Tell A Tale in 500 Words

A Tale of Expectations By Gwendlyn Drayton

It was the best of Towns, it was the worst of Towns. A glowing metropolis of vibrant cultures, a cesspit of insufferable ignorance. Roads layered thick with a rich history, streets seeping with a growing discontent towards change. The air charged with the scent of success as spices entice consumers, their nostrils jarred with burnt sugar overlapping with cumin and vinegar. The mash up of multiculturalism born of necessity, welcomed by the enlightened yet barely endured by most.

It could have happened anywhere, but it happened here, in my town.

It was the same thing every night, he sat huddled up on the steps of the Cathedral with his tattered brown coat pulled up over his face as if somehow this would block out the reality as well as the cold wind that bit his cheeks. Every day without fail he would turn up at 3pm, look up at the clock face while it was chiming its last bong and then set out his tasselled blanket across the steps of the side door that never opened. It had been almost a year since I had first noticed him, the slightly plump guy with his glossy hair and clean shaven face. In the Spring when he arrived he stood out like an emerald among sea glass, his shiny exterior and confident manner unable to gain any sympathy for his plight. That man was almost gone though, in his place a withered wretch whose beard had grown long and matted like a disused birds nest. Where once he had come to the steps with a saunter, he now shuffled into place as if it were his last shred of any type of normality. I asked him once why he chose to sit out in the open instead of in the alleyway with us and the shelter from the wind and spittle. He seemed surprised at my question back then, and told me that being out in the open allowed humanity to see his suffering and be inclined to help rather than be afraid of it.

I don't like to be the one to say I told you so, but I told him so.

On the night that they found him next to the resuscitated body, his own face was unrecognisable. Blood streamed across his cheek and matted his beard to his coat, his face had been kicked several times, his nose popped wide open and his cheekbone shattered under the force of those reinforced work boots, his odour was no longer the thing that made passerby's retch. The phone he had taken still crackled in his clenched hand with the sound of the emergency operators voice, when humanity realised their error and ran.

I told that homeless doctor not to help out the suit that collapsed, but his moral compass couldn't turn off, he just couldn't help himself.


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