Sunday, 8 November 2015

#whimword - Kindness

It was kindness that did for him in the end.

Pity or derision he could have coped with, but it had been so long since he'd experienced genuine kindness he didn't known how to deal with it. A simple gesture was all it took to undo him completely.

In Metropolis no one pays any attention to the homeless. There are so many in the streets that you can't possibly help them all, so you learn not to see them. You find your gaze sliding past doorways full of huddled bodies because even if you acknowledge their existence there's nothing you can do. Everyone in this godforsaken city is a just a bad day away from joining them.

No one wants to help. No one can help and those that are supposed to turn a blind eye. That's just the way of things here.

He'd long since given up on the kindness of strangers but still he put his bowl out every day. Not so much because he hoped someone would take pity as much as he didn't know what else to do. Beggars begged, even if there was little or no chance it would come to anything.

The day was grey and wet; bad weather for begging even in a city where people have a heart. He sat huddled in his cardboard shelter, trying to conserve heat as best he could. His belly ached with hunger; it had been three days since his last meal.

Out of the gloom stepped a little girl, no more than six years old. By the way she was dressed she was the daughter of someone wealthy and important; he did his best to ignore her.

She moved towards him, slowly, deliberately, her head tilted to one side in curiosity. "Excuse me sir," she said, ever so politely. "Why are you sat out here in the rain?"

He laughed, hacking up several days' worth of mucus in the process. "I have nowhere else to go, little girl. No one wants me"

"Why not? Did you do something bad?"

"No, nothing like that. I'm old and too much effort to look after. Not worth keeping any more."

"I'm sure someone thinks you're worth something," she said with a naive certainty that warmed the old man's jaded heart.

"Maybe," he conceded, smiling, "but if they do they're far away from here."

"*I* think you're worth something. Here, I came out to spend my pocket money but I think you need this more than me."

She held out a fistful of cash. He took it uncertainly, sure there was a catch somewhere. She was called away by her nanny after that, leaving him with her fairly substantial allowance. He thanked his lucky stars.

That night he ate like a king and rented a comfortable bed in the finest inn he could find. It had been years since he'd known such luxury, his body didn't know how to cope.

He died in his sleep that night, happy and content.

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