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The Man in the Buddha Tee Shirt

by Barry Spacks

He’s a big good-looking fellow, the Man in the Buddha tee shirt.

No day will pass when he’d consider failing us, Buddha-wise.

Each midnight he washes the tee shirt in question in sink suds, then wrings it out, supplies a garment-snap producing water mist — satisfying moment —  the tee then stretched out flat on a thick towel to dry, at morning a little touch-up by iron, that’s it.

The tee shirt wearer also favors khaki pants and is partial to sockless running shoes. Apparently, he has no need for a regular job. No, instead he plays the beggar on State Street at Anapamu, so I’ve been told.

He sports no sign — DOUGH FOR BREAD, that sort of thing — and he sets out no cup for coin. He doesn’t solicit or entertain, he’s a shirt-and-smile man and that’s it.

Rarely folks come up close to offer succor, taking him for a needy homeless (we know he’s not homeless from the way he washes the tee-shirt). Such charity-oriented folks may press a dollar bill into his hand. Where else would they put it?

He’ll tilt his head then wisely and tuck the charity dollar bill into his left pants pocket, then dip from his right a money stash the shape of a rolled-up pair of socks, a big roll of fives. He’ll slip off a fiver and hold that out to the charity One-Buck Chuck. Now what? Catch Chuck’s confusion on YouTube. For Chuck has come unstuck, bedazzled, strange, wuz up? A frozen instant. He offered a One and in return came a Five. Several such exchanges transpire, kensho’s, mini-Satoris, for a certain sort of teaching is going on. The Buddha Shirt Man speaks not a word. His benefactors go: “Huh? Wha’? I thought…Whoa!…You sure? Weird.”

Giving is good. Pass it on.

Barry Spacks has taught writing and literature for many years at M.I.T. and UCSB. He’s published individual poems widely, plus stories, two novels, eleven poetry collections, and three CDs of selected work. His first novel The Sophomore has recently been brought back into print in the Faber & Faber Finds series. He’s always been drawn to small presses and magazines but can’t remember anything as well-titled as Cease, Cows since his own invention of the journal The Flying Elephant. In winter quarter 2014 he’ll be teaching, among other things, Flash Fiction again at UCSB’s College of Creative Studies. He’s a long time student of Tibetan Buddhism, Nyingmapa school.

Lead image: “had to get a picture of a living London landmark” (via Flickr user M. Jeremy Goldman)