Tag Archives: homeless

The Great Metaphor

“The world is as big or small as you want,” made for a quaint phrase often uttered by Herbert during his residency at the shelter. This motto now found itself meticulously etched underneath the lid of a Swiss pocket watch. Wesley rubbed his finger over the etching like one would place a reassuring hand on the shoulder. The ecstasy of gold could never match the tactile pleasure of the watch itself. His timepiece became a worry stone, as it was placed between the forefinger and thumb. A jewel set in the center of the cap deviated the arc of his finger. There was reason to fidget.

Wes sat in the corner of a city mission waiting for another to arrive. He requested to see a homeless man named Willie, but it was nearly impossible to tell if that was his real name. Sometimes the indigent would never give anything but a pseudonym. The gift Wes had would circumvent that problem though. It was a perk.

The lunch shift was wrapped up and he sat fussing over his tethered bauble while twisting his cup of cheap coffee. He wondered what his life would be like, if he’d never spoke to that fortune teller. Would he still have the gift, and not understand it? Maybe. All he knew was his path in life, a servant in a not-for-profit organization. He also knew he needed a new polo, as he felt the tragic start of a hole in the armpit of the shirt. No amount of mending instruction could save him.

“You’re brave waiving that watch around, son.” A husky voice broke Wesley’s concentration. It may have even produced a startled jump. It was him, though, the one that calls himself “Willie.”

“What? Oh, yes. Well, it’s bound to me in more ways than one. I’m not worried about it being stolen. You’re Willie, right?” Wes turned his head to the side to greet the voice, as if trying to be casual about the impending conversation. He figured his neuroses would never let him though.

“Maybe. Who wants to know?” Suspicion wasn’t anything new, especially if they were running away from their past, but this was only a matter of formality. A sagging, tired, black man immediately brightened from ethereal illumination. As he sat down, spirals of neon yellow and white encased the man and the seat he was on. He was definitely in the lunch line today.

“My name is Wesley. I’m the line cook for the mission here. There’s a story I need to tell you. It’s going to sound crazy but you need to here it.”

“I’ve got nowhere to be,” Willie laughed, “might as well stay out of the cold for a few minutes.”

“OK, good. So… twenty years ago, when I was in college, I went out on the strangest night I’ve ever had. A group from our fraternity got drunk and decided to visit a psychic on a whim. The college was in a small town, and that was the best we could do without getting arrested.” That got a laugh out of them both. Wes continued, “when it came to my turn, the lady got real quiet. After the most awkward pause, she asked me what I wanted out of life. Being the young and hopeful boy I was, I wanted to be rich. Her response was I would get what I want, but not what I expect. It didn’t occur to me what she meant, until many years later.”

“That’s good for you Buddy, but why are you telling me this?” Willie was losing interest quickly.

“A few years after that, I started volunteering in a shelter near Toledo, Ohio. It made my resume look good, and I did feel better for helping out. However, something inexplicable happened on a freezing Winter’s night in late December. My sight was blinded by flashes of light. Where they came from, I don’t know. What I saw was one of our regulars by the name of Herbert wrapped up in these fingers of energy for a few minutes and then it vanished. I asked if anyone saw it, and of course they thought I was making it all up. No more than a few days later, a letter finds its way to the shelter in a desperate attempt to find him.” Wes paused, almost dramatically in this stage of the game, to wet his throat. “It was an estate trustee searching for a man named Herbert Silvers, the last known living heir to a closet organizer fortune. He became an instant millionaire, and I never saw him again.”

“Wouldn’t that be nice?” Willie was thinking of the crates full of booze he’d purchase alone.

“Throughout the years, I’ve noticed this phenomena with other homeless people. It has never failed that they run into large sums of money shortly thereafter. I have good enough reason to believe you’re next, only there’s a catch. I usually find out through the grapevine they’ve died about ten to fifteen years after they strike it rich.” This statement was never comfortable to Wes, because he always worried the visions would be wrong. They weren’t though. Over eighteen years, he batted 1,000. “I make it a point now to warn others about their future. It’s quite a shock to them.”

“So, yer tellin’ me I got ’bout ten years to live, but I’ll be filthy rich the whole time?” The bum gave a dead look to his informant and continued with, “that’s fine by me. I’m 59, kid. What’s my life worth to me now?” Willie shot a side glance at the modest man across from him. “What do you want out of this?”

Wesley sat back with his Styrofoam cup. These sentiments were fairly common, but still irksome. It’s easy to understand it sounds a little fantastic, but what could he possibly gain from lying to any of them? They had nothing right now, and would frequently forget who tipped them off in the future. “In return, I only ask that you not speak about me or this meeting to anyone. I’m deathly afraid I will be hounded for the rest of my life, and just want privacy more than anything. Whenever people get too suspicious, I move to another city and get a fresh start. I’m a little tired of starting over again, to tell you the truth.”

“Well… OK… I guess. Nobody does nothin’ for free. If what you say is true, then I don’t won’t you hangin’ around trying to steal it. You hear?” This was also common, but Wes knew what he was doing. “You won’t see me again, Willie. Just don’t mention me to anyone.” The past has been known to repeat itself.

“Alright… well, I’m out of here. It’s nice talkin’ to ya, pal. I’ll be thinkin’ of that money, when I’m sleepin’ in my box.” Willie was skeptical, and understandably so. What line cook corners you in a mission and gives you a fortune like this? “It must be a full moon, or somethin’,” he thought as he walked over the threshold of the main entrance and straight to the garbage cans.

Later in the week, the local newspaper broke a story of a homeless man who was the sole winner of the Powerball jackpot. A careless lotto player threw away his ticket when he misread the numbers. Willie had snapped up the discarded slip of paper on a whim and shoved it in the face of some convenience store clerk. The rest is history.

“I’m not sure I ever get used to the attitude, Herbert.” Wesley conceded to the watch, “but I know it’s going to happen one way or another.” That small diamond on the watch lid was synthesized, but still very precious. More accurately, it was the remains of Herbert courtesy of LifeGem. He had entered in an agreement with the company to be made into a gemstone after his death and placed upon the watch. Wes was contacted out of the blue by Herbert’s estate after his death, and an oddly cheerful lawyer explained that Herbert demanded the bequeathment be put into the will after a meeting with a psychic.

It meant the world to Wesley.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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My City by the Bay (Chapter 3, Part 1 of 4)

Salvatore Miguel Castro

…or “that damned street rat” to most people who worked in Old Town. Son of a Hammy Park resident and a Columbian gentleman on a “business trip,” the street was his way of life. It had been a while since Sig thought about the first time he met Sal. How long ago was it? Six years… six years ago last August. Sig was buying lunch from a hot dog vendor during an extortion ring investigation. Old Town reeked during the summer months. Years of garbage and neglect had taken its toll on the ghetto. Sig was sure that didn’t help the level of misery pervasive on the street. They were both about as sour.

Hot dogs weren’t the most nutritious thing out there, but the cart was right around the corner from Ferris Mosley’s pawn shop. This was a couple of years before he was slated to work with Benelli. She would have never touched the stuff. That’s probably why she was able to keep fit all this time, and the MMA training didn’t hurt either. The Thomas brothers were fronting a basic protection money scheme with the local shops. They ended up getting tried and convicted under RICO, because of a few soldiers that couldn’t handle the pressure and took plea bargains. A chain’s only as strong as its weakest link.

On this particular day, Sig was fishing for his wallet and the vendor was placing the mustard back in its holder on the cart. The vendor thought his customer had taken his food, and was about to pay for it. When Sig looked up from his wallet, the bare hand was out for his money.

“So, where is it?” Sig looked blankly at the vendor’s palm.

“I gave it to you, son.” The vendor said flatly.

“Does it look like I have it?”

“It’s not like I’m giving you ‘five,’ pal. There was a dog in my hand a second ago. ”

“I don’t have it!” Sig said getting a little heated. He gestured with open hands to show there was no sketchy beef products being concealed on his person. He even went so far as to hop around on one foot, in a circle, as to prove the beef frank wasn’t artfully wedged in a pocket. Immediately after this spectacle, Sig looked around the street for answers. If it weren’t for a small hood walking away from the scene of the crime bobbing up and down, he would have been stumped.

Sig gave the hot dog jockey a couple of bucks and slowly pursued the hooded bandit. Within no time did the figure disappear into an alley. Sig casually passed the entrance and slid down the next alley over. Doubling back, he peered into the alley to see a worn pair of tennis shoes sticking out from the side of a dumpster. Crouching like a tiger in tall grass, Sig sidestepped to make sure any echoes couldn’t be detected by the little frankenthief.

“You know, kid, I could have sprung for another if you would’ve asked.” Sig’s head was the only thing visible from the dumpster.

Startled, the young urchin tried scurrying away with much rustling of plastic and paper.

“Oh, no you don’t.” Sig’s arm was now a grappling hook. “I’m not going to hurt you, or take you in, or anything like that. I just want to talk.” His eyes looked upon the boy with stern, yet surprisingly earnest quality.

“Don’t matter. They’ll just turn me loose. I ain’t worth their time. Ain’t worth anyone’s time.” The kid’s mustard smear bobbed sprightly up and down on his cheek.

“Well, you’re buying mine right now. What’s your name?”

“What’s it matter to you?” The kid was putting on the tough façade.

“More than that hot dog you just swiped, obviously. I know everyone in this town, but I don’t know you. What’s your name?” Playing it cool and logical was the only way Sig thought it could work.

“Dee Snuts!” Why do children have to be so difficult?

“That’s too bad, because I was going to get a can of Coke and chips for you. Since you seem be uninterested, I guess I’ll be going.” Sig released the kid from his hold and started to walk down the alley. It was kind of a long shot, but there wasn’t much left he could play.


“Eh?” Sig turned around with an eyebrow cocked. That gamble paid off better than expected. Not only did he get a name, but he also got the kid to drop his defensiveness.

“My name is Sal.” The kid returned.

“OK, Sal, the vendor’s down that way. I hope you like Lay’s, because that’s all they’ve got.”

That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Sal would deliver the word on the street, and in return, Sig would bring a sack lunch. The kid never ate better. Sig was surprised to hear he was 13 years old, but not that he was a denizen of Hamilton Park. His mother was usually strung out and inactive, unless she was looking. She got by with using her womanhood and sticky fingers. He supposed that’s where Sal learned to lift things.

“Yeah, Sal, you sure were something else.” Sig was marveling at an empty shot glass. Ginny the proprietrix of Monk’s Piano Bar and Lounge wiped up the bar top with her rag in anxious circles. He had been in there enough times for her to know when he’s teetering on the edge of mayhem. Shots were never good omens around him, and could herald the coming of things broken. Often times he was fine. He tipped extremely well, was great conversation, and even got her car out of hock when the parking tickets finally caught up with her. Once in a blue moon, though, he was trouble with a capital T.

“Ginny, bring me the ‘Turkey’.” Sig sucked air through puckered lips.

“Oh, no you don’t!” Ginny remember the last time she did that.


“The last time I gave you Wild Turkey, I had a three busted bar stools and a broken jukebox!” Ginny was bound and determined not to let him do anything like that again.

“I can’t help it your patrons like terrible music.” With his face all wrinkled up, he bobbled a bit on the stool.

“No, and that’s final! I have the right to refuse service to anyone, including you.”

With a harrumph, Sig popped off the stool and headed to the piano. Many of the patrons sunk in their seat, as no good could come from a drunken man tickling the ivories. As fortune would have it, they were wrong.  Lightly rubbing his fingers, Sig took himself back to Ms. Monroe’s afterschool piano lessons. She was a spinster, but smart and sharp even at 85. She smarted his knuckles with a ruler, if the notes weren’t supposed to be anything else. Stiff taps on the keys introduced a timeless classic. Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” chimed out of the Steinway and into the audience where a stunned, yet appreciative, crowd sipped their cocktails.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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