Strike Out

Contributor: Allie Coker-Schwimmer

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Gray sky, cars honking, and a homeless man sitting against a doorway with a brown-bagged wine bottle behind him - another day in the city. He was almost your typical homeless man, with a withered face and ratty gray dreadlocks, his black skin creased by the sharp chilly fall weather of at least a decade. Now it was hot and sticky in the midsummer heat. He had an unusually cheery demeanor though, talking to all who surrounded him and not asking for anything though a hat with money sat in front of him. His left pant leg was torn, faded, and rolled up to the upper thigh revealing his prosthetic. People passed- a lady with a chic leather trench coat, a man carrying a bouquet of flowers, several youth covered in headphones or talking on cell phones. And then there was a twelve year old boy passing through slowly on his red ten-speed bicycle. He was almost your typical boy, with an LA Dodgers baseball cap and a backpack carrying what little math homework he had been assigned. He stopped in front of the vendor situated a few feet from the homeless man and ordered a blue popsicle. As he pushed the change on the counter towards the vendor, he turned to hop back onto his bike, when he noticed the man sitting in the doorway smiling despite his rotten luck. He looked at the popsicle, then at the man, and then rode his bike up in front of him.
“Hi! My name’s Manny. Like Manny Ramirez,” the boy said in a friendly and unafraid tone. He may as well have been talking to anyone he just met.
“Really? You don’t say,” the homeless man rasped. “I’m Billy.”
“Like Billy Joel!”
“Yeah, yeah! That’s not bad.”
“Would you like a popsicle, Billy?”
“Oh, thank you, thank you! That’s so nice.”
Manny handed the popsicle over to Billy who gratefully took a lick and smiled back at the boy with the few teeth he had left.
Just then a different nearby vendor came over and present Billy with a hot dog, then walked back to his stand. Apparently they were old friends.
“I love you, man!” Billy yelled. The vendor laughed.
Manny eyed Billy’s prosthetic leg but knew he shouldn’t ask.
A female cop walked up and Manny got nervous she would be angry.
“Hey Billy, how are ya?” she asked with a small smile.
“I’m alright, I’m alright. Got this young man here and that clown over there being all nice to me. It’s great.”
“Making new friends, huh?”
“Well, good. I’ll be back to check on you later.” The woman walked off slowly and calmly.
Manny drank the man in through his eyes.
“It was really good to meet you, Billy,” Manny said.
“You too, you too. Thanks for the pop! You too.”
Then Manny hopped back on his bike and pedaled back to his home near the tracks.

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Currently, I am obtaining my MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University in Charlotte and live with my husband in Durham, NC. I also wrote a book that is due to be released later this year.
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