Ballad of Holy Brown

It said in the paper that a black beggar died in the gutter just near the train station. Though the article discussed poverty and inequality in the big city it had nothing to say about this man. When he was younger they called him Holy Brown.

During the whole freezing night before his death, his short breaths had sent smoke in front of his face. His eyes were shut and he would occasionally let out a howl when the pain grew too burdensome to bare. There were times that it seemed he wouldn’t breathe another breath; but his body kept fighting against his heart that begged to die. His chin chattered incessantly and his white-blue lips were chapped and bleeding. If at any moment the slightest drop of excess energy returned to him then he used it to beg for small change. He just needed a couple of bucks to buy a train ticket and get out of the cold. The pain kept him so tightly focused on getting to the train that he was blinded from the shameful feeling inherent in begging, the shame that kept him from begging ever since he became homeless, the shame that never allowed him to ask for a raise when he was younger and working for low wages, or to ask his wife to stay when he was a loving father during those hard times. He would never ask for that which wasn’t given. His mamma raised him better than that and he was a proud man, too proud to break an old code that was passed down for generations and entrusted in his hands.

A corporate executive hurried past him on his way out of the office. This rich man was known as a great humanitarian, a great philanthropist. His wildly successful companies had thrived in large part because of the goodwill activities that they were involved in. They brought clean water and vaccinations to poor countries where people were dying daily at staggering rates. There would be more life because of his global presence. He was a model human being, well dressed, sharp tongued, and comfortable in any setting.

Though his companies relied on these goodwill activities in order to promote themselves as worldly and concerned entities, they made their profits selling swine in exchange for pearls. And people bought his companies’ products because they were so nice and sugar-coated. He and the world had a working partnership whereby he would spoil them with spoiled products in exchange for their spoils. He would sell energy in mass to the inert, and then he would open up a gym for the few who would join. He would sell light to the blind and then subsidize an online braille store. He would sell crippling shoes that had the most comfortable and highly recommended orthopedic inserts. He would profit off of the choices that entire populations made and then he would publicly tithe to related companies that supported his causes in order to bookend his questionable activities and businesses with jury-friendly footnotes and fine-print. Maybe there was a general health problem in the world, but having profited from the world did not make him liable to fix it. He was obligated to pay off the bank notes and loans that he personally took out on behalf of his companies in order to pursue such endeavors, but was liable for nothing. He wore the corporate cloak like a shield of honor.

He spent the entire day in the extravagant downtown corporate office and was scheduled for wall-to-wall conference calls that day. The Italian shoes and pinstriped black suit that he wore in the office were perfectly fitted around his tall and lanky frame. After he finished the final meeting and had delineated all of the necessary work, he grabbed his trench-coat, readjusted his bowler hat, which covered a head that was in a million places, and he skipped to the beat of opportunity on the way out of the building and into the cold and real world. He briskly walked passed the dying man’s deathbed when the dying man, who was coughing violently, heaved up a blood-filled shot of phlegm onto the fancy man’s coat, leather gloves, and shoes. The fancy man became infuriated and kicked the dying man in the gut, saying that he deserved his fate and that he should have taken care of himself while he was younger so that he shouldn’t turn out to be a nuisance and parasite to society, a bum, a god-forsaken bum!

The bum’s general presence scared people who might otherwise have thrown him a couple of coins. He was large, smelled awful, had wild and thin white hair, which sparsely covered his dark brown head that was balding in patches, and he could barely move his chin or mouth to form coherent words. Though he was currently begging for money, it appeared to passer-byers that a wild and diseased beast was attacking them with sickness. His body could not effectively carry out the directive of his mind to call out for help and ask nicely for small change so that he could go down to the train, warm up, and get some sleep during the night.

Hypothermia had not yet claimed the dying man and, though the wind had just been knocked out of him by the fancy man’s pointy shoe, which possibly had broken a rib or two, he looked up at the fancy man and held out his hand while groaning, “haaaa, aaaaaahhh.” The fancy man grimaced as he stared at the dying bum. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wallet. He opened it for the bum to see. He must have had a hundred cards, but there was no cash, no coins. “Do you take credit by any chance? No? Well I suppose you’re fresh out of luck, my friend. If you were suffering in another country I may have been able to help you.” And with those words he spun around with a wicked smile and walked briskly across the street to the lot where he had parked his little sport car.

The rest of the night brought terrible spells to the dying man, who hardly had the energy of expression left in him. Just before dawn hypothermia had finally brought rest to his troubled spirit and quest for change. As the sun peaked out from over the buildings and skyscrapers, the last drops of spirit evaporated from the man’s dried-up body. The fancy man was just pulling into the lot when he saw the bum still lying there. He called the police and informed them that, unfortunately, a man had died on the side of the road and that someone should take care him and inform the family. He gave the authorities his information and told them to call if there was anything he could do. The officer on the line thanked him, saying, “There aren’t too many people out there like you these days.” The fancy man responded chuckling, “oh, you’d be surprised!”

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