We spotted her about twenty feet up from where we walked and she stopped Phil
and I on 5th street as we made the way towards Broadway and the Jewelry
I cringed; it was one of those California bums. Being from the
Midwest I had a distinct expectation for panhandler behavior - they were
usually sitting on a sidewalk - preferably in the way- said few words and stank
She didn’t fit my expectation at all. I saw her as I would see
a falcon - circling the rabbits she’d
spotted for the kill.
We stood side-by-side as she approached us - wide arms and a gleaming smile
that showed all 95% of her missing and blackened teeth. She was probably in her mid 40’s, short blonde
hair and a dirty yellow shirt, I’m not sure what the smell was but it was
terrible. She greeted us like a used car salesman and I half expected her to
try to give us her business card. Was this really a bum?
“Well, boys, you’ve had a great time at the convention,” she began,
circling closer, almost within reach; her voice was clear and articulate. “And
now it’s time to help out some of the natives of this fair city.”
I was wondering how she knew we were here for a convention until I remembered
we were wearing our name badges and carrying the souvenir carrying cases- damn.
That was stupid.
When she reached us she smiled again. “Hello...” she looked down at Phil’s
name badge. “...Bill.” She turned to me. "Hello..." She looked down and
seemed flustered. My badge had flipped around so that only the orange
convention schedule showed through the clear plastic. “…Handsome.”
We said hello and Phil made to move away but she’d locked us there. She
introduced herself and said that she’d managed to save up almost enough money
to get a room for the night and something to eat. She droned on for a
good thirty-seconds, a car drove by with the windows down playing Todd Rundgren’s
“Hello, it’s me”.
I was oblivious. I already had my wallet in hand.
Phil reacted to me with a shocked, almost appalled expression. His face
seemed to say “She’s only going to spend it on drugs. What are you doing?”
I looked back at him with a glazed expression and emptied my wallet into
her hand. There wasn’t much but I gave her all of it.
“This is all I have.” I said, showing her my open and now empty wallet.
She looked down at the crumpled bills in her hand and gave me that
award-winning smile again. “That’s just fine. Thank you.” She moved away
from us and we continued our walk I didn't look back.
“What the heck was that all about?” He asked, tucking
his badge into one of the carrying-case pockets.
She called me handsome - that was worth at least three bucks.
“I don’t know.” I said. “Just felt like it.” And smiled, feeling good.