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There was a man laying on a busy sidewalk.


A man, with torn clothing and a beer can in his hand.


Many passed by this man, but offered him no help.


Nobody would touch him, and his only comfort was the concrete and a sign of a cross made by someone passing through across their chest as they quickly went on their way.


For thirty minuets this man laid face down on the side walk, his beer can spilling into the sewage nearby.


The sidewalk began to clear. Time passed, and no one walked by. After an hour, there was a tick step step, tick step step sounding from around the corner. Somebody was coming.



It was one of the city’s homeless inhabitants, Anna Goodman.


Her back was bent, and she carried a cane.


Tick step step, tick step step, tick step--


Anna stopped in front of the man. The sidewalk was filled with walkers now. It was five o’clock on a week day, and people were rushing by, busily getting to wherever they needed to go.


Anna looked down at the sprawled creature, making out the unconscious man laying near face down on the pavement, his now empty beer can still grasped in his hand. She was able to see that his clothes were torn and dirty. Anna looked around at the abundance of people hustling around her, trying not to notice her or the man.


She remembered her first night on the street, cold, hungry, shoved in a dark, dank corner across from the local laundry mat. For days she listened to the sound of people passing by and her growling stomach.


Someone had helped her, someone had gotten her to her feet, given her clean clothes, which she still had in a bag held in her hand, given her money and food and had gotten her a job at the laundry mat across the street.


But no one was helping this man.



She looked around once more, but no one met her eyes. She looked at the man and gently nudged him with her cane.


He didn’t move.


She slowly lowered to herself to her knees and gently, but firmly, shook the man’s shoulders. Still he did not wake. Pursing her lips in effort, she turned him over, so that he was no longer face down on the hard concrete. She pulled her spare shirt out of her bag and folded it carefully, then lifted the man’s head and placed it under him, so his head would no longer lay on the hard concrete.


Anna sat next to him for a minute, waiting for strength to come back to her knees, unsure of what to do next.


A little girl with her mother passed by Anna and the man. The little girl had seen Anna before, and recognized her as the woman who sat outside of the local laundry mat. Her bus passed by her every day.


“Look mom!” She tugged at her mother’s coat sleeve, but her mother was more interested in her sleek BlackBerry than her daughter’s call. “What honey?” She muttered absent-mindedly without glancing from the screen. “Mom,” the girl said firmly, “that man looks no good.” She pointed to Anna and the unconscious man on the edge of the sidewalk. Her mother glanced up quickly, seeing Anna and her haggard face, sitting with an unconscious man who held a beer can in his hand. With a mother’s anxious grace, she swiftly placed her hand firmly on the back of her young daughter and hurried her along, away from the dangerous homeless.


Anna watched them pass, and tried to smile at the little girl, but her mother had told her not to look at them and hurried her along. Anna’s smile lingered for the wall they had walked passed. It quickly died and Anna turned back to look at the man. His eyes were still closed. She had noticed the girl’s mother’s gaze fall on the can he was holding. She snatched it up, slowly stood and painfully hobbled over to the near by trash can. She threw it in.


She walked back to the man but did not sit down again. Instead, she looked in the eye of every passer by and asked for help for the man.


“Can someone help me? Can someone...you sir, I am not strong enough to lift him. Someone please help this man.” She watched all pass quickly by her without saying a word, many without even looking at her. “He is hurt.” Still no one stopped. She moved forward so she was on the main part of the sidewalk. “He is unconscious. He needs a doctor.” Someone bumped her as they quickly walked by. She struggled to hold back angry tears for the busy and cruel people of her time.


“Won’t someone help this man?”


She turned back to the man and poked him with her cane again. When nothing happened she did it again and said to him, “Wake up. Get up Billy.”


Silence.


“Billy, open your eyes Billy.”


Still nothing.


Dark was approaching, and though she was not afraid for herself, for she had stayed here before, she was worried for the man. What if he was in a coma? What if he never woke up? He could be dead by morning. And what then? She couldn’t just leave a dead body on the sidewalk.


He could be dead already.


She bent down again and placed her thumb firmly on his wrist. His pulse was strong. She let out a sigh of relief. Then she remembered, she had a full water bottle in her bag. She pulled it out and unscrewed the lid. Muttering a quick prayer for it to work and wake him, she poured it out onto the man’s face.


He awoke suddenly, sitting up quickly, then yelling in pain. The water bottle dropped from Anna’s hand and she quickly picked it up before all the water spilled out. She screwed on the lid and met the eyes of the man.


He stared at her in shock.


“Never seen a homeless woman before?” Anna said as she stuffed the bottle back into her bag, sitting gently back next to the man. He didn’t answer, but looked around. Seeing no one on the sidewalk, he put his hand on his back and winced in pain. “I guess you fell hard.” She said. The man rubbed his back. “I guess I did.... How long have I been laying here?”


“A couple hor’s.”


“And you’ve been here the whole time?”


“I don’t know how long you we’r out before I found you, but I’ve been here since I did.”


“Why you?” He looked at her hard, though his eyes were soft.


“Cause, no one else would.”


He smiled. “It was the beer can.”


Anna shook her head. “It ‘uz thur hearts.”


“I’m an alcoholic.” The man told her.


“And I’m homeless. We all got flaws.”


“Being homeless isn’t a flaw, it’s just bad luck.”


“It ain’t got nothin’ to do wit luck.”


“Everything has to do with luck.”


“No.” Anna said firmly. “It ain’t a flaw or be unlucky that I’m homeless. I’z a destiny.”


“No offense,” he half grunted, still rubbing his neck, “but I wouldn’t want my destiny to be homeless.”


She shrugged. “It ain’t for everyone. I’m use to a simple lifestyle.” When the man didn’t seem to be listening, she grabbed his shoulders and faced him. “See here Billy, I work you know. I got a job. Someone helped me and though my job pays ‘nough for a warm room, I be more comfortable right here in the city streets. But see if I’d had spend that money on a room, I would have been up there stead of walking down this sidewalk where you were hurt. It ain’t luck.” She let go and began to stand up. The man watched her in silence, then asked,


“Why did you call me Billy?”


Anna struggled to straighten, when she did she replied, “That’s your name ain’t it?”


The man considered this for a moment. “Yes, I suppose it is.”


“Own it. If I’ve learned anything in my years it’s that you only got one name, and that you should never forget it or change it, cause it’s yours and you own it rightfully as does the next man his name.” Anna nodded in agreement with herself and began her walk in the opposite direction to find shelter for the night. She didn’t look behind her because she knew the man was okay, he had a strength in his eyes, the same that was in her cast and grey eyes. She moved slowly down the sidewalk.


The man sat, stuck by the woman’s earnest and profound words. Before she was too far away, he called out to her, “What’s your name?”


Anna turned to face him, still sitting on the ground. “Anna Goodman.”


“That’s a good name.” He said.


“Yes, it’s mine.”


And with that, she turned again, and walked away.

~~


After the bent over woman was out of sight, the man sat on the edge of the sidewalk and thought. He thought about buying another beer. But he had no money. He thought about stealing the money, since he had none. But the memory of the woman’s stern grey eyes held in his mind until his conscious convinced him that stealing was not the right thing to do. He had no food, and he was hungry. He had nothing to quench his hunger, or thirst. His stomach was full, but yet he hungered.


He thought about sitting on the edge of the sidewalk for the rest of his life.


When the moon was full in the darkened night sky, just above his head, the man made his decision. He collected himself, and gathered enough strength to stand. He wobbled over to the opposite wall and leaned against it, waiting until he could feel the blood in them again. He started walking in the opposite direction the woman had.


He was going home.


After he had rung the door bell, the man felt a twang of guilt and fear. Who was he to come back here after all he had done to leave and rid himself of the last family member he had? Would he even be welcomed after the grief and hardship he had caused? He thought about walking away, but it was too late, the door opened.


“John?”


Her old but sweet voice filled his ears and his heart leaped in hope of acceptance. He looked into the woman’s eyes; so grey, so wise, so kind. How could he have not seen that before?


“Grandmother....” He searched for the right words to say how sorry he was. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry that I....”


“John.” She was firm now. Her body stood in the narrow doorframe, and he could just see inside. He glimpsed the familiar pink flowered wallpaper that he had always disliked, but now he had never seen anything appear so inviting. He looked into the eyes of the only woman he loved and wished with all of his soul that he could go back and change everything he had done to hurt this sweet woman. He looked in her eyes and feared that he would find rejection.


Her eyes were the same as they had always been; loving and kind, always smiling. He saw a plead in her eyes. In her own way, was she begging him to come back? Could she not remember what he had done? Could she really willingly open her doors to a man who had not only used her but threw away her love like an oily rag? But the door opened wide, and tears came to her eyes.


“Come inside John. Come inside and let me serve you dinner.”


As the man stepped inside carefully, he looked at the old woman, happiness and joy in her eyes. The same filled his heart. But he stopped, between the threshold of his home and the street, one foot on each side.


“What is it John?” The old woman asked him, a worried looked creased her already winkled forehead.


“It’s....it’s Billy.” He said shyly, remembering what the woman on the street had told him.


The old woman smiled. “Then Billy it is.”


And he entered home.



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LaurenE. said...
Oct. 23, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Hello, this is the author commenting. If you are going to give my work a low scoring, tell me why you think that. It helps me become a better write, and it helps you become a more thorough critic. 

Thank you. 

 
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