The Irate Beggar by Damani Tabor

[2004 Young Explorer Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Honourable Mention]

 You walk past me when you exit the vegetable market – thinking only of what delicacy you will prepare later, or when you enter the Quay, where, despite carrying a purse full of money to lavish on duty free goods, you spare me not a dime.

Wait. Don’t leave. I’ll not bite you, rest assured. Could you spare two dollars? No? I understand. Really.

I try to get a job you know. Truly! The cheap foreign labourers didn’t help me there, to be honest. And our economy done crash under hard labour. But forget such excuses. This is really about you.

You, You, YOU! Pardon me. It’s just that I can’t understand your uncaring.

No one has even thought to loan me clothes. In fact, you run me from bathrooms. What happened to civic responsibility?

I deserve it, you say? Surely not all of us survive the tossing and turnings of the sea, but if you reach out and look past that, it is of benefit for you also.

After all, you dropped the ball. Where were you when I needed you? A friend to encourage me to stay within the law, or to persevere with difficult work? You know? Where were you to comfort me when women gave me strife? To keep me from gambling myself away? Shelter would have helped.

But never worry; even now, amends can be made. 

Why do you look at me with such derision? Is it that you think to yourself, ‘oh, look how I have to struggle for everything, unlike his lazy philosophizing rass?’ Well, I assure you I would show you up in the struggle if your kind would entertain my futile efforts.

The other day, in fact, I asked for a job. I had the good fortune of receiving a batch of clothes from the Red Cross, and I managed to give myself an abbreviated  sponge bath. Contrary to what one such as yourself might expect, I was actually quite smart once, even getting into the fifth form. Now, I admit, I am merely intelligent, but I can still add and subtract, and speak — probably as well as you. And I can reason.

But what does the master porter tell me? I am not presentable.

I did not think I needed to be a walking advertisement for all that is prim and proper. In fact it would be commendable for the Department Store to give a fallen somewhat scruffy looking brother a hand. I had forgotten, however, that its staff is comprised of the same thing. People. People like you. Thinking yourself self-assured, and yet unable to even abide my presence.

You think yourself superior to me because you are an honored veteran of the struggle to move up in the world. Is it not those that have the least in the struggle that are most deserving of help, consideration or reward? But you do not see it that way, alas.

I departed yet another failed sortie and went to take refuge in the Gardens. It is a fiercely beautiful place. For me, it must be; I don’t have luxuries to place in higher esteem. That night, however, while I was on my way, I came upon some youth.

They remind me of my self when I was much younger. I approached with the intention of making conversation, maybe imparting a bit of advice. They are half you and half me. Guess which half they gave into.

Tonight as well! See here? You can tell by the swelling above my eye.

What is that you say? You will give me a task? Wonderful. I will happily lay here and guard your business place while you go and find a replacement for the broken lock.

 Ah! You’re back. As you can see, I have completed the task, even once having to actually turn an inquisitive young man away, with my diplomacy, and a little lying, heh heh! What is that you have there? A token of your appreciation? Feeling the rectangular package, I already knew it was not money. Yes, I know the shape of a small rum bottle; even the feel of the glass engraving. Thank you.

Thank you for offering me poison. It will dull the pain, at the cost of a stuporand a stereotype.

What do you care? You NEED me this way, uncaring coldhearted rass!!! So you can gawk and stare and feel good about yourself!!!

…I retire…

The man watched the beggar saunter away up the street towards the Gardens. A pitiable sight, like a battered dog standing. What did the beggar expect him to say?  Such was life. Yes. A standing dog. Except the tail was not visible, but it was between the dog’s legs all the same.



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