Ronnie coughed and hacked and wheezed. His cold was getting worse. He knew that he was going to die, and it would be fairly soon. He was less than entirely in control of his faculties, but there were some things even he couldn't delude himself about. It made him a little sad. But then he remembered the other thing which, unfortunately, he couldn't delude himself about, and that was that he was unimportant. He wouldn't be missed. Most likely he wouldn't even be noticed until he started to smell.
With a force of will (aided somewhat by his dementia) he pushed all that to the back of his mind. He had an important occupation, and he couldn't waste any time on personal matters. His job was professional beggar. It wasn't much of a job, but it was his, and it kept food in his belly, so he was happy with it.
There was a trick to it. You had to know the way people thought, just at sight. You had to give a person whatever spiel would win you sympathy. You had to personalize each appeal to the particular person, and you had to know when not to bother with a person. Ronnie was all right, not great, at doing that. Some of the beggars tried to canvass everyone who went past. That didn't seem like a very effective system to Ronnie. Oh, here came a likely candidate now.
"Excuse me, mister, can you spare a little money so a sick man can eat?"
"Sure," the businessman said gruffly, and threw a little change into Ronnie's grubby, waiting hand.
Ronnie quickly counted it as a little more than a dollar in coins.
"God bless you, sir. God bless and keep you."
He continued on for the most of the day, but he never managed to score more than he had that first time. The veteran spiel didn't work. (He never really fought, but he had watched a lot of war movies, so he could be pretty convincing, at least, he thought so). The family spiel didn't work well at all. (One day he'd found a wallet, empty of money, probably leftover from a mugging. It had been full of pictures of cute little girls and some man's wife. He sometimes used those pictures as a prop. He'd even made up names and ages for the girls and the wife.) The ethnic spiel had a little luck. (He periodically pretended to be an immigrant from the same country as the people he met on the street.)
His whole beat had been generally disappointing. Beggars usually gave each other a rough bit of territory so that they wouldn't be stepping on each other's toes. Ronnie had grown so desperate he had even ventured out of his territory.
As he reached a large building marked HealTech, he came to a decision. He would give up his last vestige of self-respect in exchange for financial compensation. He would no longer speak to only people who had potential in his eyes. Ronnie decided he would start begging from everyone. He felt that made him even more pathetic than he already was.
"Oh, well," he muttered, and started.
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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