He holds his right hand, gnarled from the fingertips to the wrist, curled against his torso; he carries his auto-cleaning supplies in a burlap grocery bag with red handles. Once, with his good hand, he lifted up his T-shirt and showed me the thick, abiding scars that turned his belly and chest into a work of cubism.[pullquote]After a job, Kenny usually gets something to eat and some smokes. Maybe a cup of coffee. Then he’ll post up again, smoking, eyes clocking the corner, looking for the next job.[/pullquote]
It happened years ago, when he got into an argument with a friend outside their car, on the side of the highway. His friend pushed him into the traffic stream. Kenny wasn’t supposed to survive that, but he did. That’s what he says, anyway, and I don’t care if it’s true or not. The scars are definitely for real.
Kenny doesn’t beg, and Kenny doesn’t steal. He doesn’t even, technically, charge for detailing a car. When people ask him how much, he says, “Whatever you think it’s worth.”
He’ll detail the car while its owner drinks coffee, or eats dinner, or washes clothes or gets drunk here on the corner. When he’s done he’ll walk over and quietly let you know. It’s important to slip the money into his left hand. The right one’s no good.
Kenny hit my car just this afternoon, and the tires shine like they’re brand new. He’s minimized some of the hairline scratches on the black body of the car and elbow-greased every corner of the windshield. Over the course of a couple treatments, he’s considerably reduced the yellow haze that coated my headlight lenses.
“You know what I use?” he asked me. “I use WD-40.”
After a job, Kenny usually gets something to eat and some smokes. Maybe a cup of coffee. Then he’ll post up again, smoking, eyes clocking the corner, looking for the next job.
During business hours, Kenny affects a humble and quiet demeanor. Off the clock he’ll relax a little with his friends on the corner. When people remind him that he’s not supposed to be alive he laughs. When I tell him I might want to do a little writing about him, he shrugs.
“Don’t do a little writing,” he says. “Do a lot.”