For Three Word Wednesday. This week’s prompt: roam, noble, hidden.
“I chose this life,” he said.
I was checking email on my Blackberry, waiting for the bus. The growing reek of sweat and smoke preceded him as he scooted closer.
“I don’t have to be a tramp. I want to be one. It’s a noble profession,” he said.
I cocked an eyebrow. Greasy wisps of hair spilled from a black stocking cap set high on his head. His face was pock-marked and gritty, as if scrubbed by the pavement. He wore a tattered USC sweatshirt and an unbuttoned trench coat. Despite his layers, he looked comfortable in the 80 degree heat.
“Profession?” I said.
His eyes bulged.
“Oh yes. We’re the sages of the 21st century. The tramp scorns the very tenet upon which modern society thrives, the notion that a prosperous life is built on the rubble of friends and co-workers sacrificed in the unholy pursuit of the corner office. I roam the streets, observing the shameful state of humanity and offering a chance at redemption. I give reprieve from greed, an opportunity to rediscover human kindness through the smallest token: the gift of a dollar, perhaps.”
“So you want a dollar?” I said.
“But that’s not the point,” he said. “I want you to rediscover the joy of helping a fellow man. Mencius once said, ‘He who attends to his greater self becomes a great man, and he who attends to his smaller self becomes a small man.’ I want to make you a great man.”
I pulled out my wallet. “I can spare a buck.”
He smiled as I held out the dollar.
“Or you could just give me all of it,” he said.
“All of it? I don’t think –” He had a pistol hidden in the pocket of his trench coat; the barrel protruded from a hole in the lining.
“And the Blackberry,” he said.