Wednesday, November 04, 2009


They day they find 11 dead bodies in a house near Kinsman, I take my lunch during the evening rush and go towards CVS to buy my mum a birthday card. Crossing over St. Clair with no Walk sign, a few pedestrians and myself make our way South down East Ninth Street. I pass alongside the ING building, where an old woman in a puffed up white jacket begs people for money.

--Does anyone got a quarter? she yells while slamming fist into palm.

She accosts the walkers in front of me, and I try to sidestep her pleas behind a column of the ING Building. Very spry for an old lady, she notices my maneuver and catches me as I emerge from the other side.

--Can you spare a quarter or let me use your cell phone? she expells, both arms extended and fingers wrenched.

I just shake my head, continue onward, hands-in-pockets.

--I just need one quarter!

Nearing CVS, a man sits on the sidewalk with his back against the building. His legs are splayed nearly into the street. He clutches a styrofoam cup, shaking change and bottlecaps. This method is far less obtrusive and easier to ignore.

The woman in front of me also enters into CVS. She does not make any attempt to hold open the door for this is not a city of people.

I make my way to the card section and pick out a rather standard card for my mum. On the cover, a turquoise cake sits below a bow. Above, text in Garamond: A Wonderful Birthday for a Wonderful Mother. Enjoy Your Day.

Standing near the front counter, I wait for maybe thirty seconds for the clerk to acknowledge my presence. To my right, a customer examines wristwatches for $9.99. The clerk is glued to a 3.5" portable television hooked to an obnoxious antenna. The County Coroner says during a press conference that the identities of the victims will need to be determined using DNA evidence. A flyover shot shows a bunch of people milling around a backyard riddled with holes -- graves.

The clerk notices me, motions me over to the register. He says a price and I scan a credit card. The machine spits out a receipt. He uses the edge of the counter to tear it and gives it to me. On my way out, a man clearly shoplifting exits behind me, undeterred.

The man with the cup still plies his trade. No luck again from me.

Coming back to the ING building, I search for the Quarters woman, and am relieved to see her not there. A nicely dressed woman leaves the ING building and then Quarters is on top her, having materialized out of thin air. The ING woman is trapped within a web of wrenched fingers and outstretched arms and puffed up jackets.

--Can you just give me a quarter? Just one quarter?

The force of the sound echos between the columns and lifts shreds of newspaper off the ground.

ING woman is despaired, she says that she cannot -- ahem -- cannot help. Though she wishes against wishes that she could. She says that Quarters should go to Prospect because some there surely will help. Surely. She digs around her purse for quarters that aren't there.

I poke around in my pocket and my thumb and forefinger collect one single, solitary quarter. I take it out and approach Quarters and her puffy coat. My hand lightly grazes her elbow, to garner attention. I drop the quarter into the palm of a hand with wretched fingers.

--That's what I'm talking about, says Quarters.

The ING woman says that it is a blessing and she thanks me, she thanks me. She is so damn happy. I wave and continue back to my job in a brown-and-glass midrise to heat up some Ramen before my lunch time expires.

From behind I hear:

--Now I just need another quarter!

1 comment:

MikeS said...

Stupid panhandlers.