Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Handout (04/14/11)
TITLE: Not On The List
By Lisa Fowler
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I first saw him on top of the dumpster; sitting. Not standing, not walking, not foraging through it; just sitting. Every hair in place and dressed in a suit and tie, it struck me as strange. Should I say something to him? Should I alert someone? Call the police? He wasn’t doing anything. Why report it?
Mind your own business for once and just go inside the store. You don’t need to save the world today, I reminded myself. Just take care of - you. Rounding the corner to enter the store I looked away, pretending not to notice. Inside the store, thank goodness I had a list to keep me focused. Quickly, he was gone from memory.
Shopping list complete and cart well packed, I remembered something I needed; one of those last minute things - not on the list. I doubled back to the fresh vegetable isle. Was that the same guy I’d seen sitting on the dumpster? It looked like him. Same suit. Same hair. Same height? Maybe not. After all, the man I saw was sitting. I couldn’t really be sure how tall he was. Again, I looked away, but turning, I couldn’t help overhear the store clerk, clearly agitated, speaking sternly to the man in the suit.
“I told you yesterday, I don‘t need no trash carried out. Last thing we need ‘round here is a bunch of bums like you lookin’ for handouts. Anyway, like I told you - see the manager at the front of the store. Maybe he knows somewhere they got a job opening. Now, if you ain‘t buyin - git. I got work to do.”
I wheeled my cart behind the stacked potatoes. The man in the suit hung his head. I watched the clerk hurry off through the double doors in the corner of the vegetable section as though he had miles to go and mountains to do before closing. The suited man, hands tucked firmly into his pockets and chin to chest, cautiously raised one eye to see if anyone was watching. I looked away, but followed as he made his way towards the back of the store.
He went up one isle, then the next, and the next. He stopped and looked left, then right as cans disappeared - one by one - from the well stocked shelves. Pulling my business card from my wallet along with a large bill, and concealing it neatly within my hand, I decided to approach the man in the suit.
“Excuse me sir.” I reached to shake his hand.
With a deer in the headlight look on his face he hung his head. Soon realizing I wasn’t there to arrest him, he reluctantly reached to take my hand.
“I don’t mean to intrude and I would never embarrass you intentionally, but I feel compelled to try to help. If you will come to the address on the card sometime this week, I think I can help with that job. God bless you.”
I smiled as I withdrew my hand, now absent the bill and card. His mouth fell open as he looked in his hand. I turned to go about my way. I did not see him again; until I exited the store.
Instinctively I glanced towards the dumpster. This time, mine was the deer in the headlight look. The man in the suit was indeed, back on top of the dumpster; sitting. He was accompanied by a lady and three small children. I climbed into my car, and watched as the man removed the cans - one at a time - from his beneath his coat. He opened the cans and began feeding the children and lady with him.
Funny, I thought as I drove away in the air conditioned comfort of my automobile: Not many folks ever really NEED a handout, but all of us, at some time or another, could sure use a hand - up.
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