Written for the Daily Flash Fiction contest (12/1/16)
|“Hey man, how’s it going?”
Jim was sitting on the stairs by the park entrance, cigarette in hand. As I approached him, he blew a smoke ring, and offered me the stub. “It’s all good, man. All good.”
I sat down next to him and took a puff of his cigarette. The night was chilly, and I could feel the cold creeping under my well-worn, green hoodie. For the third time that night, I wished I had on something warmer than these track bottoms. In his T-shirt, thin biker jacket and ripped jeans, Jim probably felt warmer, but not by much.
“Have you brought the stuff?” he asked. I swung my rucksack around, unzipping it to display its contents. “I don’t have much tonight. But Ryan and Jeff are bringing more.”
Jim nodded, leaning back on one of the steps and staring straight ahead. Minutes later, Ryan and Jeff arrived, each carrying a backpack. Ryan greeted us with a loud whistle, grinning, whilst Jeff stayed stoically silent.
At the same time, a man in a suit walked by. When he noticed us, he turned around so quickly, it was as if he had seen a ghost. I didn’t blame him - I knew what we looked like. Four scraggy young men, shabbily dressed, heavily tattooed and pierced. At this time of the night and in this neighbourhood, anybody who wasn’t out looking for trouble would have done the same as he did.
Ignoring him, we started walking deeper into the park. When we got there, they were waiting for us – or more specifically, for the contents of our packs. Biscuits, bread, tinned food, fruit, bottled water, cleaning supplies – the homeless received them all with open arms and smiling faces.
We knew what we looked like, but appearances can be deceiving.