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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Glen Never Came Back

Excuse me, ma’am? Would you have any spare change? God bless.

There is, of course, no such thing as “spare change”.  I have a spare tire, conveniently kept about my middle; and at one time had spare brain cells, judging from past behavior.  But spare change?

Scene:  the alley, autumn, four years ago.  In a seasonal battle involving salt residue, gravel and various bits of trash, I have once again entered the gardening ring.  The alley taunts me, yearly, a barren stretch of precious city ground.

I shall conquer it.

Dirty workpants, layers of long- and short-sleeved t-shirts, dirt smeared on my face in no doubt an attractive fashion, I have been clearing weeds and sundry bits of trash for one cold, windy hour when I hear a throat clear behind me.

It is a man: sallow, tired, he wears a filthy jacket wrapped tightly and belted with rope. Hatless, his dirty, dishwater blond hair blows in the wind.

He is a young man with old eyes.

“Do you have four dollars?”


He looks around, his face completely impassive. “I need seven dollars so I can sleep inside tonight. Can you give me four?”

I pat my pants’ pockets.  “I don’t have any money out here, and I’ve got all this to clear before the sun goes down.”

He stares at me, childish.  “I need seven dollars,” he repeats.

“Well, I don’t have seven dollars,” I say, peevishly.  “Now if you want to help me with some of this, I can run into the house later and see what I can find. I know I can find around four.”

He looks away, his eyes following the alley. It is getting dark, and the wind is coming up.

I hold out the shovel.

He takes it.

“You turn it over,” I say, “and I’ll grab the weeds, OK?”  I smile.  “What’s your name again?”

His name, he tells me, is Glen.  He offers nothing more.

Ten minutes on, Glen removes his coat. I can smell him, a sour, sad stench screaming for a hot bath.  He isn’t yellow anymore, though.  He might even look a bit pink.

I ask him if he is okay.

He says he is.

It is then that I realize, with Glen standing over me, shovel in hand, that perhaps my kneeling on the ground, blithely shaking the earth from the desperate roots of the evicted weeds may not be my brightest idea to date.  I picture the neighbors finding me with a shovel embedded in my forehead, the words “I just wanted seven lousy dollars!” spelled out in gravel and homeless weeds on the ground next to my body…

Glen, however, manages to fight the urge to beat me to death with a shovel and we are done in less than 20 minutes.  I run into the house while he waits in the alley.

I return with six dollars and a bottle of water.

“This is all I have,” I say. “Seriously.  I wish I had more.”

He looks at me, looks at the money.  He takes it gingerly from my hand, puts it in his pants’ pocket.  He puts his jacket back on, re-secures the rope around his waist.  I hand him the water.

He says nothing and walks away.

“Come back in the spring, Glen,” I call after him. “There’s always work to do.”

He doesn’t say a word. 

Glen simply walks away. 


joeh said...

Very nice of you...dumb, but nice.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
He saw an angel in the alley and changed his ways... (ever the optimist here). YAM xx

Pearl said...

joeh, yeah. I get a lot of that. :-)

Yamini, I hope so. He didn't look happy.

vanilla said...

"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me."

Al Penwasser said...

Now THAT was a bit of poignancy which made me smile today. Thank you.
Yeah, handing a shovel to a stranger who may be a whack-job probably wasn't the brightest thing you could have done.
But you made me smile.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes doing a kind thing turns out all right...you got lucky.

jenny_o said...

As we are all products of nature plus nurture plus good/bad luck, you have to wonder what Glen's life was like up to that point. You tried, bless ya.

Geo. said...

Angels sometimes come up a dollar short but they're still angels.

Sioux said...

I AM glad you lived to tell the tale, Pearl. Maybe instead of "why-I-oughta" it should sometimes be "why-I-oughta-thank-my-lucky-stars"?

What did your father say when you told him?

Joanne Noragon said...

He'd wandered to a new dimension by spring, but, he took the challenge and passed before he left.

Dawn@Lighten Up! said...

I do so wonder about some of the stories these guys could tell.
But then, it's probably better I don't know.

Elephant's Child said...

You are good people Pearl. Thank you.

Simply Suthern said...

Pretty sure I could resist whacking you with a shovel. However, it was smart not to let him think the money was in your pocket.

Gigi said...

You do like to live on the edge; don't you?

Good for you making him work for it. It builds character.

Buttons said...

Aahh Pearl that is why we love you. Hug B

Catalyst/Taylor said...

Lessee now, how much is Mad Dog 20-20 goin' for these days?

Oops, sorry. My native cynic comin' out.

NotesFromAbroad said...

I'll try to remember this in the winter when I am buried in snow and a Glen kind of guy comes along, with a shovel .. maybe I will just remember the part where he could kill me and bury me and no one would notice until the snow melts.

Rose L said...

I hope he did sleep inside for $7. I bet he could start pulling weeds on a regular basis to earn a few $$$.
Where do you live to have people wander in like that?

the walking man said...

Nice of you there Pearl, you were never in danger of anything more than semi weekly visits from Glen.

But even more so are you subtly trying to tell us southerners that summer is over and prepare for winter?

Pearl said...

Yes. :-)

Winter is coming.

I never felt in danger. Glen seemed very sick and very sad. And I haven't seen him since.

I live in Northeast Minneapolis. We have a mix of homes, some more kept than others, all built between 1898 and about 1940. My own house was built in 1905. We have alleys; and while there isn't usually much activity there, if you wanted to avoid people you would probably travel there, hoping for a garbage can with something salvageable/edible. It's a great neighborhood. :-)

NotesFromAbroad said...

Poor Glen .. You are a good person.

Daisy said...

You have a good heart, Pearl, and you are much braver than I am. Hugs to you. Thank you for caring about Glen and others like him. Even if he didn't thank you,I'm saying it. <3

Diane Tolley said...

Oh, this reminds me of the time a drunk stopped by my house and asked me to call a taxi. AND I LET HIM INSIDE!!! What was I thinking?!

Suzanne Casamento said...

That was very kind of you. Prayers for Glen.