This week’s flash fiction is a story of how even the most overlooked people can have an impact on those around them.
I Am Human Too
A sodden cardboard box is his home, a faithful rusty bike his transportation. “Hard worker” isn’t something most people think of when they look at him. They see a man hunched over as he walks, his jeans brown at the knees, shirt as worn as their grandpa’s favorite chair. They see a bum.
But he is a hard worker, always the first to show up for his daily job. Rain, shine, or snow—you’ll find him scouring the streets for cans, cleansing Mother Earth of other people’s carelessness. You’ll find him cashing in with the same regularity every morning, minutes before the hands on the clock reach that painful journey to 9AM. A small pittance pay for a job most people won’t do for minimum wage.
He frequents a certain store where the clerks not only know him by name, but also treat him like a human being. Most days he’s cold and tired and hungry, and his shoes are falling apart, and even though he shivers from the dampness of the previous night’s rainfall, he always offers a smile. He knows their names as well.
Most people barely pay him a glance. They only see another bum littering the otherwise unspoiled streets belonging to them. You know, the people with real jobs. The people who pay their taxes and flaunt their wealth and achievements by driving shiny BMW’s one handed as they grip a venti latte in the other. And if they do happen to notice his hunched-over form as he struggles down the sidewalk on the back of his ever faithful friend, the Goodwill bicycle, they can’t be bothered to care about one meager unfortunate soul who doesn’t have the motivation to better his own life. Some toss him a dollar; others toss him contempt.
Today is different.
9 a.m. has come and gone. The clerks in his favorite store shed tears for a man they barely knew, yet were able to sense the gentle soul hiding underneath the label the world gave him.
The news spreads across the streets like wildfire: amidst the daily grind of people in their everyday lives, the man on the street, widely unnoticed by many, widely welcomed and missed by few, finds peace. No more box homes or shredded shoes. No more sodden spirit.
Life hurtles forward without him, and the clerks in his favorite store sorely miss his smile.
© Copyright 2011 Gemma James