one who fed Thor the cheeseburgers still holding his nose and telling Thor, “No more cheese for you!”

The bus operator never even made a face nor a comment.

We exited the bus and headed through the entrance gate to the homeless service center.

“Hand rolled cigarettes, 5 Cents”

I was lucky to have a tight group of friends. There was Tiny (cause he’s not), Jon aka GI Joe (California “nasty girl” National Guard), Tom aka “Pops” (Vietnam Era Air Force Veteran, RIP—he died from methamphetamine-induced heart attack shortly after getting an apartment), the silver-tongued devil Tele-Mark, The “Girls”—Mirria, Kristina (Banana girl), Angel—and of course, Thor the dog.

We all sat at a picnic table crammed into the bench seats while GI, Tiny, and I used hand cigarette rolling machines, filter tubes, and pipe tobacco from the nearest reservation to make homemade cigarettes.

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