Saturday, January 09, 2010

Entry #77

A Note About Bums on the Street
by David Blanton


Grandmother loved taking me downtown. Half the stores were closed or in the process of being renovated, but she didn’t care. Victorian style buildings littered both sides of the street and second floor intricate iron balconies looked down on us like gothic sentinels.

“Don’t pay attention to the bums,” she told me when we approached a grassy inlet that passed for a park, a rectangle of grass cut into concrete with trees, benches, and a large bronze fountain.

“Okay,” I replied. Based on my grandmother’s descriptions, I knew bums were unshaven, dirty men who were homeless, often drank, and smelled bad.

The sky was blue and cold like my grandmother’s eyes. A bum interrupted our walk.

He introduced himself as Saint John.

“May I have a moment of your time?”

Grandma looked terrified, clutching my t-shirt with the dexterity of someone much younger. I thought she was going to hit the man with her purse, but she didn’t.

“Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue: but if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the--”

“Hamlet, Act 4, scene 1,” Grandmother snipped. “I’ve heard better.”

“You don’t have to be cruel lady.”

A crow streaked through the sky above us, silhouetted against the sky. The bum walked away, talking to himself. For a second I needed to be that crow, wings outstretched, hungry for a freedom only the sky could deliver.

27 comments:

Ayodele Morocco-Clarke said...

Nice!

Bernita said...

Grandma is quite the character!

onipar... said...

HA, she knew that line right off! Nice story.

Aniket said...

Always mysterious them, grandmas. :)

But am sure she means the best...

Aimee Laine said...

Gotta love Grandma's with attitude. ;)

pjd said...

A bum that quotes Hamlet. How odd. The situation seems unique, and it's a creative depiction. But I don't really understand why the MC feels the need for that kind of freedom.

Anonymous said...

Hey pjd, there are lines that give clues into the MC. First sentence, Grandma loved taking him downtown, didn't say the MC loved it. Also Grandma's eyes were cold and blue like the sky. Cold, not friendly, etc. He wants to escape. You'd be amazed at what bums can do, recite poetry, beautiful singers, etc.

Craig said...

I love how subtly you put the feeling of trapped across. It really makes your entry stand out.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Bum = out of work Shakespearean actor? :-)

Interesting story and characters.

Anonymous said...

I'm reminded of a certain Flannery O'Connor story where Mr. Head takes his grandson to the big city. I like your narrator's self-discovery, his realization that his grandmother's description of bums isn't necessarily correct. Very well told. --JR

JaneyV said...

You don’t have to be cruel lady.

This is a great line. The Bum immediately realises Grandma is cold and cruel and that this makes her feel superior. It's also her choice to be so. I think he's telling her that she has a choice not necessarily admonishing her for her cruelty.

I could feel the cold, strong grasp of grandma on the child the whole way through this. I can see why he longs to untether himself.

Kartik said...

I don't really get how cloistered the MC feels, but the Grandma and bum characters are portrayed really well!

Lena said...

I guess i love Grandma, though I guess I would love her distanced. Great characters created!

catvibe said...

Funny, that's my father's favorite oral recitation. Not a fun grandmother, but I think I've known her. Fun to read!

laughingwolf said...

go go, granny!

Meghan said...

I love the quote from Hamlet. It reminds us that it's unfair to judge people who are going through difficult times. We don't know their stories. Very thoughtful.

Laurel said...

I've no idea how much time the MC spends with his grandma, but it reads like a lot. Perhaps he craves freedom from her judgment, her inability to see another person or be sympathetic.

There is a lot going on here. It reads like an early scene in a movie, and very visual for me. Nice.

Four Dinners said...

hahahahhaaha!!!! I absolutely adored this!!!!

My Gran is alive and well!!!!

Brilliant!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Gotta love Granny.

Anonymous said...

Very good characterization. Loved the grandmother.

J. Randick

Kurt Hendricks said...

Got here late, so I can only echo and agree: you've created some great characters in this short space.

Chris Eldin said...

Ditto what Laurel said. Must feel suffocating to be told how to feel, that you should judge others. Your characterizations are very well done.

PEOPLE, PLACES, VOICES, FACES... said...

I love what you've done with the sky here. Grandma's eyes are cold and blue like the sky but the sky is where he wants to be. It's the only place that will let him stretch his wings.It's the only place that can validate him and give him the freedom he needs.He's looking for his sky in his grandma's eyes.

Ranee

McKoala said...

Very thoughtful. Love Grandma!

james r. tomlinson said...

This has made my short-list. After reading approximately two-hundred entries, your stories was memorable. --JR

Aerin said...

Dear Entrants #1-105,

I have read your pieces so that I can fairly participate in the Readers' Choice vote. (I read all of them through last week, before I started commenting.) I will be coming back around to offer my keep/tweak comment, but I didn't want anyone to snark.

Cheers,
Aerin (#236)

BTW, it's perfectly fine if you still want to snark, but this way you can choose a more appropriate subject, like Sarah Palin's hair or the enigmatic career of Justin Timberlake.

Anonymous said...

A little down on the less fortunate, but it put you into the moment and I like that. Good writing.
Carla.