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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Drama · #1427020
A story of poverty and volatileness
They say the streets are paved with gold. "Let us bravely step into the new and modern times". So they say

Terry Sylver didn't see the streets as a place where gold grows. He had a different view. For him the streets were a place he called his home. Terry grew up as an orphan. Since he was a little child he had to kneel before all authorities. Needless to say that one day he had enough of it and ran away. From that day on he spent his life as a little gangster, a thief operating at the black market. He also cleaned the shoes of the rich and wealthy folks. Those who were generous gave him a dime or two but mostly he went to sleep at night with an empty stomach.

While he was working the people wandering the streets used to give him strange looks or called him "criminal scum", "mudface" or even "parasite". Each of those words cut him like a knife but no one even tried to understand poor Terry. As long as they had their money, their power and their reputation they would always look down on "the others". One day Mr. Donough crossed his way. For Terry it seemed like a sudden strike of fortune that right on this day Mr. Donough had to have his shoes cleaned. He was one of the richest men he knew. Terry did his best , but Mr. Donough was furious that day. He kicked Terry down on the ground before he was able to stretch down to to the shoe for a second time. "Sylver, you will always be a useless scum, now you're squirming like a worm on the ground where you belong!"

Terry didn't get up until he was sure that Mr. Donough left. He knew that the man who has just beaten him up was a very powerful and dangerous man who always got what he wanted. But the old Donny wasn't the only arrogant rich man he had to deal with. Darryl Walthers, Cedric Pinkerton and John Bardes were his regular customers. They liked his service best because they could pay him less than any other shoe-cleaner and because they found amusement in treating him like a dog. When Terry earned enough money to buy himself something to eat, he usually met with his gang of fellow beggars near Brooklyn Bridge. Sometimes they had luck and got themselves something to eat too but mostly he went there alone. Every now and then a widowed mother with a little girl vistited him there. Terry was a gentleman, so he shared the little he had with them.

In a cold October night his fellows decided to find some shelter at an old abandoned tavern. They had some kind of democracy. They always had someone to stand guard in the night. If the police was in sight or other dangers towards them they had someone to warn them. It was at this night, that Terry spoke a prayer before going to sleep. He wasn't a religious man but he believed that someday everything will be better. He remembered a conversation he had with one of his gang fellows who told him that one day capitalism will destroy itself and that things will change. Terry didn't know what this supposed to mean and was quite sceptic about it. He couldn't have known that his life will change forever the following day.

At sunrise Terry stretched his arms and yawned. The guard fell asleep during his nightshift. Terry didn't want to wake the others so he went away alone. He decided to start his business earlier on that day. He went down to "Uncle Derek's" shop like he usually did. The old Derek already had his senior years, so he often left his shop unguarded, having his mind somewhere else. Terry loved to take his his advantage and often did some shoplifting. He usually sold the stolen goodies at the black market. At this day however he met the old Derek outside the shop crying. He claimed that he lost everything but Terry didn't understand. He had sympathy for the old man and felt sorry for robbing him so often in the past. The old Derek never did anything wrong, he was just a nice old man. Still Terry didn't believe his eyes and didn't know what exactly was going on.

The shoe cleaning business went even worse than usual on that day. Everyone on the street was quite hectic. Most people completely panicked, many of them were crying. Suddenly Terry saw one of his fellows on the other side of the street, he was calling for him. "Come on you gotta hear this, come with me to Verducci's, he's got a radio!"

Terry followed him to Verducci's were he saw more of his buddies. Everyone was quiet as they were listening to the shallow voice ringing through the membranes. Words like "total crash" and "financial crisis" were tossed at them. Some people were talking about something called "The Black Thursday".

The following days were even more chaotic. Everyday Terry saw at least one person jumping out of a tall building. It only took one day to turn a whole world financially upside down. Terry was a lucky man because he had learned to survive a long time before. All those who had the world as their oyster didn't. Some weeks later Terry spotted a corpse in the corner of the street. It was Mr. Donough's corpse. He had been robbed, beaten up and killed. Terry would have never done something like that. As much as he hated people like Mr. Donough, he would have never killed a person. He was a thief not a murderer, yet he knew that the streets are raw and ruthless.

The other day Cedric Pinkerton crossed his way. Once he was a powerful industrialist, now he had become the kind of man he always used to pick on. He went down on his knees and looked at Terry with a look of pure desperation. "I...I need my morphine, you see I'm terribly ill. I'm sorry for everything I've ever done to you but I need my medicine! You're working at the black market right? I'm willing to pay."

Terry at first hesitated when he saw Pinkerton with ten dollars in his right hand but then he accepted the offer. About a week later it was was John Bardes who visited him. Bardes begged for some booze. Terry was stunned by this request, he found out that Bardes was a secret drinker. The man who always used to call him a criminal turned out to be a violator of the law too. Suddenly people who mocked him just weeks before the crash started to see the world with his eyes. Only Darryl Walthers was too proud to ask Terry for help. He didn't live long enough to benefit from his pride.

The following months Terry gained some kind of reputation as a sophisticated black market dealer. For the first time he earned enough money to afford a descent and delicious meal.Even more customers came with their requests. Soon he had enough money to invite the mother and the girl he sometimes met to a fancy turkey - meal.

"King of the black market" was among the new names people gave him. Terry became a quite respected person after everyone realized that he wasn't a vengeful man. One day John Bardes visited him to thank him. "We gave you nasty names and treated you really bad! We were intolerant and arrogant narrow minds and still you didn't leave us to die! As a matter of fact all those who refused your help are already dead now. I want to thank you."

Then Terry said something many people still remember him for. "They say the streets are paved with gold. I used to say it was fool's gold all of you were crazy for! However, for certain every fool deserves a second chance!"
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