The Bum

May 6, 2008
By Bryce Pfalzgraf, Decatur, IL

Look at this bum sitting in front of me. A stained gray beard overruns his face and in between the forest of this wire pockmarked and pale skin shows through, smeared with dirt from sleeping on the streets. His lips are cracked from the cold dry winds that were blowing this time of year. The nose upon his face is hooked and broad with more of his trademark hair coming from his wide nostrils. His eyebrows, bushy and thick, are set hard upon his eyes as if they weigh too much. His forehead is squat and knitted with lines of old age and weariness. Atop his head sits an old black hat, frayed and discolored. It was probably found floating in some gutter after a dreary day. Following the old frizzled beard I see the rest of his apparel. Upon his torso rests a ratty t-shirt tainted with bloodstains and sweat spots. Flanking this poor excuse for a rag is a ripped raincoat with missing buttons. The once vibrant yellow of its original form has been forever altered and discolored to the hue of a dirty school bus. Coming out of the sleeves of that coat are a pair of hands covered in God knows what. His nails are grotesque, long chipped things like that of shattered glass. They sit limply on the ground, one clutching an old paper cup with only a few bits of change in it. Moving further down I come across his pants, if you could call them that. They are a pair of old Levis tattered and shredded to the point of just being able to cover his legs but would lack in terms of warmth. Supporting his pants is an old shoestring tied tight around his skeletal waist. The shoes he wears are not shoes at all. The soles were cut from a cardboard box and hold onto his feet by rough packing string. His toes stuck out of his sandals like worn soldiers, slouching after a long war. Some are broken and crooked while others were just discolored and dirty. He is leaning against a faded brick wall, surrounded by scattered newspapers and trashcans. The smell of wet garbage fills the air with its stench. Rainwater drips on his shoulder from a gutter above him but he doesn’t seem to notice. Moving back to his face I notice his eyes. They are the color of a gray sky when only drizzle is falling or in the middle of winter when no color shows. They are vacant and empty. They are not the eyes of a living being. He is no longer a man, but a body without a soul. And just then he gets up and leaves with the men carrying that big mirror and I’m alone again.

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