clothes cost money

Hofstetter wore knickers with pulled-
up stockings, the only kid in school
who dressed like that, only he didn’t
dress like that, his mother dressed
him like that and to top it he wore
large horn-rimmed glassed and he had
a very fat white face, in fact his
whole body was soft and fat, and he
dressed in bright sweaters with
large colored blocks, a different
sweater each day, and he wore the
strangest shoes, black and white
and it was a long walk from grammar
school to where Hofstetter lived,
maybe 8 blocks, and I walked home
with him each day after school
but he never made it home untouched,
the gang followed him each day,
taunting, calling names, throwing
rocks, spitting on him until they
finally closed in to give him his
beating.

there were 6 or 7 of them and they
thrashed him well, chops behind the
neck, fists to the face, and down
he’d go, again and again, silently,
taking his beating almost as a just
due, rising to be smashed down again,
his bloody nose dripping down onto
the bright blocks of his sweater,
his face glistened with tears, the
late afternoon sun reflected upon
them, and the knees of his knickers
became torn and dirtied, the ripped
flesh showing through and he was
knocked down again and again and
again until he no longer rose and
then they slowly left, that gang of
6 or 7, still shouting vile names
and threats.

and it happened day after day
after day.

and I always helped him up
found his books and his notebook
with the papers torn loose and
I helped him walk home
his stockings dragging, glasses
half on with often one lense
dangling, barely.

and he entered his house
day after day after day
and I sat on the lawn and
listened while his mother
screamed at him, “YOU’VE
RUINED YOUR CLOTHES AGAIN!
DON’T YOU KNOW THAT CLOTHES
COST MONEY?”

Hofstetter never answered,
then I would hear his mother
slapping him and he screamed
then
but his mother kept slapping
him, “YOU’VE RUINED YOUR CLOTHES
AGAIN!
DON’T YOU KNOW ¬† ¬†THAT CLOTHES
COST MONEY?”

I would leave then.

and the next day I would see
Hofstetter at school, again
dressed in knickers, his bright
colored sweater of blocks, his
square, lumpy black and white
shoes and they began on him
early–putting gum on his seat,
dropping itching powder down
his neck, zipping him with
spit-wads from their home-
made sling shots as the
teacher was consumed with
teaching and the Los Angeles
sun came through the windows
and the blackboards were
formal, dull and improvident
and Hofstetter sat there
waiting for the final bell
and the walk home, day after
day after day, it never
changed, it couldn’t and it
wouldn’t, the horrible buzz

of time, the history of
humanity.

Author
Charles Bukowski
Written
1990
Source
Original manuscript