He stands on the median, his cardboard sign in tatters. It is raining. Cars go speeding by, and all the while he waits. His face is carved with age, deep lines showing easily on his grim visage. His frame is scrawny, emaciated. His beard is scraggly and is shot with silver-gray. His hair falls on his face in clumps. His hands are covered in dirt. He is dressed in a jacket, a t-shirt that is stained with grease, and a pair of ripped up jeans. His odor is unhealthy, the smell of a rotting human being. The street is busy as a commercial street usually is. Water splashes on him all the time. Still, the hobo does not move. His guitar case, where people would put their money, is empty except for the puddles of water he hasn't dumped out yet. All the while he stands. He hopes. He prays.
He is known only as “the hobo” around the city. He is a beggar. He doesn't smell good. He doesn't have a house. In society's eyes he is dead already. He is the laughing stock of humanity. He knows this. He still hopes. He still prays.
A car drives by and hits a deep puddle forming next to the median. Cold water splashes onto the hobo, chilling his already freezing body. His jacket doesn't help against the cold. It is torn down the back making it look more like a cape than a jacket. His empty guitar case fills with muddy water from the puddle and the rain. The hobo puts down his sign to dump out the water in the guitar case. He thinks about stealing a new jacket. He would buy one, but he doesn't have any money. He hates, despises, humanity for its selfishness. If someone did give him some money he wasn't going to go buy booze with it. The hobo had no house, no food, no money, not even a name. The last thing he would think about was buying a six pack. The hobo watches car after car go by. Nobody stops. His guitar case remains empty, devoid of change.
Sadness grips the hobo with its icy clutch. The hobo still holds the tattered sign. It is withered, crumbling with age. Just like the hobo himself.
At the end of the day, the hobo returns to his bench, the usual one he sleeps on. Hunger bites deep into his stomach, making it groan. The hobo puts down his empty guitar case and walks over to a trashcan. He begins to dig through it. He finds a half-eaten cheeseburger. It is only a couple of days old. The hobo takes a deep bite, savoring the flavor. It's the only meal he's had all day.
The next morning the hobo wakes up. The sun has just barely started to rise over the horizon. He gets his emaciated body up and roots through another trash can. Nothing. The hobo picks up his guitar case and leaves, unable to eat breakfast.
His sign is even worst than it was the day before. He is barely able to keep it together. It is not raining, but it is mid-October, and the cold takes sharp stabs at the freezing man. The hobo withstands it, though. Nobody stops.
The sun is still high in the sky. A pedestrian comes along. It is a woman. She is middle aged, yet when she begins to walk by she feels like a child again. She begins to walk away, but turns, pity overtaking her emotions. She pulls out her purse and opens it. As she roots through the hobo notices a one hundred dollar bill, two fifties, several twenties, and four ones. She pulls out two bills and hands them to the hobo. The hobo thanks her kindly. She leaves. The hobo looks down to see two faces of George Washington staring back up at him. He sighs and puts them in the guitar case. As his sign says: anything helps.
Early November. The hobo wakes up and sees frost on the ground. He is bothered, but not frightened. He has been through many winters before.
He goes back to the median. He has a new sign. The black Sharpie writing shows up clear. Nobody pays attention. Cars drive by without number. People make fun of him as they pass. The hobo doesn't say a word. Inside, his heart aches.
Mid-November. It has begun to snow. Flurries of white are swirling around in the crisp air. The temperature has dropped to the twenties during the night. The hobo withstands it. His hope is overpowering. He wants, more than anything, to have a family again. More than anything he wants companionship. More than anything, he wants a friend.
Late December. The hobo is dead. His guitar case still contains the money the kind woman had given him. Snow covers the hobo's corpse. Nobody notices him.
His hands are frozen, his fingers curled up, his palm is out. Even in death he is begging. Even in death he hopes. And prays.
There is no obituary. There is no funeral. There is no burial. Nobody discovers him until April. By then animals have taken chunks out of his frozen body. Nobody cares. The person who finds him calls the cops. The cops toss him in the dumpster. His guitar case goes with him, after the individual collects two dollars. The hobo is forgotten.
© Copyright 2016 Keith LaFountaine. All rights reserved.