Homeless This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

August 2, 2012
The man’s expression was as icy and bitter as the air itself, as though the stormy sky was reflecting his dark mood. As he leaned against the cold, unforgiving brick wall, he attempted once more to warm his hands in the pockets of his windbreaker, yielding no luck. With one of his slipper-clad feet, he adjusted the battered cardboard sign propped up against his knees. In a slanted scrawl, the sign read: Homeless and hungry, your kindness is much appreciated. The man had yet to appreciate much in the way of kindness, however, for the paper McDonald’s cup in front of him had remained mostly empty for the past....he didn’t know how long. Weeks, probably, maybe even a month. Then again, New Yorkers aren’t exactly known for their charm and generosity. He should know. How many times, back then, had he strolled by similar beggars without a second glance? Now look where he was. Screw you, karma, he thought, and even though no one heard or cared, it felt good to say.

Kloonk. For what had to be the twentieth time that morning, the man shot forward to retrieve the paper cup as it rolled away, kicked astray by another careless pedestrian. To express his feelings, he returned the next snide glance he received with a glare of his own, then instantly regained his composure (or what was left of it, anyway). He needed to seem helpless, not resentful. And really, in his situation, looking helpless was no challenge.

With a sudden rush of warm air, the door of the Starbucks next to the man burst open. The man glanced up to see Ronnie, a teenage employee whom he’d gotten to know, standing over him with sympathy etched into the creases in his forehead. “Are you sure you don’t want to come in, sir?” he asked, sounding slightly hesitant. Although he proposed the same offer almost every day, he still fiddled nervously with the strings of his ill-fitting green apron as he asked it.

The man shook his head and stared back out at the street. After asking once more and receiving another stubborn shake of the man’s head, Ronnie gave up and went inside, the slight heat vanishing along with him as the door swung shut.

Even though the man’s toes were numb and the frigid wind was biting at his cheeks, he didn’t regret his decision to stay where he was. In a few hours, Mike from the McDonald’s down the block would walk over and deliver what food he could spare from the day. The man would rather be out on the street eating a cold Big Mac than sitting uncomfortably in the corner of a Starbucks, attracting enough stares to make him wish he had never left the cold. He hated the Starbucks customers, with their cozy looking sweaters and the stuck-up way they ordered their decaf, double-foam, caramel whateveraccinos.

They made him feel like more of a nothing than he already was.

A sudden noise jolted the man from his thoughts and he blinked in disbelief as he saw what had caused the sound. A woman was dropping a handful of change into his cup! This rare act of generosity caught him so much by surprise that he could barely choke out a “thank you” before she gave him a quick smile and continued on her way.

The man smiled, the muscles in his face breaking out of his usual frown. Of course, a few nickels and dimes wouldn’t buy him a home or get him a job, but the coins might motivate others to spare a few cents of their own. And small things added up, didn’t they? He could already feel hope bubbling up inside him as he reached for the cup–

Kloonk. Someone’s foot knocked the cup out of the man’s reach, his hands grasping at nothing as he watched the change spill off the sidewalk and onto the street, circling dangerously around a grate in the road.

And the man watched as the coins rolled one by one into the drain, his good spirits vanishing along with them.

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This article has 8 comments. Post your own now!

@nime.@ngel said...
Oct. 16, 2012 at 3:06 pm
i love this it's amazing how you write this as if you know how he feels, i dont really think of this as depressing though i think it's real and honest    
cmverrilli13 said...
Oct. 9, 2012 at 5:06 pm
That was really good! I actually read the whole thing. It's depressing though, but it was really good writting. 
Padfoot507 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 30, 2012 at 12:56 pm
This was so beauitfully written. It was fantastic how you were able to develop a charcter in so few words, as well as create an entire scene in just a few paragraphs. Wonderful job, this deserved the editor's choice it received! Great writing! :)
Allicat001 said...
Aug. 9, 2012 at 10:11 am
The ending was so depressing yet the writing was beautiful!  The imagery was incredible and the whole work was flawless.  Great job and Keep Writing!
monky99 said...
Aug. 7, 2012 at 4:29 pm
You have done well young grasshopper. Amazing *round of applause* 
Varlen-Byrd said...
Aug. 7, 2012 at 1:38 pm
Five stars! i love it
ebrady said...
Aug. 7, 2012 at 9:51 am
OH MY GOSH THAT WAS DEPRESSING. But it was well written with descriptions and such. MS. REGIS WOULD BE PROUD! Good job Coff :D
DanielM said...
Aug. 6, 2012 at 6:41 pm
Uh.......2 words. Amazing, Speechless. I really like the imagery you placed into this story. The first two sentence caught my attention. I really like the message that we should treat people with respect. Great job!!!!!
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