My agent didn’t expect me to take his advice literally. But I did.
Retrieving the styrofoam cup from the metal enclosed trash can, I slung out the remaining coffee grounds. Positioned between newspaper racks, I extended the cup a foot away from my body.
Tucking my free hand into the goodwill jacket I had smeared with ketchup and ink, I tried to meet the eyes of those passing by.
“It’s flat, Jeff. Flat,” Dennis had said as he tossed my manuscript onto his desk. “You created this great character people can relate to, you build empathy and then poof. He dies on the streets alone one night. No epiphany, no hope, no point.”
“That is the point, Dennis,” I had gritted my teeth. “There’s no hope for a guy like that. How many homeless people die every year and no one even cares? My MC’s only hope is death.”
Dennis had sighed and rubbed his balding head. “Look, Jeff. You’re a fantastic writer. Still have lots of potential. But you gotta put feeling back into your novels. I know it’s been hard since your wife…..died.”
That’s when Dennis had stopped railing me and gave me the only advice I suppose he could.
“Hit the streets, Jeff. Find the inspiration that started you writing to begin with.”
Two quarters were dropped into my cup by a man who didn’t look at me.
I didn’t see the face of the woman who hissed, “Get a job.”
The cup crunched in my hand. That was all the inspiration I could stomach.
Shoving my way through the rushing crowd, I started through the deserted alley to my parked car. I almost made it.
A dark form charged me from the side, knocking me to the ground. I grabbed at the thrusting hand, feeling a solid edge brush my ribcage.
“Gimme the keys!” The words sprayed into my face.
“Hey!” The attacker was jerked away from me.
Struggling to my feet, I saw him fleeing the alley. I turned.
“Thanks. You just saved my life.”
The young man standing in front of me shook his head. “Eddy wasn’t going to hurt you. He just wanted to take your car for a joyride.”
“Hmph, I’d say jabbing a knife in my gut is a pretty good indication he wanted to do some serious damage.”
His chuckle annoyed me until the young man held out the knife. “Can’t do much with no blade. You want it?”
Teeth grinding, I said, “Yeah, to give to the police and put that kid behind bars.”
The young man’s countenance changed as he handed me the knife. “Do what you feel you gotta do.”
Turning, he scooped up a backpack and started walking.
“Wait a second!”
He paused and turned back. I studied his face, searching for a hard line, anger, something. Why did his face glow?
“What’s your name?”
“Where’d you come from?”
“I guess I could ask you the same. From the looks of your car, I know you’re not a bum. Why dress like one?”
“My question first.”
“Aren’t you just grateful I showed up when I did?”
I decided on a different approach. “You’re coming to the police station with me and tell them what happened.”
David took a step back but kept his smile. “There are a couple of reasons I can’t do that, but I tell you what. Go to the big red brick building at the south end of the street, they’ll help you. You’ll need this.” Unzipping his backpack, David retrieved a small paperback he handed to me.
Restraining myself, I watched the young man disappear as strangely as he’d come.
After driving to the building, I took the steps two at a time. Eyes sweeping the rows of pews I realized I was in a place I’d sworn never to set foot in again.
“Do you know David?” I asked the suit-clad man approaching me.
“Yes I do; he’s a fine young man.”
“Where does he live?”
The pastor motioned to the front door. “Wherever he can. He’s a street kid.”
Sinking into a pew, I opened the small paperback, and read the first words, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
His only hope is death.
Two hours later, I called my agent. “Hey Dennis. We need to talk.”
*Scripture Reference: John 3:16 NKJV
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