Andrew Helton: Benefactor

Fall '13 TOC


Susan has finally decided this is going to be the day she buys something for the homeless man who stands outside the grocery store every week. She is interrogating a cashier.

What do homeless people eat?

I don't know, miss.

I don't want to spend all that money on one of those pre-packaged meals in the deli. What about fruit? Who doesn't like fruit?

I really wouldn't know.

Exactly! But if I were homeless I think I might want a treat, you know? Those people probably never have the extra money to buy some junk food.

The chocolate bars are...

They are already so malnourished though. It really is a shame. I wouldn't want to waste an opportunity like this by getting him something unhealthy. This could be a real turning point for him.

Why don't you get him a granola bar? Sweet and healthy.

Good heavens, what if he has allergies? Peanuts are definitely out of the question. Bread too. Definitely no bread. Everyone has gluten allergies these days. Don't you know that?

What about...

Don't you even say meat! I knew it. I knew you were going to say it. This is Portland for God's sake. How do you even know he eats meat? The last thing I want to do is insult the poor thing. Look at that man out there. He is thin as a rail. Probably starving to death. To death! And you clearly don't have his best interests in mind. Maybe I should just ask him. Do you think I should ask him?

It might be a good...

No. No. No. That won't work. It will ruin the surprise. You know what, I will just get him a banana. Nobody is against bananas.

Susan picks out the best banana she can find and walks back over to the register like she is about to hand a dying man in the desert a gallon of water. The cashier bags the groceries, rolling her eyes as Susan heads toward the door. Susan rests the bag on a bench just inside the sliding glass doors, adjusts her blouse, and takes a small mirror out of her purse to make sure her makeup is just so.

Before she leaves she removes the banana from the bag and practices giving it away, each time offering a different smile, mouthing a different greeting, acting embarrassed at the anticipated show of gratitude. Other shoppers in the store whisper to themselves as Susan mimes her way to a fairy tale ending.

When Susan finally steps onto the sidewalk she sees another woman handing something to the homeless man. She eases closer. Not only is it a banana, but also an apple—a perfect bright red apple. An apple has never been more perfect. The homeless man beams with delight, showing his missing front teeth. He shines the apple on his dirty pea coat and takes a bite.

Susan continues walking and eats the banana, peeking through the glass to see the cashier clearing her register with a wry smile on her face.



Not Enough Night
Not Enough Night
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