Winner of the Daily Flash Fiction contest, October 21st 2019.
|Martha had heard all the stories of how much money scam artists can make pretending to be rough sleepers. That they lead perfectly comfortable lives, returning to cosy beds after conning the generosity of others.
That all changed when she came across Jack, who she witnessed ravaging through a trash-can like a starved animal in the middle of broad daylight.
Martha gently approached and tapped him on the back of his shoulder. It broke her heart to see him violently flinch with a blackened banana skin clenched between his teeth.
She took him by the arm and bought him lunch.
Jack’s behaviour in response to her charity was both gratitude and guilt.
He demonstrated etiquette and mannerisms of a sophisticated individual, a person who likely did not possess a great sense of street smarts in a previous life.
Their paths crossed daily from that moment in Spring.
Martha would offer change, food, blankets and everyday conversation.
This man had to be shown kindness in her mind and she could not trust to leave him fending for himself in the big city.
A question did trouble her as the months went by.
How did it get to this point for him?
Each encounter she’d appreciate his politeness, intelligence and moral integrity.
One day she plucked him to courage to ask how he’d ended up as homeless.
“You’re the only one I can trust,” said Jack.
“Yes of course,” Martha replied, with a lump in her throat.
“Not even with all the trust in my world, can I burden you with my problem...sorry...”
Following that conversation, Jack stopped accepting help.
Before Christmas, Jack faded out of sight.
He did not survive that winter.
The secret that put him on the streets, only to him would it be worth dying for…