Those of you who read My Safari Through The Asphalt Jungle might have noticed a particularly intriguing detail. A sentence of graffiti I discovered spray painted on a wall that read, “A lifetime of distorted judgements -Elbow Joe”. Of course this got me to wondering who this man might be. I think the beauty of imagination is that everyone has a different lens with which they view the world. Our life experience, our humor, our morality, our religious beliefs, any and all of these things effect how we interpret what goes on around us. It also effects what we create. That sentence and that name may get filtered into your synapses in a completely different way than my own, and I think that’s nifty. Below is a quick character study, my answer to the question: Who is Elbow Joe?
Elbow Joe’s foreshortened limbs hang crooked from his shoulders. Just weak little hands where the bend oughta be. No one knows why he was born without elbows, it just happened that way. In fevered dreams he sprouts wings that allow him to soar. If he had those who would give a crap about the rest of it? Once a week Elbow Joe gnaws on the marrow bones of bats, believing somehow it will change his lot in life. Bats are powerful creatures. They’re highly sensitive to their surroundings, keen observers of human nature. All those bullshit associations with Dracula have done them wrong. No, they are intuitive, able to see through the common man’s illusions. Bats should be praised not maligned. But they are misunderstood, just like Elbow Joe.
People turn away when they see him coming. A lifetime of distorted judgments. Doesn’t matter. Gives him a wide berth, so Elbow can observe all the little details folks try to hide. Like the balding salesman with freckles littering his flesh. See how his Adam’s apple bobs up and down any time the junior high girls pass? The salesman eats his ham and cheese on rye, wipes mayo from his chin and scratches his balls. His right hand settles in his crotch for just a moment too long. Yeah, that son of a bitch is just the kind of guy Elbow Joe hates.
People never look up as Elbow Joe shuffles awkwardly through the door, not the waitress snapping her gum, nor the dough-faced old guy dunking his teabag. The woman doesn’t look up either. Not because she’s the kind that turns away. No, he doesn’t believe it, not about her. Every Tuesday she sits in the window with her coffee mug. She tilts the cream in stirring with a small spoon. As soon as the metallic tip scraps the bottom of the cup, something cracks open inside her. He can see it in her eyes. A heart chilled from too much longing. As she waits for the sadness to pass, Elbow Joe half expects frosty breath to enter and exit her lips. What makes her numb? He almost asked once. But it wasn’t time just yet.
In a book Elbow Joe had read once it said Native Americans believed bats were powerful symbols of rebirth. Thousands of them stay hidden in the belly of mother earth emerging each night. A kind of regeneration. Yeah, it made sense.
The woman shudders, and asks the waitress for a refill. Elbow considers offering her his jacket, but remembers how peculiar it will look to see him slip his damn stiff sticks out from under it. Not today. But soon maybe, after a few more bats.
So what do you think? Does my interpretation resonate with you? Perhaps when you look through your own lens Elbow Joe is a whiskey-voiced blues singer who never made it big, or a professional bowler with an odd swing. Think about it, leave me a message and let me know. Who is Elbow Joe?
Postscript: I’ve read your wonderful comments. I’m flattered that you liked my character study. It seems in hindsight I should have left you with a new character and a new line instead of assuming you would want to rewrite Elbow Joe. So, if any of you happen by to read this post here it is: “Quit squirtin’ lemons in my eye. – Flappy Zooks” Who is Flappy Zooks?