A CHRISTMAS STORY
To those who passed he was a drunk, a wino, a poor unfortunate, the victim of a racist system that exploits the weak. He was a lost soul in need of Jesus, a parasite, a good-for-nothing, a welfare dead beat.
He was all of these things.
He was also sprawled unconscious on a concrete median at the intersection of two of the city’s busiest streets. Motorists drove by at the rate of 3,000 an hour as they sped home to the suburbs on this, the night before Christmas.
Bright lights and cheap foil bells suspended from the streetlights gave a festive air to the intersection. Carols boomed from loudspeakers outside a music store that specialized in punk rock and drug paraphernalia.
The man was oblivious to the freezing slush that soaked through his already sodden clothes and ran in clotted streams along the deep channels of his wrinkled face.
Earlier — when he staggered into the intersection from an alley with the back of his head bleeding and in pain where they (the shadows who jumped him from the doorway of an abandoned house) struck him with something hard and went through his pockets looking for the money he didn’t have — people standing at a bus stop turned to look at him. They watched him try to cross the boulevard between inexorable rows of hissing tires and blaring horns. They watched him make it as far as the median where his legs collapsed and he crashed to the ground and rolled over on his back with one leg bent at the knee and his arms splayed to either side hanging over the curb.
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