Tell A Tale in 500 Words

A Tale of Two Cities: Money to Burn By Laura Fletcher

A ten-pound note flutters down from the bridge. Most people hardly notice it. The buzzing of activity hides it- black polished shoes clatter on the cold hard ground. But a homeless man watches the note make its path in the air, and his eyes light up greedily as the money lands in the creases of his brown over-sized coat. With tactile fingers, poking out from the end of his rough woollen gloves, he shakily smooths out the rough wrinkles of its surface- it has been torn slightly, a careless rip in the paper. Though the sight of the note fills him with new hope, he wonders how thoughtless a person could be to drop it. As he turns it over, his eyes squint to see scrawled inky markings that make deep faults in the note. Does it say . . . 740? He can’t comprehend it. Before he has time to think, there is a sudden outpour of rain- so cold it burns his skin and awakens his senses. He shrinks back into his sleeping bag and retreats into the shop doorway- his only safe haven. Homeless people crawl into wherever is safest, all the way down the street, a city of cardboard boxes and coarse woollen blankets, and the old man is reminded of hermit crabs, retracting their legs into their shells in fear as human hands reach out to hold them. More polished shoes hurry to the station and hands hastily pull coats over heads, and a London bus rattles by scattering leaves into the road. The flurry of rufous leaves past the man’s face blurs his vision and dizzy with exhaustion he falls into a deep intoxicating sleep.

As the man wakes, he feels weakened and shivery. His eyes are shadowy; deep with misery and dark like cavernous wells of murky water. Though fear pulses through his whole being, he feels a glimmer of hope as he reaches into his pocket, his hands expectant for the crisp feeling of the note. It is not there. His hands scramble through every coat pocket restlessly but it is in vain. What might have been a faint sigh or wheeze is lost to the drone of traffic on the road. Dismissing the note as a fanciful dream, he turns over in his sleeping bag and pulls his hat down over his ears. I smirk at the man in his sorry state, and fish the note out of my own pocket. I can almost feel warm soup hitting my throat. . . and crusty bread. For a moment I feel a twinge of guilt for the man, old and alone, but I soon forget it- life on the street teaches you to be hard and cold.

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