Everyone ignored Jim. He’d gotten used to it over the years. Years of living on the streets had not been kind. He had faded to a mere shadow of his former self. Two tours of duty in foreign lands meant nothing to the people who wouldn’t even acknowledge his existence. He’d given four fingers, half a leg, and his right eye in service to an unappreciative country and he doubted people would piss on him if he was on fire.
As usual he awoke to the rumble of the trucks collecting the trash cans. His cardboard cottage tremored with the vibrations. He sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eye, the coarse material from his fingerless glove scratching his cheek. He hardly noticed. Dragging himself from his home, he hobbled up onto the step of a nearby doorway and hunted about for his crutch. Fishing through the pockets of his grime-stained coat he pulled out a threadbare beanie hat and pulled it over his thick, knotted hair. Easing himself to his feet, he shuffled down the alleyway.
“Mornin’,” he grunted at one of the men hauling trash cans onto the back of the truck, but received no reply.
Not even a grunt this morning. Jim made his way onto the sidewalk, keeping up a good pace despite his afflictions. Usually people avoided him like a turd in a swimming pool, but today they just didn’t seem to notice him at all.
A middle-aged woman talking on a cell phone headed straight toward him and he had to hop into the road to avoid being mown down. “What the hell?” he yelled after her, but she never even broke stride.
The pattern repeated itself for the twenty minutes it took Jim to reach his favourite spot at the intersection of Fourth and Gotten. He leaned against the wall as he struggled out of his coat and laid it on the ground. He fished a crumpled paper cup from his coat pocket, re-shaped it, and set it on the sidewalk before slowly lowering himself and assuming the position he’d remain in for the remainder of the day, except for piss breaks.
The streets got busier as the morning drew in. Jim watched the world rushing by in front of him with the cup on the sidewalk before him. The queue outside the coffee shop two doors down moved at its usual steady pace. The fast-food restaurant over the road did a roaring trade as lunch time arrived. Jim attempted to make eye contact with passers-by but they all looked right through him. His small paper cup remained empty. Not even a dime. Again.
A well-dressed man stopped right in front of him as his cell phone went off. He waited patiently for the man to finish his call before speaking.
The man looked about, but still made no eye contact with Jim. Jim cleared his throat and spoke a little louder.
The man pocketed his cell phone, spun around and strode off, trampling the little paper cup in the process.
“What the hell was that for?” Jim shouted after him in vain.
Late afternoon rolled around and still not a single person had spoken to him. Sighing, he struggled to his feet, retrieved his coat and crutch and hobbled into the alleyway behind the coffee shop. Without any offerings of money for the day, he’d need to root around in the rubbish in the hope of finding something edible. Halfway down the alleyway he noticed a gang of rough looking youths heading in his direction. He turned and shuffled back to the relative safety of the street. Not like anyone would help me anyway, but …
Jim decided to head in the direction of home. He kept close to the wall to avoid being knocked into the road again. An occupational hazard the others called it. On reaching the entrance to his alleyway, he saw a couple of patrolmen by his dwelling.
“Hey! Get away from my stuff!” Jim quickened his pace as the cops started to dismantle his shelter.
Jim pulled up short when one of patrolmen hunched over and started touching something on the ground. He turned to his colleague and spoke.
“Nah, he’s gone. Probably overnight.”
“Poor old bastard.”
The patrolman stood, then he and his colleague moved away radioing it in.
Jim looked down at his own body, cold and rigid on the ground. He stumbled backwards, falling to the concrete.
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