The New Apartments! sign holder and the Kids Eat Free sign holder both showed up on the corner of Willow and East Fifth on Monday at 5:00 pm. Each sign holder felt a certain ownership of the corner. One had held a sign there for the past year, the other for fourteen months. However, neither had occupied the corner on the same day and time.

The prime spot was on the dirt patch next to the street sign. Low, prickly shrubbery occupied the rest of the corner. Standing back closer to the sidewalk made it difficult to be seen very well by all the passing cars on this busy, one-way street. Plus, there was always the danger of poking a pedestrian with a particularly emphatic sign swivel.

“I’ve been signing at this corner for a year and a half,” said the New Apartments! sign holder (rounding up from fourteen months) when the Kids Eat Free sign holder wouldn’t relinquish the dirt patch.

“Then those apartments aren’t really new anymore, are they?”

The New Apartments! sign holder could have argued the point that it was all relative, depending on the length of time a particular structure remained in existence, especially historic structures, though he would have had to concede that the apartments in question weren’t likely to last longer than a couple dozen years based on the deterioration that had already occurred. Instead, he said, “Kiss my ass,” and went back to the apartment building to turn the sign back in. With the winter coming on, he decided to look for a dishwashing job instead, so he could go back to working inside.

The Kids Eat Free sign holder had mixed feelings as he watched the New Apartments! sign holder leave. He’d won the battle. So what? For three years he’d thought about starting his own business. A hot dog cart, an espresso stand, office sandwich delivery, something like that. But he hadn’t done it. Now, for some reason, he felt as if it was now or never. He tucked the sign under his arm and ran after the New Apartments! guy.

Across the street, a man in a soiled jeans jacket watched the two sign holders talk animatedly, shake hands, and walk off together. “Idiots,” he said under his breath. He crossed the street and stood on the dirt patch next to the street sign. He held up a piece of jagged cardboard and flashed a grizzled smile at a driver. The driver rolled down his window and handed the man a dollar.

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