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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Discern (08/12/10)

TITLE: The Panhandler
By Martha Granderson


A slight drizzle was falling as Jim hurried down the street next to the wharf, pulling his ball cap low over his face and hunching his shoulders to ward off the drops. He had worked late and was tired. In this area of downtown Seattle there were usually a fair number of people walking along the harbor and watching the sunset; but now, in the rain, only a few scattered people were out to look at the water. “Hey, spare some change?”

Jim turned to see a man on a bench next to him. He was young – probably in his teens – but prematurely aged. His face was thin and his cheek bones jutted out sharply. Dark strands of wet hair slicked down across his forehead and stood out starkly against his extremely pale face. His eyes were dark and menacing, gazing at Jim with a wild, hungry light. His clothes were dirty and ragged, hanging loosely on his bony frame.

Jim shook his head and hurried on. The teen stood up and stepped after him. “Come on, man. You can spare a little change for a hungry man.”

“No.” Jim said, speeding up.

The youth stepped in front of him, blocking his path. “Why not?” His voice was flat, hardly making a question.

Jim shrugged. “I don’t have to tell you.”

The teen stopped, “No. You don’t. But I know why not, and you’re wrong.”

Jim shrugged and pushed past him to continue on his way. Behind him, the boy’s shoulders sagged dejectedly and he collapsed back on the bench.

Jim reached the corner and got on a warm, dry bus. He rode the bus to a warm, dry house. The boy remained on the corner, staring with angry eyes at the stream of cars going past, each with its wipers sliding back and forth, back and forth. At last he got up and sauntered away into the damp darkness.

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This article has been read 265 times
Member Comments
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Alexia Oosthuizen08/19/10
Nice piece! Really sad, too. On a lighter note, you taught me something; I'm South African, and had to look up the term "panhandler" :)
Joyce Morse08/20/10
I loved the vivid description of both the characters and setting. I would've liked for the story to have been a little longer and maybe a small change in the main character. I did appreciate the sadness of the ending.
Gina Fifo08/20/10
What you have is well-written, but I wanted a little more. Maybe an inkling of guilt from Jim as he got on the warm bus,or a hint of why the boy was out there and why it wasn't what Jim thought. Keep writing!
Mildred Sheldon08/20/10
A very vivid story and the pain of living on the streets. The feeling of rejection cuts deeply. I wanted more. Would have loved a happier ending but being a panhandler not always true.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/20/10
This had me sitting on the edge of my seat. You did a great job with your characters. I could easily picture them in my mind.I was longing to know more, what happened to the boy? How did he end up on the streets? But then again life doesn't always have a happy ending. We by now means get all of our questions answered in real life either. So for that I commend you for keeping it sad, but realistic.
Cheryl Harrison 08/23/10
Riveting. You had my attention, but I agree with the previous comment. I wanted more. :o)