Street Signs
Bev Vines-Haines
Dorsal Winner
I watched the old man.  Something was different.  He moved slowly but that wasn’t new.  He’d been standing on the corner outside my office every day for more than ten years. Rain or shine.  Summer or winter.  I’d come to realize he preferred the inclement weather.  It kind of added to his shtick.

Panhandlers have become the modern Mimes.  The good ones incorporate hand gestures, facial expressions, and accessories to the all-important cardboard signs.  I call this guy Frodo, so intent is he on his quest.  I can’t be certain but it seems not a single clothing item has changed, improved or been replaced since he first claimed the corner. His shoe leather flops at the toes.  His sweater is long, kind of girlish but it looks comforting like a Steven Tyler coat. His baseball cap proudly celebrates the Sonics even though the team left Seattle years ago.  His flannel shirts change occasionally but in something like an obsessive rotation.  I suspect there is a ritual there but have yet to decipher the meaning.

In the early days Frodo put on a true show.  Indicating he had eyes on passing drivers.  He whistled at the pretty girls and gallantly offered his arm to elderly females as they crossed the street.  His emotions spoke more clearly than words.  He rolled his eyes when people ignored him, dropped in prayerful gratitude for large bills and made grand sweeping gestures to passersby.

He made no promises about the money he raised.  No getting sober or finding a home. Our doorman kept a box with pillows and blankets.  Somewhat like a collection basket at church, most of us dropped snacks or the occasional five dollar bill inside when we spied the box in our lobby closet.

Ten years is a long time. We were used to Frodo’s show.  He gave as good as he got.  Now he seemed tired.  There was a young guy on the opposite corner, all arms and legs, the new show in town.

For some reason all I could think about that day was a seal we’d had at the Pt. Defiance Zoo.  Dub-Dub.  Well loved.  Like all seals, Dub-Dub excelled at tricks for treats.  Sad thing is people kept throwing him pennies.  What does a seal do with pennies?  They killed Dub-Dub.  Weight and copper just sat in his gut and slowly poisoned that sweet guy. 

I think maybe the snacks and beer money we dropped in Frodo’s box had the same effect.  The next morning he was gone.  His box hadn’t been touched the night before.  We heard an old man died out on the street. 

Frodo should have a Plaque like Dub-Dub.

First published: May 2017
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