Saturday, October 23, 2010


Lee of Tossing It Out issued the following call to arms:

YOUR CHALLENGE is to write max 500 word piece or a poem about any character who loses an item that when found by another results in their mutual happiness/relief/salvation.

The piece that follows played like a movie in my head as I read his challenge. Then I went on to read his short story. While mine bears a resemblance to his (both happen on a public street, involve lost money, a car and a homeless person), it was fully thought out (although not written down) before reading his.

I almost didn't bother, but figured, what the heck. This is actually the first piece of prose I've actually finished since the Reagan administration!

So here goes...

As I headed north on Market Street towards the parking garage, my throat felt dry in the August Philadelphia heat. My eyes fell on a street vendor, and I pulled my wallet out of my back pocket.

“Diet coke,” I grunted, not making eye contact. You never make eye contact in the city. That’s a sign of weakness.

As I pulled a dollar out of my wallet, I did not notice as my last twenty, the same twenty dollars that would get my car out of the garage, fluttered to the ground. A breeze caught the bill and blew it into the shadows next to the vendor’s cart, near where a bag lady was sleeping.

I cracked open the can and felt the caffeine rush as the ice cold beverage slid down towards my stomach.


I continued towards my car waiting to be paroled, pausing at the corner as a taxicab careened into a left turn, and then jogging across to avoid being pancaked by the cross-street traffic. You also do not want to dare the drivers in downtown Philly-they’d just as soon see you maimed rather than miss the light.

I made it to the garage without incident. A few minutes later, as I pulled down the ramp towards the cashier, I opened my wallet.


I cursed aloud. Either I gave my last twenty the vendor or it dropped on the ground when I paid him. I cursed again.

Oh well, the garage took credit cards-this was not the end of the world. And I sure as hell was not going to go back for twenty dollars that would not be there anyway.

Two blocks south, the bag lady stirred, waking the scrawny kitten that was curled up at her hip.

She saw the twenty dollar bill a few feet away, glanced furtively around her, and reached a gnarled hand out to grab it before anyone noticed.

Today, both she and the cat would eat well.

"Like a fly batters itself against the window
Time and again and again it senselessly blunders
Up and down the length of West Broadway
The bag lady wanders"
-Todd Rundgren


  1. WOW A brilliant piece of prose I loved the imagery. I could see the characters come to life. Great piece. Thanks for joining in my contest:

  2. She will be eating well! I liked your story; you should write some more!

  3. Don't wait another 20+ years before you write again! Starving kittens are depending on you.

  4. Card-carrying "Happy Club" member!

    Bag ladies and kittens!...
    What, no butterflies and rainbows?

    ~ D-FensDogg

  5. Thanks Madeleine-your "challenge" is what gave me the idea. I have in fact lost money on the streets of Philadelphia many a time.

    Ellie-when I was in San Francisco for a job interview a year ago, I remember seeing a homeless man being given money, and he went into a store and bought food for his cat. I remember that pretty vividly, since my normal impression of the homeless is that they only want to buy booze. I gave him a twenty that day.

    Doris-thanks for the feedback!

    Alex-I've got a slew of things in progress but I always seem to lose interest. Hard to find the time...


    What was so happy? I was out twenty bucks!

  6. Yes I once dropped a £20 note and hoped it went to someone deserving. I once picked up a £1 coin and later that day saw a sign in the back of someone's car that said 'Keep the pound' (meaning don't go metric) but it tickled me all the same. I agree with the others keep writing your prose, it's brill and I also loved your poem. :O)

  7. Madeleine-

    I can't take credit for the poem-that's the first verse of a song by Todd Rundgren (my favorite singer) from an album called "Hermit Of Mink Hollow" from way back in 1978.

    But that's why it's a homeless woman, not a homeless man.


  8. How cool is this? I look today and to my surprise not only you you, but also McCarthy aigned up for a writing blogfest.

    I like how our topics were related and yet very different. Your concept was good and well presented. I think you should write some fiction every now and then at least.

    You really made downtown Philly sound unpleasant. What do you like best--Philadelphia or Phoenix?

    And now off to check what Stephen wrote.

    Tossing It Out

  9. Lee-

    I guess I should have spent a little more time on description. I love downtown Philadelphia.

    In northeastern cities there is not a lot of eye contact, though. And there are homeless people sleeping right up against the office buildings.

    But I've never felt unsafe there. I'd move back in a heartbeat if I had a job to move back to.

    For all the jabs I take at it, Phoenix is okay, too. Nice weather for half the year. Easy to get around. Good CD stores (important for me).

  10. : ) I love that the bag lady has a kitten, extra sweet touch. Man, everyone else has predominantly uplifting stories... I can never manage to follow the rules lol

  11. I guess that lack of eye contact thing and homeless on the streets isn't only confined to the northeast. It's epidemic. Here in L.A. if you make eye contact with the wrong person, they'll ask you where you're from and then shoot you.

    Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love. Same thing in Phoenix after you show your papers.

    Tossing It Out

  12. I really enjoyed this piece. And I love that Todd Rundgren quote at the end. ;)