out of the ashes

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I thought about the opening (will I ever stop?). "I spent the morning putting in a comma, the afternoon taking it out." Something like that. But I think this makes a huge difference. Just a few paragraphs.


1998 Downtown Denver

     “’Scuse me, ma’am. You got any spare change?”
     Women were a softer touch. She was young, too, and strikingly beautiful, he couldn’t help but notice, with shining auburn hair, and eyes that seemed to disappear in the fall of shadows beneath her bangs. She was on her way to work, he knew. Somewhere down here in one of the highrise buildings. They all were. Well-dressed men and women rushing along the sidewalk carrying briefcases, newspapers, blank and distant straight-ahead stares. She had an expensive looking purse dangling over her right shoulder. A white blouse and black skirt hemmed mid-thigh. Black patent heels that clicked on the concrete as she hurried by. She could afford a dollar or two.
     He wore the worn and colorless uniform of the homeless and held a ragged cardboard sign with scrawled pencil lettering.
          Will work for food

     Of course he was not, and he had no intention of working for any reason. Who in their right mind would hire him anyway? He was old and looked as feeble as a scarecrow in a cornfield. But the sign helped. It garnered sympathy from some of them. Like her.
     She glanced quickly at him and seemed to begin a tiny smile before turning her head back and continuing on without losing stride. Several steps later she hesitated and looked back, as though she’d had second thoughts, but then changed her mind and slipped away in the crowd.
     He watched her disappear, wishing momentarily that he was one of them, dressed in an elegant suit, with a hundred dollar haircut and manicured nails. He looked at his. Jagged at best. Black grime packed beneath them. If only he lived in a different world where money bought beauty.
     But, he was who he was.
     “Got any spare change?”

     For five years, five blurry years that had passed by him like a speeding train, Marvin Fuster had lived a life of solitude, and he liked it that way. He was a hermit, a petty thief by circumstance, if not design. A misanthrope. ...

(c) Patrick Lee 2010