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"Preparation" - Your Story 56 Finalist

PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2014 4:22 pm
by TiffanyLuckey
Preparation

“If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.” The man with the scraggly gray and white beard talks to the mirror in the bathroom, trying to prepare for the day.

He tries not to focus on his appearance, with holes infecting the cotton of his discolored T-shirt, camouflage cargo pants and the layer of dirt on his skin that never goes away. His auto-mechanic like nails scratch his forehead and the pads of his fingers pat down the wisps of hair on the lower half of his head. He studies his long face, tanned and wrinkled from sleeping in the sun. He focuses on the crack in the mirror, making his beady eyes go further back into his head. His thin frame disappears into the mirror, morphing him into a shadow. He shakes the marbles in his pocket again, practicing what he is going to say.

His next line is, “If you can’t, you give me a dollar.” He gives the mirror a grin, hoping that will engage whomever he is talking to. Somebody bangs on the bathroom door, signaling it is time for him to get out. He smoothes the few hairs he has a second time and shuffles out the door to leave the shelter, hoping they will have a place for him tonight.

He walks out the shelter and looks for his shopping cart. It is no longer there, which doesn’t surprise him. He walks a few blocks and locates a new cart. He decides to start at the dumpster behind the Chinese buffet restaurant, adjacent to the corner he is standing on. They aren’t open for another few hours, so he will avoid being yelled at for going through the trash.

He finds a dozen soda cans and some dinner scraps from the previous night’s meals. He chokes down the greasy noodles to satisfy the protests from his empty stomach. He puts the cans in his cart and pushes on to the golden arches that represent the fast food place he frequents every morning. They give him a cup for water and he sits at the table underneath the flat screen television that is running the morning news. He picks up the newspaper that has been left there and reads his horoscope and then the funnies.

He doesn’t even notice when somebody places a small bag on his table and then leaves out the exit across from him. The smell pauses his reading, and he puts the paper down. He opens the bag to find a breakfast sandwich inside. He looks around but doesn’t see anybody, except for a couple with two small children and the crew behind the counter. Nobody is paying attention to him. He doesn’t like handouts, but he also doesn’t want to waste food. He opens the paper and takes small bites of the sandwich, hoping to keep his hunger satisfied until his next unknown meal.

The gentleman gives the workers a nod before he leaves, throwing his cup and wrapper in the trash. He leaves the table clean and the newspaper folded neatly, ready for its next patron.

He puts his hands on the familiar chill of the cart rail and moves on. His corner isn’t a busy one, but it has enough traffic that he can make some money and not be asked to leave. He puts the basket out of sight. He takes one can with him, removing the tab so people can drop their change.

It is now 8:30 a.m. and he readies himself for the day ahead of him. He smoothes his hair, trying not to think about how he smells. He tries out a few smiles, settling on one that he thinks is a winner. When he sees a man about his age approaching him, he makes eye contact.

The man surprises him and smiles back, giving him the courage to speak: “If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.”