I was alone on my side of a padded booth plucking a curly fry from the paper container when Jake sat down across from me, still wearing his work clothes.
“Hey, that looks good.” He said, smiling as he stole a fry. “You started without me?”
“You were late and I’m a slow eater.” Last I checked it was a measly forty minutes until the movie started and the theater’s a few minute’s drive from here. If I didn’t start eating right away, we might miss the previews. But I opted for the full belly before properly considering my appetite, which isn’t much since I grabbed a late lunch.
Jake began telling me about a guy he works with, Paul, who’d been out sick with the flu.
“The flu? Really?” I asked with thick sarcasm. Jake was sick last week and went into work, anyways.
“I know,” he smirked.“He asked me to help with some reports. He’s having trouble catching up.”
As I considered my burger, I noticed a blurry figure a few feet away. It was a thin man just inside my peripheral vision wearing a faded, red parka. The intense gawk made me self-conscious. I set the food back on the plastic tray.
“Poor guy, it’s raining out and he’s got no shirt. He needs a belt, too.”
I stared into Jakes face. His soft gaze was set in my direction but his large brown eyes strayed beyond mine, over the top of my head to the man who was now walking towards a table in the opposite corner of the half-empty fast food restaurant.
“It was freaking me out,” I confessed, “the way he was staring.”
“Eve, he was watching you eat. He’s hungry.”
I turned to get a glimpse.
A long, dirty hand held onto tattered denim at his waist, clenching the fabric in a fist. If the man let go for any reason his oversize pants would fall to the ground.
“You’re right, he needs a belt.”
The homeless man appeared about forty, but it was hard to tell. His features, masked by lines, strained his countenance to a permanent scowl.
Jake inched to the edge of his seat with several bills—probably all the cash he had on him—concealed in his hand.
He walked towards the stranger and quietly introduced himself. Shaking the man’s hand, he discreetly gave the gift and struck up a conversation. From what I could tell, Jake offered to buy him dinner, too. The man looked at his hand and shook his head.
That would be enough for me, but not Jake. He’s different. Better than most. Without a word, he stripped his own belt from his waist and set it atop the man’s table.
“You have a good day, sir.” He said before returning to his seat across from me.
“How do you like that?” He asked with a grin, “He wouldn’t let me buy him dinner, said he had enough with what I gave him.”
“That’s why you gave him your belt, isn’t it?” Emotion lodged in my throat as I slid the tray of food towards my friend.
“I have another.” He said, picking up the burger to take a huge, satisfied bite.
6 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: Walking”
We often pass up opportunities to help someone because we feel awkward and shy. Maybe we think it’s not socially acceptable. Maybe we’re even a little bit afraid of strangers who look like they are suffering, as if despair were catching. I love it that Jake had no qualms about approaching the man and even leaving him a very personal item like a belt.
This scene was inspired by something that happened to my husband and me. We were eating ans saw the guy who obviously needed help. My husband bought him some food and talked to him a bit, gave him what he could, and on the way home, he actually said, “I should have given him my belt.”
That’s why it’s fun to be a writer. We can make up alternate endings.
I really like this, Carol! Such a great way to depict that man’s need without being maudlin about it. And I like both the protagonists. I want to know more! 🙂
Thank you. This post began as a deleted chapter from my book, but I loved it so much, I had to find away to use it.