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"The Man on 5th"
The man would just sit there, every day. He was so strange, so frightening. I was nine-and-a-half years old, and this old creep would lurk around on 5th Avenue every morning and every night. It was wintertime here in Boston, and the school year was approaching real quick. Before I knew it, my mom was packing me lunch and zipping up my jacket.
I walked to school, unlike most kids who took the bus. Early on I saw the old man, standing still as the wind picked up. I kept walking, closer to the man with each step, and with each step I took, the wind picked up. This guy was scary - torn black sweater, old, torn slacks, a rugged beard, and a dirty face. Then, I got real close, and suddenly, I changed – I still looked the same, but I sure was changed emotionally. He wasn’t that weird guy anymore – at least to me he wasn’t; I felt sorry for him, like he was lonely and sad. I figured I should say something to him. Wait, but mom told me to never talk to strangers – then again, he wasn’t a real stranger, because I did see him every day. I got closer and said,
“Hey Mister. My name is Jack. You look sad and stuff… is anything wrong?”
He looked at me with a creepy look – one eye open, and the other half shut – and again I grew scared. I could’ve walked away – no, ran away – but I didn’t; something inside me, I don’t know what, told me to stay. I smiled uneasily. He finally spoke up.
“Son, you don’t need to be wastin’ your time with me. Go get yourself some learnin’ in the school.”
Being only nine-and-a-half, I blindly obeyed, but I couldn’t stop thinking about him. That was the first time I ever spoke with him – the first time I felt sorry for him. Poor old guy – he was probably cold and afraid. I promised myself that I would visit him after school.
The shiny bell rang, and I rushed out, hoping to find the old guy sitting on 5th Avenue. I finally arrived, huffing and puffing from the run, but found no man. The wind had died down. I walked home to two screaming parents.
“We saw you Jack! Talking with that crazy old man on 5th! What did we teach you about strangers?” said mom.
“Jacky, this is for your own safety. That man is nuts – koo-koo in the head.” Dad said.
“But how do you know that?! You can’t just say things like that!” I exclaimed.
“Son, he is an old guy with torn clothes and neglected hair - I don’t want you going anywhere near him. Tomorrow, we are driving you to school.” said dad.
Next morning I had my breakfast and got in the car. I stared out the window the whole ride to school, longing to see the mysterious old man on 5th. No sign of him – I was looking out the whole time, and no old guy was to be found. My parents dropped me off, gave me hug and kiss, and drove off. Suddenly, I saw him, leaning against the sidewall of the school.
I got excited and walked towards him, but the security guards beat me to it, and took him off campus.
“Shoot! There’s got to be a way to get to him!”
I saw him being dragged away like an object. I ran as fast as I could to catch up to the guards, and once there, I began screaming,
“Leave the poor guy alone! What did he ever do to you, or to anyone?”
I had never really stood up to an adult before, and it felt kinda good. But still, no matter how good that felt, I still didn’t get to meet the man.
I walked home. I passed by tons of trees with those spiky leaves, all covered in snow. The ground was also covered. I passed by a bunch of benches, a couple of newspaper stands, and that old run-down burger place. It started to get windy – much windier than usual. I began walking faster, the red scarf blowing into my face. Then it began to rain, then to hail, and then lightning struck. I thought bad weather only comes when you’re inside your home, with mom and dad sitting next to you on the bed.
I had to take refuge somewhere. I was scared out of my mind. There was this heavy storm outside, and there was still a good mile or so back home. I figured that burger place would be a good hiding spot. But wait, mom and dad will be worried sick. I quickly got out of the burger joint and began sprinting like never before, back towards home. The rain was blinding, the hail was piercing, and the lightning made me think of scary fire. I slipped and everything went black.
My eyes slowly opened, until I asked a question addressed to no one in particular.
“Where am I?”
All of a sudden, a familiar figure came up to me.
“Hey, kid. Looks like you fell pretty hard there. You best not be runnin’ in the pouring rain,” said the old man.
“Hey Mister. Umm –“
“The name’s Ace.”
“Haha, that’s a silly sounding name. Ace. Wait, I can’t talk to you. You’re wearing a torn shirt, and torn pants, and neglected hair. My mom and dad said so.
“Okay kid. You and me we don’t have to talk. You just relax and drink up.”
“Thanks Mister – I mean… Ace. That’s real mean what those guards did to you.”
“Yeah, kid. No one really knows morals in this generation.”
I looked at my hands, and they were all bandaged up. My feet were, too.
“What are these bandages for?”
“I told you, kid. You fell.”
“Oh. Thanks Ace.”
I had no idea how long it had been since I fell on my way home. Suddenly, I saw flashlight beams moving swiftly along the street. Then I heard dogs barking and sniffing around. After about five minutes, a bunch of guys in uniforms barged through the door and began screaming.
“Step away from the kid! I said step away from the kid!”
More people began rushing in, with guns drawn. Ace looked frightened, and obeyed. The officer motioned something, and mom and dad came rushing in. They embraced me in their arms, and gave a sharp look at the old man.
“What did you do to my baby? Answer me!” said mom.
Ace was still frightened, but found it in him to speak.
“I didn’t lay but one finger on the boy, only to give him bandages and water.”
“Let’s go, Jack.” Mom said with a stern voice.
My mom carried me, marching in anger out of that place. I looked back at Ace, who was still sitting there. The guards were asking him all these questions, and he looked frightened. The sky was dark, and the wind had died down. Mom, dad, and I walked back home, and I knew what was coming once we got home.
“Jack. We need to talk. Now!” said Mom.
“How many times do we have to tell you something until you actually get it? Are you a stupid little boy?” said Dad.
“You think I’m stupid, but I am really smart. And same goes for the old man on fifth!” I said.
“Son, don’t you ever talk to that man again, otherwise there will be severe consequences. Understood?”
“Understood” I said, as I looked down at the floor.