For More Than Just Sneezes

SneezesI walked onto the Kimball Street sidewalk, hearing children shout out each others’ names behind me. Red brick buildings, squat but sturdy, lined both sides of the street. Cooking bacon wafted over from the nearby breakfast diner. I headed south and minded my own business, my eyes not landing on anyone or anything for more than a second.

“Hey, mister! Mister! Hey, mister!”

I turned around. He stood about six feet four. A grizzled tuft of bristle covered his pocked face. His stained shirt revealed extended wear. “I’m hungry. Can you give me some money?”

I looked behind him at the convenience store across Brynn Mar Avenue. They must have sandwiches.

“Let’s go there and I’ll buy you some food,” I said.

He stepped in close. Too close. He blocked out my view. I smelled sour whiskey.

“Come on, mister. Give me some money.” His bloodshot eyes stared at me. I fumbled at my wallet and handed him a twenty. He grinned. “God bless.”

I cleared my throat. “Yes, God bless.”

He turned and passed the diner, shambling off toward the convenience store. They sell beer there. He never looked back. He didn’t even wave.

-M. Duda

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