A short story about bouncing back from adversity. What option do you think he took?
– Mummy, can we sit here?
He opened an eye.
– No, not there, Victoria. Further down the carriage.
Both blood-shot eyes open.
– Why not here, Mummy?
His eyes recognised two figures in front of him: one short, one tall.
– Don’t argue with me, Victoria. We are not sitting here. Let’s go now.
– But why can’t we sit here? Is there something wrong with this man?
– Victoria, don’t argue with your Mum. We will find another seat.
Victoria, you’d better do what you are told, he thought. Can’t sit near a scruffy thing like me, lying down. I’m sure Mum will tell you later to beware of vagrants/ homeless/ bums/ dirty old men/ paedophiles or whatever description she thinks applies to me. She probably won’t tell you, Victoria, that we (whatever term) are people, yes people, that live and breathe like you Victoria, but have fallen on hard times.
As he dwelled on his lot (again), his glazed eyes started to focus on his surrounds: seats; the usual early morning commuters; and, directly in front, a column of nascent sun beaming down to something that glistened.
His eyes concentrated on the lustrous object. It was a necklace.
He slowly rose, tentatively looked around for the potential owner, and with no acknowledgement from the crowded carriage, grabbed the necklace.
Furtively under his overcoat, he examined the treasure. Wow, this is my lucky day! For on inspection the necklace was a dazzling array of what appeared to be diamonds coupled with colourful gems. Even if fake it would have value, but if real, then this really was his day.
Not a religious man, he believed in Providence: that God or someone was watching over him, that this higher being would someday rescue him. There were others like him that ended it all in a stupor of booze, drugs or by jumping in front of what he was on. He was different. He was still hanging in there, waiting for help, and help had arrived. He’d done his time.
He hypothesised that the necklace must have dropped from a wealthy party-goer heading home in the early hours from the city. The broken clasp supported his theory. She might have caught the necklace on something, or in a boozy state flicked it with her hand, or lost it whilst playing around with her escort. Off the train, she awoke to the fact that it was gone, but all too late. It was his now.
Although hungry – as he always was – he had to decide what to do with his ‘prize’. Making important, life-changing decisions was not commonplace for him. His main decisions were made through a haze of hunger, tiredness and hangovers from whatever alcohol he could get his hands on. The decisions were those of survival: which way to get food, to get sleep, to get grog. And how to avoid the transit officers and cops who would always evict him from the trains (then they’d try to fine him – fact chance he’d pay at ‘no fixed address’!).
But now he would really have to decide something – what to do with this necklace. The train would soon be terminating; the rail staff will be cleaning out the train of rubbish, including him.
He summoned all vestiges of rational thought. He identified three courses of action:
1. Hand the necklace in to authorities at the station
2. Cash the necklace in and use the funds himself
3. Give it to Shaz to get back in the ‘good books’.
The first idea was honourable and he could be rewarded. But would he get a reward for handing the necklace in? Knowing his luck he would get a ‘thank you’ and the station clerk would get the reward. Or there would be no reward, and he’d be back to living on the trains.
The second option had more merit, he mused. He would get some financial benefit that would enable him to live in a swanky hotel, for a while. But would a pawn shop believe a down-and-outer like him? They’d probably call the cops and then he’d be up on a theft charge. However, there was always the ‘street market’ – he had connections.
And then there was Shaz.
Shaz had been both his strength and his weakness, he reflected. Their relationship was like a tropical climate: warm and languid most of the time, punctuated by violent cyclones (the bust-ups). The ‘Shaz 4 ever’ tat on the inside of his arm reminded him of their bond. I’ve burned for you, he reminisced.
He’d had a job as a security officer, but when he lost his temper (for the umpteenth time) and Shaz booted him out (for the umpteenth time), he went on a booze binge, and didn’t turn up at work for days. Who wants an insecure security officer?
But Shaz could be impressed by the necklace, and might allow him back to into her home, her room, her pants. He could make up a story about how he’d earned the money to buy it just for her from a new job. I’m turning my life around Shaz, things will be better this time, you’ll see. On the other hand, she might take one look at him, remember the ‘dark old days’, and no necklace might help.
The train was terminating.
What to do?
He bolted out of the train, jumped the turnstile, and strode off to a better life.