Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Snake and the Bag of Apples

This hobo’s moved into the old nightsoil alley. He sits there all day staring at the cobbles like maybe if he looks pathetic enough then God’ll come down and give him a hug and tell him everything’s gunna be alright. I watch him from the window as I eat my Weet-Bix just hoping that I might see him do something. For a while I thought maybe he knew something that nobody else did, that by sitting still forever you found inner peace or something. Then I thought he was dead. But this morning I can see his breath plume and disappear into the cold.

Walking to school, I decide I’m gunna try and talk to him. I haven’t said a word to him since he showed up one day and I thought he was gunna ask me for money, like because I wear a tie I must be privileged. I stand there, right in the middle of his eyes so that my feet tread on his cheekbones and my forehead holds his eyelids open. And still I’m not sure he sees me until I speak.  

“Hi,” I say.

“Hi,” he says. His voice is coarse as a fart. He stares me in the face but his eyes look too bloodshot to see anything.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

Brandon.” Shame. He looked like a Stanley.

“What are you doing here?”

“I live here.”

“Why don’t you live somewhere better?”

He smiles and his teeth point everywhere like brambles.

“Where would you recommend?”

It’s so weird that someone can have nothing, not even a history. I run inside and find an old box of biscuits and a bag of apples. He thanks me and places the apples on his lap.

“My mother told me not to accept food from strangers,” he says.

I sit in English class and wonder how Stanley ended up here. I mean, he can’t have been homeless his whole life. He was probably abused as a kid and stuff. You know, sex and violence and all that shit you see on TV. Grew up stealing stuff from charity bins (I mean, isn’t that why they call them charity bins?). I bet he broke into a couple of houses too. I wonder what he thought when he was in there. Probably patted their dog and sat on the couch with a packet of chips and watched Oprah repeats thinking the whole time that you had to be born into this respectable lifestyle. He’s wrong though. I fight bloody to be respected at this school. Like at lunchtime, Peter Carson throws his sandwich at me in front of the lockers and everyone is laughing at me. So I knock him down and sit on his chest and shove sandwich down his throat. He makes gagging noises and his limbs jerk like he’s trying to escape in all directions at once until the principal pulls me off him. He takes me to his office and shouts at me for a bit. Then he sends me home.

I’m pretty riled so I have a smoke down by the creek and walk home slowly. Stanley’s asleep and the biscuits and apples are gone. I stand over him and look for crumbs in his beard and wonder how someone with nothing can piss all over a favour. I find the biscuits and apples in Mr. Finch’s bin. The arrogant bastard hasn’t gone more than six steps to dump them. Now I know he can walk I wonder if he can run.

The first apple catches him in the temple. Juice and apple gore spatter across his dry-as-a-bone and his eyes snap open. The second apple bounces off the fence above his head.

“Hey Stanley! Is something wrong, Stanley? Why don’t you do something about it?”

I get him a good one in the nose and he’s up on his feet and I reckon behind that beard and hair he looks scared. He turns and legs it up the alley and out of sight.

I stand there until I’ve calmed down a bit, then I go inside and grab a bag of chips and sit by the window. The alley looks so empty and useless without him. I wonder where he’s gone. I wonder if he’s found another alley by now and a new cobblestone to stare at. The chips taste like nothing and all I can see through the window is chunks of apple. I wonder how long it will take for them to rot or wash away or for someone else to pick them up.

In the end I do it myself.

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