The Alley

Greg walked past this alley  everyday of the week on his way into the office. Every day of the week he’d spare a glance down the alley. A fine layer of detritus always coated the pavement, and, of course, there were always one or two bums sitting down amidst the dumpsters and puddles, usually sucking down some cheap hooch. Every day, Greg would shake his head in disgust and unconsciously brush off the sleeves of his Italian three piece as if just looking at the destitute people of the city he called home had somehow sullied him. Tarnished his success. Today, one of the bums was sitting near the entrance. A coffee cup rattled with loose change in his hand. He shook it as Greg walked by. Greg ignored him.

On his way back to his penthouse, Greg approached the alley again. He could see the man from this morning; he’d switched to the opposite side of the alley. The homeless guy made eye contact with Greg as he walked. Greg wanted to quicken his pace, but the thronging crowd before him made it impossible. As he reached the aperture, the old guy brushed the stringy, greasy hair that made up his bangs back and said, “For a dollar, Sir, I’ll show you some magic.”

“Yeah, you’ll make the dollar disappear. Piss off, old timer,” Greg responded. The audacity of the bum to speak to him curdled Greg’s gut. He didn’t eat dinner that night and scoured himself from head to toe in the scalding hot water of his imported marble bathroom. His dreams were of the homeless man’s weathered face and his yellowed grin as he addressed Greg.  Greg resolved himself to give the man a piece of his mind the next day.

That morning, as he approached the alley, the man was not sitting at its entrance. Greg paused at the mouth and walked in, an empty cigarette box crumpling under his foot. The entire alley was empty. Greg assumed that police had finally carted off the indigents. With a smile on his face he strode off to work. He was even in a good mood despite having to work late that night.

On his way home, the streets were much less crowded. As Greg approached the alley he saw some sort of blue light flashing inside. Not wanting to miss more of the filthy homeless being dragged off of the streets, Greg quickened his pace and turned into the alley expecting to see a police car and an officer escorting the homeless into the back seat. Instead, he saw the man from the day before. Greg’s jaw dropped.

The old man was floating about the alley a good three feet off of the ground. One of his slippers had fallen and the other dangled precariously, threatening to follow suit at any moment. The bum was looking down at the ground and gripping a mud spattered blanket around his shoulders.  Greg let out an involuntary gasp. The old man looked up and simply smiled at Greg. At this, some vestigial survival instinct kicked in and Greg turned around and began to run out of the alley his mind plotting a new path to work that would avoid the alley entirely. As Greg disappeared from the alley, the old man shouted out to him, “Hey, I showed you some magic, Mister. You owe me a dollar.”


Apropos of: This Artwork by Faraz Shanyar

-Crouse

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