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.