One Day in an Alley

Stuart stumbled along in a nameless alley somewhere in America’s hinterlands while humming Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin.

As usual, he was as drunk as an English Lord. His dirty white t-shirt was partly covered by an unzippered green hoodie he found in a Salvation Army donor bin. An invisible cloud of cheap whiskey and beer clung to him as he staggered along on the uneven cobblestones. They were still slick from the rain that afternoon, and it took all of Stuart’s weakened will power to keep from repeatedly falling.

The thing about Stuart was he was a broken man. Once he had a family. But his wife and daughter died in a tragic carjacking one day. He went crazy from grief and lost his job, SUV, and house. All he wanted to do was drink alcohol and stay in a perpetual state of stupidity. He dropped out of life. He became such a pathetic figure other homeless people in the neighborhood avoided him. Social workers would give him food and try to get him help, but he refused to go into any programs, or commit to shelter rules. His tall lanky figure was a fixture in the city’s alleys and byways. An old injury to his left foot gave him an odd gait, making him recognizable from afar and in the dusk.

Stuart’s thoughts went no further than begging for money, or stealing from supermarkets and liquor stores. He’d been arrested for countless petty crimes, did county jail time and community service, and was always released to resume his miserable existence. Every day was Blursday for him.

All that changed one Afternoon.

It was two o’clock and the town hall bell chimed precisely on time. Stuart stopped and slowly opened his first bottle of Jim Beam for the day when he saw something that froze him, causing him to drop the precious bottle as he watched something very bad happening.

A man with a gun had stopped a car in the middle of the street and was violently pulling the woman driver out! A little girl screamed “Mommie! Something snapped in Stuart’s head and he ran as fast as his bad foot allowed, slamming into the carjacker with all of his force. The gun fell in the ensuing struggle and the woman broke free. The enraged car jacker pulled a knife and stabbed Stuart in the chest! Adrenaline running high, Stuart pulled it out and got the switchblade off his attacker and slashed him across the face with it. Suddenly police appeared and separated them. The car jacker was handcuffed and taken away. The last thing Stuart remembered was trying to staunch the blood flow and passing out.

The next day Stuart had two visitors at the hospital. When he opened his eyes the woman he saved was standing at the side of his bed with her young daughter. He could see the relief in their eyes as they could see he’d be all right.

My name is Beth and this is my daughter Trina. We’d like to be your friends if that’s okay?

A tear trickled down one of Stewart’s eyes and he was so choked up it took a minute to reply, “Yeah! That would be more than okay.”

The end

My Bangkok Tour Guide

Essay – 246 words

While walking down a street in the Kingdom of Thailand where ex-pats from around the world land, blending seamlessly into the local 1970 economy, I met a young boy with a man’s eyes.

He was probably ten – going onto forty – with worldly knowledge far beyond his tender years. Anuia was a frail street waif with the wisdom of the local marketplace for sale. He promised the best place to stay, my drug of choice, and prostitutes with breathless beauty, if I hired him throughout my stay.

We toured a banana plantation, and a red light district called
Pattaya, with outrageous sex acts they were not even considered risqué in the day. Creedance Clearwater Revival rocked the bars with “Looking Out My Backdoor.” I smoked some of the best weed in my life, comparing it to the Vietnamese strain that made you forget your name.

We watched kick fighter’s knock each other out, only to get up afterwards and respectfully bow to one another. Anuia shared his best curse words to get quick results, and bargained over every transaction like it might be his last. He was shrewd and a survivor, with no parents or family.

The thing that impressed me the most was he was always smiling – except when he negotiated a deal. His smile seemed to defy the life he led. When my time was up, and I had to go, he shook my hand, then turned to greet another group of visitors deplaning nearby.

Pay Attention To Me!

The homeless man cries out “Pay attention to me” to a passerby that cannot see his misery!

The dictator demands “Pay attention to me!” or suffer indignities in spite of your pleas

Babies cries translated into “Pay attention to me!” brings good parents running instantly

When a dog barks and wags his tail happily he’s telling you to “Pay attention to me!”

Sometimes a person’s eyes reveal a hidden plea asking you to “Pay attention to me!” hopefully and silently.

The poor in the world dream of equality and ask governments ruled by the wealthy to “Pay attention to me!

In reality we all have an angel and a devil saying “Pay attention to me!” and who we pick is who we’ll be.

The Ball Mason Jar

700 words –

Butch was sick and homeless. The 70-year old looked bad for his age, bending over a dipsy dumpster looking for scraps of food or something he could sell.

No luck. He shambled along for a couple of blocks until he came to the old Ball Glass factory. The fenced-in yard behind the now shuttered business was a dumping ground for the hundred years that the plant operated. He once found two antique Ball Mason jars buried in the yard and was able to sell them for $20.00. But that was a year ago.

He was a poor man’s picker with a good eye, when he wasn’t drinking cheap booze. He’d dropped out of “the system” after fighting for a year in Vietnam, in 1970. The streets were his home by choice. He counted on extra floor space in the old mission during really harsh weather.

All three pawn shops in town knew Butch. Each tolerated his eccentricities and weekly visits. Ninety-nine percent of the time, Butch brought worthless junk in and the pawnshop would end up giving him a small donation for it. He blended in with the street people of Titusville, but had no friends to hang around with. It was the way he wanted it.

Taking his vintage military entrenching tool from his backpack, Butch picked an area and began digging. He didn’t know what else to do. He had to keep trying. No one was going to come along and rescue his 70-year old ass anytime soon.

When he struck glass he was afraid it was a broken piece, but after carefully probing with his K-bar knife he uncovered a Ball Mason Jar in excellent condition. When he saw the lettering was upside down his heart skipped a beat. This was certainly unusual. He had a good feeling about it as he carefully wrapped it in his extra black scarf.

Jack Owens, the owner of Owen’s Pawn Shop, watched Butch shuffle by his display window and open the door. A bell greeted his entrance as he nodded at Jack and took off his OD green military backpack and set it on the floor. He carefully opened it and took out the glass jar still wrapped in the black scarf.

Interest crossed Jack’s features when he set the Mason Ball jar down on the glass counter. It was unique. As an expert on both Ball and Kerr Mason jars, Jack quickly noticed the lettering was upside down. He pulled out a book off the shelf behind the counter and flipped through it. Then he got on his cell phone and went into his office.

As the minutes passed Butch got uneasy. He was starting to re-wrap the jar when Jack returned.

Hold on, Butch!” he said. “I’m sorry I took so long, but I wanted to confirm how much your jar was worth.”

“And….?”

“Believe it or not, you found a really rare jar that was made in the very early 1900’s. Your jar was made in limited quantities, which is desirable to serious collectors. At auction, you probably could get $1,000, or more, for it!”

Butch’s eyes opened wide in surprise.

“What would you offer for it?” Butch bluntly asked.

“It’s a nice piece,” Jack said as he examined it. “The most I could offer is $500. It might take me years to sell it, and it takes up space meanwhile.

Five hundred dollars. It was the most money he saw in one place since he was in the Army.

“Any chance you’d give me $600 for it?” Butch wheedled.

Jack smiled. “You drive a hard bargain Butch. How about $550.00?

“Sold!

“How do you want the money? In hundreds, or twenties?” Jack asked as he opened the cash register.

His voice sounded funny to him, a little on the high side, as Butch replied, “Twenties.”

Later, after renting a motel room, eating at a fast food restaurant, and buying two bottles of good Irish whiskey, Butch stretched out on a bed and opened one. He took a big gulp and grinned. The last thought in his head was, “It don’t mean nuthin.

The next day at checkout time, a maid found Butch dead in the bed, still clutching a bottle.