Sunday, April 29, 2018


By Michael Cannata

"Another day, another dollar!"

He repeated that old saying to himself every morning as he got ready to go to work. He gathered his things and set out for the new job site. It was such a beautiful day that he decided to walk rather than take the bus. He enjoyed the early morning air. It always seemed so much fresher and cleaner to him. By the afternoon, the trucks and cars belching their smoke and smog into the air made it almost impossible to breath.

He checked his backpack to be sure he had all his gear. He worked outside so having the right clothing was essential if he expected to put in a full day. He remembered how badly his first day on the job had gone. The weather had been nice in the morning, just like today. Without warning, around noon, dark clouds rolled in along with a cold front. By 3:00pm he was wet, freezing and pissed off. He was forced to leave early, a mistake that cost him some serious money. Money he couldn't afford to lose.

After awhile he got his routine down. He was always prepared for the weather now. His job site changed depending on the day and the weather. Today the site was only about a two mile walk. He liked walking in the empty city streets of early morning. It kept him fit and got his blood flowing. By the time he got to his job he was warmed and ready to go to work. Some days he would stop for a coffee and a muffin; most of the time he just enjoyed the brisk walk as he headed to work.

He checked his pockets for loose change. He had two quarters, a dime, a nickel and two pennies. At the newspaper stand he bought five pretzel rods for a quarter. The pretzels were one of his favorite snacks. He was never much for a big breakfast. He would nibble on the pretzels over the morning. As he passed the fountain in the park he tossed a penny in and wished for the same thing he wished for everyday.

He tried not to let the thought into his head but, as usual, it insisted on intruding and ruined his good mood. He thought about his wife and son and wondered how they were doing. It had been over a year since he last talked with them.  Every day he decided that that would be the day he called them again. And each time he went to the payphone he would recall the last conversation between him and his wife. The memory of that angry call would make him think better of it.

The last time he phoned her the call didn't end well. They never did. The conversation would always start off pleasant enough. But whenever he brought up the subject of reconciliation, the pleasant nature turned first to pain and then to one of anger. He had made too many promises, and then broken them again, along with her heart. She would never take him back. He knew it was hopeless. At this point he just wanted her to know how much he loved them still.

He had the chance to make some good money today. It was Friday and the long summer days offered a better opportunity to put in some overtime. He had an 11:00am appointment that he couldn't miss. He hated to lose his spot on the best day of the week… payday. He would be cutting it close, but he thought he could make it to the methadone clinic and back before the lunch crowd hit the streets.

He put what little change and the dollar bill he had left into his cup. His "seed money," he called it. He found that people were more apt to drop some change into his cup if there was already money in it. He settled into a spot near his favorite corner. He set out his hand lettered sign that read, "Homeless and hungry… please help." The sign was getting pretty worn. He would have to scavenge some new cardboard for another one.

He started his job pan-handling like he did every day, with little hope and less money. As he waited for the commuters to start arriving for work at the train station, he thought again about his wish. Maybe today it would come true and he'd win that lottery.  Maybe even win back his family. If he was lucky, he might have enough for a sandwich and that lottery ticket before the evening rush hour.

He thought again about his family as he watched the pedestrians walk hurriedly past, most of them never so much as glanced in his direction. Those that did looked right through him. He let out a long sigh and wished for change in more ways than one.

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