The Beggar – Short Story #28


The old beggar sat in the filth and cold of a bitter street, the street he called home. The wind blew fiercely and the sky grew dim. Evening was upon the earth. The beggar shivered slightly in the cold, pulling his coats around his body, thinking to himself how this was just now the beginning of the freezing, bitter night. His bags of bottles and jars sat nearby and he thought perhaps he might make that into a pillow, and soon enough perhaps he must, but he was afraid of the broken bottles he knew were among them, those that might poke him or cut him in the night. The street he called his own was empty, he sat against a shop, but he should move soon to somewhere the wind can’t get in, maybe down near the park in the bushes where he’d be covered, where he could lie down and suffer less.

He got up methodically, careful not to bend his crooked leg, the left, I think it was, and this took considerable effort, first using his hands to support his weight, then falling to the wind’s laughter, then trying again only to fail again and to think why not just quit now, but he couldn’t, he couldn’t. Trying once more he used his bags to pull himself up, hoping no bottles would break, already seven broken, seven less to cash tomorrow morning. Needed the support more than five cents now. Hands pressing down upon the cold earth he made his way up to his good knee, his bad leg hung off to the side. From here he had enough momentum to push himself up. He stood for a moment before the wind came again and nocked him hard off the curb, thankfully it was only a medium drop, a small fall. His bum leg got in the way and he collapsed onto his head. He made no sound of distress. He knew better. Silent resignation. At least now his head felt warm from the blood.

His feet now sat above his head on the curb where his things lay, his hands were twisted below his body, his face kissed the earth. In the dim light he made out only little bits of red, a good sign. He turned his neck and moved to his back, his feel still hanging in the air. It was really quite peaceful in this position, though he was dizzy. His eyes closed. Dark.

Pain shot through his skull and he almost screamed, though it was forbidden, and he couldn’t. He awoke to the black cold of night. How long he slept, if you can call that sleeping, he didn’t know. He tried to move himself but couldn’t, his legs were without feeling. Sitting above his head they must have given into his chest all their blood and gone themselves off to sleep. Pins of needles pricked his skin. He tried lifting them off from the curb. After much failure he succeeded, and with much agony. He lay now as a child in the womb, curved and helpless, alone.

The cold cut him to the bone. He knew it was time to try again and move, to the park, to anywhere but here in the blast zone of that horrid cold. He stooped to get up but nothing seemed to work. He couldn’t feel his arms, but then he remember he had only one.

Somehow he arrived on his feet, well on one of them anyways, the other hung in the air, limp and useless as he. It was too much trouble to retrieve his bags of bottles and jars, he couldn’t risk another beating. But could he risk another day without… without eating? He’d take the chance, perhaps his bag would remain and he could retrieve it in the morning. But the cold, he knew he couldn’t beat. Now only to remember the way to go. Only to remember. Starting now, failing always, tripping suddenly. Spinning, spinning, he spun as if free. Grasping, hold to. Something, something to, something, something to, nothing.

The trip. The fall. The red. The warm.

The black.

Evening fell upon the earth.

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