A Man With Few Things

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

The story of a man trying to re-enter society.

A Man With Few Things

 

Upon reaching the mall's pristine comfort room, Mike went inside a cubicle, stripped all of his blackened, greasy clothing and changed to the navy blue business suit pair inside the plastic case he carried with him.

After changing Mike checked himself in the mirror. He straightened his necktie, careful to not let his suit touch the wet surface of the shiny porcelain sink. He clasped at the bulbous end of the tie on his neck, testing the garter around his collar. The man on the sink beside him eyed him from head to toe, complimenting him on how dashing he looked. He thanked the man with a smile.

The nice man went out of the restroom and so did countless others, only to be replaced by more. He saw them on the mirror, some getting inside stalls, some using the sink to wash their hands. A handful complimented his clothing. A few batted an eye on him, as if thinking how unsuitable the suit was on him. Most of them apathetic. Still, Mike stayed there, fixing the suit that wasn't his, pulling at its ends, inspecting his behind, placing his hand inside his pockets, caressing the fibers of the cloth in his chest. It had been almost a decade since he wore clothing as formal as this.

He'd practiced some questions beforehand. He tried remembering them. If they ask him "What are your strengths?" he ought to answer that he was used to hardship and having nothing and that he can mesh with all kinds of people. When they ask him "What are your work experiences?", he would know to say he worked odd jobs when he was younger, and that he had a short stint with the military before getting discharged. The other questions he couldn't recall.

He fetched for the black plastic bag laying beside his foot. When he picked it up, he caught a whiff of his former clothes, its smell a combination of dried rain and gutter stench and human perspiration. As he went out, he held it as far away from his borrowed suit as possible.

 

 

Mike walked back to the dingy place he stayed, an abandoned three-storey building on the edge of the city he shared with three dozen other people.

People stared at him as soon as he stepped on the building's grimey yard. Those who knew him greeted and complemented him. "You look dashing," Lakaysha said. "Looking sharp there, Mike," Dante shouted. George and his motorcycle pals whistled as he plodded past them. Amanda the Psycho ogled while hugging her white rag doll.

Iggy dashed at him as soon as she saw him climbing up the trash-laden stairs. She stood up and raised her front paws to his knees, her tail swishing back and forth. He lifted her up and stroked her black, frizzy fur.

His floor-mates gathered around him just the same: Cornball, Ashley, Dax, Virgin Vinny, Leon, and Colonel Coco gathered around him like he was some government guy giving away free coupons. They peppered him with questions and he entertained them as he rocked Iggy in his arms. Questions flew his way as soon as he answered another one. When Cornball asked if they can touch the suit, he said nobody can because they're all filthy and they haven't taken a bath. Everyone cracked up.

In a corner beside the huge graffiti of a sleeping man he stashed his bag of clothes. He covered it with his tattered and greased blankets.

Mike left his dog with Maria, the short Hispanic woman who set her blankets next to his. He told Iggy not to stray too far and went on his way.

 

 

On his way to the grocer, Mike stopped by Nana's and Co., his favorite mini diner in town. He sat by the windows overlooking the city's busy avenues and ordered his favorite mini burgers worth $2.29. The waitress barely recognized him. She complimented him with how dashing he looked, and he thanked her in return.

When she came back, she asked what's up and how he managed to look so different. Mike told her how he had to pay the landlord of an abandoned house to use the hose on the backyard to bathe. There were used blades from the trash of a nearby barbershop and he used that to shave his beard. For his hair he borrowed his floor-mate's scissors and cut it on his own. His perfume he borrowed from his security guard friend from the mall. His suit he borrowed from a laundromat who lent homeless people suits for free when they're interviewing for a job. He scratched at the back of his head when he realized he took up too much of the waitress' time.

After three minutes, the waitress gave him a small cup of ice cream sundae with chocolate and sprinkles. On the house, she said, and wished him good luck. Mike thanked her with a smile.

 

 

Mike sat on a small office inside the Happy Grocer. Papers stacked on top of each other decorated his interviewer's table, a balding, poker-faced, middle-aged man. Behind him, papers and sticky notes hung up on cork boards serving as his background. Mr. Johansson, the nameplate on his table read.

The interviewer asked him to introduce himself. Mike told him his name, his age, and his previous work. He explained that he wanted to apply for the opening and he thought he'd be a good fit. He stuttered for a bit but hit stride after a few sentences.

When Mr. Johansson asked him why he thought he was qualified for the job, Mike responded that he's used to hard work and labor, having worked similar jobs before and staying in the army for four years. He also mentioned how motivated he was to give the best life to his Izzy. He beamed as he spoke and his posture straightened, chest puffing out a bit.

Then Mr. Johansson, still with a straight face, asked him, "Do you consider your current situation as an advantage or as a disadvantage?" Mike answered "Yes and no" as he looked down, deep in concentration. "I'm used to hardships and having nothing," he said. "I can work in any environment and work with all kinds of people. But it would take me a while to lift myself up."

Mike shifted in his seat. "I still need to live in the streets before I get my first check. I might have to come to work smelly because I don't have no shower. I might get weak because I don't eat too much. I can work through it, though, I'm sure. I just need you to give me some time."

The interviewer looked at him as he answered, his expression unchanged.

Mr. Johansson asked him more questions, some he practiced, some he didn't. Some questions caught Mike off-guard at first, but after a while he got into a rhythm and answered the questions flawlessly. When they were done, he got up and shook the interviewer's hands, his face still as plain as a sheet of paper.

 

 

Mike walked out the Happy Grocer and into the open air of the parking lot. The cool air blew across his body, a welcome feeling in the heat of his suit.

He started walking towards the direction of the setting sun, orange and red coloring the sky. He thought about his interview, and how he had no clue whether he did well or not. The interviewer's face replayed on his mind. Was he satisfied about him? Did he like how he did on the interview? Or maybe it was a mocking expression, like asking "How in the hell does he think he can get this job?" Or maybe something was wrong with his suit. He looked at himself again. He didn't know. He stopped thinking about it after some time.

In his mind he made a list of the things he would do if he gots the job. He'd find a small place first, something he and his old pomeranian can call theirs. He'd buy clothes, decent ones that can last a long time. And shoes. He'd need shoes if he had to walk the warehouse floor all day. And some other things.

And when he's set, he thought of treating his floor-mates with pizza and drinks. They'd like that, he thought.

A few blocks away from the grocer, he saw a beggar in front of a stationary store. Mike stopped in front of him. The homeless man held a sign, "Pls. help hungry man. Any cent will do."

Mike reached into his pocket. He got two fifty-cent coins and three dimes. He reached down for the man's tin can and dropped the coins inside.


Submitted: May 04, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Christian Jerome. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:

Comments

Serge Wlodarski

Good story.

Tue, May 4th, 2021 12:09pm

Author
Reply

Thank you for reading!

Sun, May 9th, 2021 2:25am

AdamCarlton

Great picture you paint here. Not least how everything's harder when you're on the street. Bootstrapping is such hard work.

Tue, May 4th, 2021 3:02pm

Author
Reply

Thanks!

Sun, May 9th, 2021 2:25am

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