Alms

I didn’t see the beggar until he saw me. It’s always like that; they resolve from the confusion of noise and heat when their eyes meet yours, and then you’re trapped.

He wheeled over, pushing himself along in the little cart, his knuckles swaddled in cloth grey as the road. -Bhai, he said, -Bhai just a little to get food Bhai?

I could have kept looking ahead and pretended to not see or hear, had we both not already known the light at this intersection takes too long to shift to green.

-Bhai?

So I gave him money. I had a little in my pocket, and I gave him all of it.

He grinned wide and toothless, his tongue gleaming like a beetle in his mouth.

The next day he saw me and I did not see him, until it was too late. He knocked on the car window, leaving grease-prints on the glass. I gave him more money. This time for medicine, he said. -Bhai they hurt at night. He lifted one thigh up to show me. I thought of half smoked cigarettes, stubbed out. Even the skin around the ends was charred.

The third day, I gave him more money. And the every day after that. Every day. Until I had none left.

So I gave him my car. He thanked me, -Allah bless you Bhai, he said. -Allah bless you with wealth. Then I walked home.

The next day I gave him my legs. -I cannot reach the pedals of the car Bhai, he’d said. He laughed as he waggled them, stretching the toes apart and running his fingers between them. -What legs Bhai! -What legs!

I pulled myself onto they cart, settling on the nubs that were my thighs, and knuckled myself home.

Finally, he asked for my teeth.

The next day, when he drove up, I saw him, but he did not see me. So I stayed where I was, hoping he’d look my way. Until the light changed, and he drove away.


Sami Shah is a writer and comedian. His latest novel “Fire Boy” is out now. You can find information on his other works, and upcoming live shows at www.samishah.com.