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The Quarter Man
Lea came over on a Sunday evening, when the weather was cool and breezy. Perfect weather for sneakers, leggings, and an oversized sweatshirt. And to me, oversized sweatshirt weather is the best kind of weather! I met her at the subway and on the way home we passed the playground, the deli, a few restaurants, and the homeless man on Bay St. I couldn’t wait to crash on the couch and tell her about school; she goes to Clinton, so we don’t get much time together. Unfortunately the second we walked through the door, my mom sent us to buy bread.
“Are you kidding me mom? Can’t we relax for one minute?”
“You’re already up, you lazy girl! Go buy them or we can’t make dinner.”
“Fine, but I’m buying ice cream as well.”
I shut the door before she could protest, dragging Lea to the grocery store with me on this breezy day. We were at the wrong time, wrong place; when my mom needed little child slaves to go do her errands. After a long walk of complaining and dreaming about ice cream, we finally reached our goal and came out triumphant with a baguette, but most importantly Ben & Jerry’s. I fumbled with the change, and being the clutz that I am, dropping a few quarters and singles. My mistake. I caught his eye. The homeless man that roamed on that street walked up to us.
“Excuse me miss, can you spare a quarter?”
How could you refuse a homeless man some change? Without any hesitation, we gave him a dollar and went on our way.
“Hey, that wasn’t too bad; now we can go home and watch Netflix!”
“While eating avocado toast,” joked Lea.
“And Ben & Jerry’s!” I added, nudging her arm.
“Wait, Rose, do you see that?
Lea gestured back and we both turned around slightly to see the homeless man from earlier rounding the corner to the street we were on.
“That same man is behind us, is he just taking his usual route?”
“Mmm, actually, I’m not so sure. He usually stays on Bay St.” I said, glancing from Lea back to the man.
Being more cautious than afraid, we speed walked to the next street and looked back.
“There, see?” I said, gesturing back. “He’s not even there.”
Until he was. He rounded the corner again! We looked at each other, unsure about what to do.
“Is it rude if we run?’ I ask.
“Less rude than if he robs or kills us…” said Lea.
“Don’t exaggerate, I’ve seen him around. He’s completely harmless!”
“Hey ladies, can you spare another quarter?” He says, speeding up.
We speed walk faster, pretending to not have heard him.
“We already gave him a quarter!” I said, distressed.
“We gave him a dollar, actually, but why does he want more?”
“I’m sorry sir,” I yell back behind me, “we have no more, we have to go!”
“You still have money!” He yells. I mean he wasn’t wrong. I still had a ten, but it was messed up to stalk kids back to their homes. At that point, we sprint to my house and I fumble with the keys just as we arrive at the door.
“For some reason, you choose the worst moments to be clumsy! Give me the keys!” Lea scoffs.
I toss her the keys and we make it in and shut the door just as he arrives at our doorstep. Before saying anything, we run up the stairs to my floor and crash on the couch, panting as well as laughing. Oh, we must have looked like a hot mess to my mom.
“What’s wrong with you guys?” Mom said, eyeing us suspiciously.
“I’ll tell you over avocado toast,” I said.
“Okay, so get me that bread!”
I go to grab the bag I dropped on the way in and find a tub of ice cream and empty bag. I search it some more; nothing.
“Uhmm… give me a minute?”
Lea and I run to the window and find the homeless man picking up the crucial ingredient and heading off. We look at each other and groan, head in our hands. We dropped it! We dropped the bread!
“Oh my god, we’re such idiots.”
“Mom…” I start, trying to hold in my laughter.
“I think the homeless man will enjoy our baguette.” Finished Lea.
And so we had Ben & Jerry’s for dinner. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with that.