To the me on the other side of the world. To the writer afraid of launching his or her craft to the world. To the reader wanting to grasp a new story.
Today’s post is different. I’m putting this story up for grabs so that I shed a bit more of the shield I’ve carried for a long time.
I’ve never released a full short story to the world, afraid that it would ‘go to waste’. All I did were shorter articles, non-fiction and poetry.
So, let’s do something different.
By Bernardo Montes de Oca
I hit snooze at 5:30 am. So begins the replay button stuck on Monday to Friday. It pauses and rewinds in a blink of an eye called the weekend.
A cold shower tightens my skin and releases my seven chakras, then organic yogurt from happy cows with gluten-free, vegan granola and berries grown by Buddhist monks fuel my commute.
It’s off to join the suited cattle that respond to an unseen herder. As we automatically get down from metallic cylinders spewing thick smoke to an already gray sky, I make my way across the crowd, still unsure as to why I have a feeling of hastiness, why I want to get there first, to a cubicle, a keyboard and no sunshine.
Make do with what you got
But then I see her on the corner of Eighth Avenue.
Her skin is wrinkled leather, nothing like our pale, inhuman countenance; don’t know which one is best. Her shoulders bob to the amputated pace of crutches stuck to her armpits.
She is determined to live one more day, one more hour or one more second.
She reaches out, holding a plastic cup, can you call that recycling?
And yet, as if she were a voluntary tollbooth, some shoot coins into it looking for a justification for our existence. The gesture is followed by a drunken thank you, even at these early hours.
Looming above, the unseen herder orders me to participate in the forced charity happening in front of me. I reach into my pocket, playing a hypocritical game of cat and mouse with the coins. My palms turn slippery. My fingers slither through keys, bubblegum wrap and wrinkled bills.
No! Not a 20! Too much!
I tried to slow down and avoid the maze of perfectly cut hair, tight-fitting high-priced executive dresses and pinstripe suits, but it’s hard. A force pulls me towards her. I can already imagine the conversation.
“Got’nything for me?”
“No, sorry,” perhaps some other person, but not her, not today, but then the other scenario, in which the momentary sensation of success and growth comes to life, takes over, “sure, here you go.”
She mumbles then I know she’ll forget about me. I don’t want to know where that money is going, do I?
My hand digs deeper into my pocket.
Inch by inch, we draw closer. The cup in her hand lures me, it shakes like a rattlesnake in a desert filled with people.
Does it really make a difference, to me or her? Maybe I fill up my charity quote for the day, earn my ticked to God-knows-where faster.
My fingers pinch it and it’s filthy. All of a sudden, it’s useless. How can she beg for this?
I clutch the modern tithe. I don’t want to let it go. I hope she doesn’t stink today; no vomit, no shit, no booze. Stop looking for excuses. I’ll probably lose my spare change tomorrow, in the crevasses of public transportation, just like that stray pen you keep losing.
Still if I don’t give her anything she’ll insult me. Is that all? Just an insult?
It’s stuck to my hand, glued to my cursed mind. I pull it out and and analyze it. Damn perfect circle with it ridges and its laurels and mountains.
My body rocks sideways, my feet get confused and so do I. My horizon tilts, then my mind regains composure but it’s too late, the coin escapes my grasp and bounces once, twice then rolls away mocking me with a titillating laugh until it crashes against a wall and falls flat, dead.
He turns to me and immediately apologizes. There, for a second we’re human, we are embarrassed because we’ve broken an order, a routine far too sacred: the replay button.
“This is yours, sorry.” He says, “Have a nice day.”
“Yes. Yes, it is. Thanks,” I clutch the coin tighter. I brush off the imaginary dust off my suit and walk away, “you too.”
I put the coin back in my pocket. It’s mine. Perhaps tomorrow will be different but today it’s mine.
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