[short fiction] Hobo

He knew they meant well, but he was beyond caring.  They looked so disappointed when he refused their good deed, but he never had any trouble finding his own food.  All he wanted was a goddamn pack of cigarettes.  He watched them walk away with the sandwiches and bottled water they’d offered him, heads turned toward each other, shaking sadly, no doubt lamenting the poor life choices of the city’s hobos.  He spat on the ground.

His gazed traveled to the dozens of people cavorting around the fountain — the city’s crowning glory.  In the morning it was peaceful, a nice place to recover from a night’s work.  But by noon it was filled with suburban tourists, aching to forget their droning weekday existences for an afternoon.  They made his blood boil.  But by the time dusk was falling, the disgust was gone, replaced with something else.

Nightfall was hours away, though, so he got up and trudged his way toward a dingy gas station a mile away from the wannabe posh. Can’t have a place like that reminding people who they actually are.  So it sat on the fringe, a stark reminder to greet them on the way home. There were two people who worked the counter. One was a kind lady who’d been disappointed too many times to be beautiful. She’d have been an easy target. But then he’d never get his cigarettes.

The other guy, the owner he presumed, was fat and ugly with a personality to match. He always bared his yellow teeth in what was meant to be a grin when the man asked for a pack of cigarettes.  He’d ask for ID, even though he knew the man was well past the age of 18 and that he had no ID.  He hadn’t ever had an ID.  Didn’t need one back when he could have gotten one, and by the time he realized he needed one, it was too late.

If only he’d been rich, or even weekend-rich, things would have been different. But even he had to admit he never considered socioeconomic status when he was scouting. It was vitality that mattered, and even that could be sacrificed in a pinch.

Today it was the greasy man behind the counter.  He didn’t even bother asking, just growled an obscenity and walked back out.  Perhaps tonight would be the one he’d return, fix the problem.  But even now, with his blood screaming for nicotine, he couldn’t stomach the thought.

He returned to the fountain.  The sunset was crimson.  His eyes settled on a fit young man, lounging in the grass, enjoying a cigarette.

“Those things’ll kill you,” he said as he passed.

“Everything’ll kill you eventually,” he replied.

The man grunted and passed him by.  He went to the hill overlooking the green, settled down, kept his eyes on the cigarette until its glow was all that was visible in the dark.  His stomach burned.  He rose from his spot.  Tonight he’d kill two birds with one stone.

© 2012 Elizabeth Ditty

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