Tag Archives: short story

Bay City Runaway

Walking Home On a Foggy Night - William Buckley Jr

She didn’t move.  She didn’t even blink.  She just stared back at me with a single question in her weary eyes . I still wasn’t sure if she was actually there.  After downing five drams of single malt some time earlier, I had passed out and had only just awoken at the sound at the window–actually, my body still slumbered in a scotch induced stupor, but my eyes were awake, and the shock of seeing someone at my window in the middle of a cold night had set my ears ringing.  But even still, I understood what she was asking.

I could just make out her face in the dim, halogen porch light of my Powell Street home on the edge of China Town.   I’d seen her earlier that evening down the street outside of Foley’s when I stepped out into the foggy night for a smoke.  She’d approached me, ghostlike and wordless, communicating her desire to bum a cigarette with a faint hand gesture.  I didn’t speak and I barely even looked at her, save a single moment of eye contact as I lit her cigarette, then she walked away glancing back at me once.  In her eyes I could see her need, and on her face I could see the bruising of a cruel hand.

A dilemma had frozen me in the stare, our eyes locked in an unanswered plea.  I’d met my share of hustlers in this bay city, but,  she was so lovely that  it would almost be worth the hustle.  But no, the need on her face was real, and she couldn’t have been more than seventeen.

But why me?  Why would she follow me?  Why not a friend or family…or a shelter?  Jesus! I was a stranger to her–a drunken, lonely bastard of a man on the street; too young to be her father, too old to be her lover.

I broke the stillness with a nod.

She was pale and shivering from the cool, damp night.  I watched her intently and silently as she passed over my threshold into my living room.  No words had come to my mind, so I did not speak, and even if they had, my tongue would have been too slow to form anything but foolishness.  She sat on my couch, and I handed her a heavy woolen blanket.

She had not been on the street for long, I guessed.  She didn’t smell badly–only of damp, night air and Marlboro.  Her clothes looked relatively fresh–jeans, hoodie, backpack, and sneakers.  I poured her a brandy from a crystal decanter–the one thing I kept for myself–and sank back down in the leather club chair where I’d just moments before been sleeping and had been every night since I’d moved in three weeks earlier.   She put the glass to her lips, her eyes never leaving mine.  Her mouth showed only a trace of grimace from the strength of the drink as she swallowed.

She broke the silence.

“I’m Amy.”

I took a sip of  scotch, and cleared my throat a bit.

“Hey, Amy.  I’m Brian.”  The words hung around my spinning head as if they weren’t mine.  “How can I help you?”

She shrugged her slender shoulders.  “Can I crash here tonight?”

“Why here?”  I replied, clumsily, perhaps even coarsely.

She shrugged again.  “I guess you were nice to me in front of the bar?”

“Look,” I started, “if this is a hustle,  I….”

“It’s not a hustle!”  she shouted, her voice breaking.  “Listen, I just need a place to stay tonight.  That’s all.”  Silent tears began to rolled out of her eyes pleading for just an ounce of mercy.

“Ok, ok.  Relax.”

Gesturing toward me, she said, “I guess you seemed–I dunno–like you’re running away from something, too.”   Her body relaxed into a slump as she dried the tears on her hoodie sleeve.  She sniffed and  took another sip of brandy making a sour face this time.  She put it down on the coffee table between us.

“Do you need to call anybody?”

She shook her head, and pulled the blanket close around her.

“Amy, are you ok?” I asked, my tone softening.

She nodded and settled back into the couch.  She seemed so at home…or maybe just too exhausted to care.

I watched her sleep for a while and listened to her breathing–almost peaceful– unconsciously timing it with the ticking of the mantel clock.  Asleep, her face was a child’s, spoiled only by the green and purple bruise under her right eye.

She was gone when I awoke the next morning, the runaway.  The blanket was folded on the arm of the couch exactly as it had been when she’d arrived, brandy snifter put away.  I might never see her again, and I wasn’t really certain I’d ever seen her at all.

As I let the steam from my freshly brewed coffee rise to my face, I pondered her words:

you’re running away from something, too…

part 2


Lost and Found Street Hustle

Stepping off the curb onto a dim lit street, Connor dropped an expired Marlboro and crushed it with the sole of his boot as he continued across.   He was not sure where he was heading at all– just heading–thoughts of life and age, and shoulds and shouldn’ts on his mind, cold, damp bay air nipping his ears.

Too old to start smoking, too lost to care.  Up the hill or down?

He turned down the San Francisco street not looking ahead, just down.  On he walked, past house gates, over steamy sewer grates, across quiet side streets and further into the night.

“Hey!  Hey, man.  Slow down.  Lemme aks you somethin’.”

Connor turned to see a scruffy, street-worn black man of indeterminate age.  His light brown skin was punctuated by dark freckles across his nose and cheeks.

Great, more street hustle…fine..nothing better to do

“Yeah?  What do you want?”

“Hey hey, man…relax.  I don’t want nothin’..shiiiiit.  I just wanna aks you somethin'”

“Ok, so ask.”

Connor kicked the gritty sidewalk with his foot watching the tip of his boot and discreetly touching the pocket that contained his wallet.

“Come here, man.  I ain’t gonna bite you.  Shiiiiit.”

Every phrase he uttered broke into a raspy cackle which caused him to bounce and shake his head.

“I’m standing right here in front of you, man.  What the fuck do you want?”

The man took a step toward Connor as if he were about to intimate something to him.  The smell of cheap musk cologne barely masked his stale bodily filth.  Connor held his ground, but sharpened his senses for anything.

“You from around here?”

Connor shrugged.

“You got any weed?” the man asked.

Connor shook his head, keeping his face darkened by a brown, corduroy driver cap.

“Why?  You know where to get some?”

“Shit, man.  If I knew dat, I wouldn’t be askin you.”  What teeth were remaining gleamed yellow under the street lamp.

Connor relaxed his posture a little and smiled.  “Sorry, man.  Got nothing.”

“Das alright.  You just look like the kinda dude who might be able to help a brutha out.”

Connor chuckled.  “Oh yeah? Whatever you say.”

“Hey, listen.  Check dis out.  Man, you ain’t gonna believe dis shit. I’m gonna show you somethin you ain’t NE-VAH seen on no brutha.”

Connor held up his hands and took a step back, still smiling, “Whoa!  Now hold on!  I don’t need to see nothin!”

“Nah nah nah…it ain’t like dat, yo. ”

The man reached up, and with all the flare of a magician offering his audience a slow reveal, pushed the front of his raggedy toboggan hat up over his forehead.  Connor squinted and took a step closer as the man pointed with a dirty index finger protruding from his finger-cut glove.

There on the mans wrinkled forehead was a scratched-in homemade tattoo of a symbol that Connor truly was surprised to find:  a tiny swastika.

“That is fucked up! That is sincerely fucked up man!”

For a moment, they were just two men on the street laughing at the surprise and oddities of life.  The man laughed and wheezed at his own bizarre joke.

Wanting to know why a black man would have a swastika on his forehead, but not wanting to linger any longer on a lonely street past midnight with a bum, he looked further down the street and then back at the jovial beggar, he said, “Ok, man.  Umm…yeah…thanks for that.  That what truly weird, but I’m smiling, so thanks.  See you around, brother.”

“Ha ha!  Alright, yeah, I will.   Hey, but…maybe spare a few dollars?  Just need to get me a burger or something.”

“Shoot, I’ll do you one better.”  In a moment of rare clarity, he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out his pack of Marlboro Reds, a lighter, and a ten dollar bill and extended it to him.

“Alright, brutha!  Das what I’m talkin about.  Sure you ain’t got any weed?”

“Yeah, man, I’m sure.  Later.”

Before Connor had even taken a step, the man was lit and taking his first puff.

As Connor reached the next crossing light, he could hear the mans voice echo after him, “Thaaaanks!”

And Connor walked on, this time headed for his hotel, ready to give up his wandering…at least for tonight.

Dignity for the Dead

It rained all night. The next morning, Daniel found a dead mole on his front lawn, victim of a flooded home.  The sight of the tiny, lifeless drowning victim both saddened and repulsed him .  A turn of nausea forced him to look away before retrieving a shovel from the garage to tend to it’s burial.

Although the rain had passed, a stiff breeze stirred a small shower of rainwater that had been clinging to the outstretched branches of the large, red oak tree standing overhead, chilling him to the core.  Yet, he endured it with grim stoicism, returning to the place where the mole lay.

He carefully scooped up the corpse along with a little of the dirt and grass just near the small burrow where it was resting.  He offered the smallest prayer of gratitude in the form of a nod and the release of breath he had been holding, and headed for the backyard.   Picking out a spot under his largest tree, he rolled the body off the shovel on to the ground,  dug down about a foot into the damp earth and laid the soil aside.  Using the very tip, he gently rolled the body into the hole, sure to fill and tamp the hole firmly enough that the dogs wouldn’t easily disturb the grave.

Leaning on the shovel, he stood, eyes closed in solemn remembrance of all of the others he had buried over the years .  He thought of their bodies becoming food for this grand tree, and reached out to touch the tree with no small amount of tenderness and gratitude.   Even if he couldn’t yet feel it in his body, he could feel his rapidly approaching death in the mole buried at his feet.

In touching the tree, he had  surrendered his stoicism.  It’s stony wall began to crumble as salty tears slowly filtered into his mouth, and his eyes began to flow with wet, bitter sorrow.   Sorrow, for the the years of his son’s life that he would never see.  Sorrow, for the years that he had hoped to spend with his wife.   Flashes of events he would never see emerged in his mind:  Jacob’s graduation, he and Ashley’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, grandchildren.    He mourned a fatherless child and widowed  woman.  The thought of their pain and loss was unbearable to him as he began to shake with the force of his tears.

With a deep, cleansing breath he ended his weeping.

He returned the shovel to its place on the garage wall, wiped his muddy boots off on the patio doormat, and entered the warmth of his home.  Not wanting to track any of the dirt or rain onto the kitchen floor, he took a moment to pull off his boots and set them by the door to dry.

It was still early on a Saturday, but his son had risen nonetheless to join him at the kitchen table and share a sip of coffee.

Jacob, glancing at his fathers wet boots by the door asked, “So, whatcha been doing?”

Daniel nodded his head with a measure of gravity and sipped his coffee.

“I buried a critter this morning:  a mole.”

Jacob met his father’s gaze with a dignity beyond what a ten-year-old boy should ever need to possess, as he nodded and sipped his own cup of coffee.

Growl and Thump

Lingering summer heat drifted in through my open window as I traced another drop of cold water on my bare belly.   I knew she would be going out soon.  She always got to stay out late on Friday nights while I, little sis, was stuck at home waiting for my high school days to begin.  Lucky her, senior class of ’81, and then she’d be out of this do-nothing, know-nothing town.

As I dipped my finger into a glass of ice water for another cool touch,  the approaching rumble of what might have been a lion or some other vicious, wild beast seized me and a thrill raced through my body.   It growled and roared and thumped and screeched, growing louder as it approached.

I sat up in bed and looked out of the window just in time to see its eyes throwing light onto the dark street as  it stopped in front of our little house on Cherry Creek Lane.   I could feel the pulse of its music deep in my body.  My heart and breathing quickened as the engine of the shining, black van idled down into a low growl, punctuated by powerful, roaring, thrusts from the driver’s foot.   Concealed by tinted windows and a moonless night, he pushed the passenger side door open, letting the full range of the song cut like a jagged knife into the night air.

Aaaaa-aaaaa-aaaaa-aaaah!  Aaaaaa-aaaaa-aaaaaaa!” screamed the singer, his voice running icy fingers up my spine.   I closed my eyes to savor the full impact of its menacing touch in me.

Cuz I’m back in black!




In an instant, the front door of the house slammed shut, and my sister  climbed into the black beast…engine roaring, tires screeching, door slamming as she laughed and cheered it on.  Then she was gone once again.  I listened intently as the beat of the music and the groan of the engine faded,  dissolving gradually into the August night air.

By the time she rolled back home,  I would be asleep.

I wasn’t supposed to know that song.  I wasn’t supposed to be listening to that kind of music yet, but still I  snuck into my sister’s room every Friday night just as I would tonight.  Plugging in her big, studio headphones, I dropped the needle and laid back onto her bed, and as the guitar tore into my mind, I felt something begin to ache inside of  me, something growing and throbbing and pounding.   It ignited a hunger deep inside me that I didn’t know how to satisfy.   I listened to the record over and over again, tracing the outline of my emerging hips as Brian Johnson’s vocals ripped into me, claiming a little piece of my soul.

This Old Town

At what point is a town not the same town it used to be?  Is it when the Super Walmart shows up?  Is it when the local restaurants give way to fast food chains lined up by the interstate like guests at a party who act like they own the place.   Or is it when all the people you used to know have either left or changed beyond any hope of recognition?

No, my feet say no, this is the same town.  This is the same street  I use to walk down from my little church house to the corner market for candy and a Coke.  My ears hear the same cry of the blue jay and high song of the park swing.  The smell of the pine and cedar still rest on the same breeze and rise to the same steeple of the old church that I called my home.   And I knew that when it rained on a warm sidewalk, that the fragrance of rainwater and concrete still rose to meet the smiling faces of bare-footed children exploring the puddled terrain.

And maybe the events of the past that formed this town had fallen out of the memories of its inhabitants, but the pain still flowed through there veins, knit into the fabric of their beings.   This town would always bear the curse of its past.  The bitter would always be mixed with whatever sweet was to be found among the big houses that still stood at the center of this old plantation town where the bare feet of an enslaved race toiled and suffered and blistered and bled.

If you looked deep enough into any open eyes, you could still see it.  If you walked to the east of the old park, you could  still see the deep division of color.   You can still meet folks who remember what this part of town used to be called and was still called behind the closed doors of the big houses.    I can still remember the warnings of the old schoolteacher who’s grandson I used to play with, “Don’t you boys be riding your bikes over there in N—-r Town.  There ain’t nothin’ over there for you.”  The same teacher who stood with us, white children and black children, and led us in the Pledge of the Allegiance and the 23rd Psalm.   The same teacher who used to paddle our little first grade bottoms for speaking out of turn, who’s mother and grandmother did the same, and who’s grandfather used to hold a whip, was teaching us to say

The Lord is my Shepherd;
I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

And I can still say it, and so can all of the children she taught, no matter which side of the park they lived,  even while her body rests in the family cemetery along with the forgotten memories of this old town that will always be the same no matter how it may change.

Shuffling Now

“Say hi to Lorraine for me,” said Julie, a friend from  church.

Frank turned back slowly with a sly smile and put on his fedora.  Mishearing the young lady, he replied, “Oh she’s as mean as ever.”

“Who?  That sweet woman?”

“I knew you’d take her side! ” he replied, chuckling and waving goodbye.

Frank shuffled his way out of the bookstore and to his 1962 Plymouth Savoy, newspaper tucked under his arm, new book in hand.  He’d only just retired a month before after 52 years in medicine.  He saw the fancy gadgets that the other patrons at the bookstore cafe were playing with and wondered how long he would be able to buy an actual honest-to-goodness newspaper anymore.   Maybe I oughtta buy one of those thingies to just set out on the table so these kids will think I’m up-to-date? But he wouldn’t, and he knew it.  He was perfectly content with what he had.  He really just liked to tease himself from time to time.

Lorraine would be fixing him a sandwich by the time he got home; tuna on toasted whole wheat bread, light mayo.  He sometimes found himself daydreaming about white bread and real mayonaise, Not that light stuff that she’s been trying to kill me with.  Mayonnaise is made of fat!  I can’t even imagine what this stuff is made of! It was nearly always served to  him on a TV tray, cut in half, low-sodium pickle spear on the side, and a glass of iced tea,  Unsweetened, tastes like tree bark or something.  That woman wants me to die unhappy, I swear to God she does!

Lorraine?  I’m home!”  he called as he hung his hat on the hat tree by the front door.

“In the kitchen, darling!” she called back.

He walked to the kitchen door and peaked in.  Wearing a 30-year-old apron, her back to him, humming to herself, she was smearing tuna salad on his toast.  And for a moment, he saw his wife.  He saw the woman he married 58 years ago.  He saw the way her hips swayed as she stepped from one foot to the other, almost dancing to the tune she hummed.  It just all happened so fast, he thought.  How did we get here so fast?

Like an old cat, he tip-toed up behind her, hoping to catch her by surprise,  but she caught him.

“Frank,  quit that foolishness and go sit down so I can bring you your lunch!”

“You call that lunch?  I know what you’re trying to feed me!  In the Navy, we used to call that S.O.S.;  shit on a shingle!”

Feigning irritation, she slammed his sandwich down on the plate and handed it to him to carry back to the den himself, but as he turned to shuffle out of the kitchen, she smiled and shook her head remembering the way he used to walk before he shuffled.

#fridayflash Accidental Whore













"Accidental Whore" - David Wilson-Burns © 2010














“Hey, baby, how much for 1 hr massage?”


“Free tomorrow night?”


“Ok, so I saw your ad.  How does this work?  Do I meet me somewhere?  Do you come to my apartment?  I’ve never done this before.”

“Oh, I meant you.  Do I meet you.”


“$500 for an hour?”


“Lonely tonight, can I see you?”

pop! pop! pop! pop! pop!

In a panic, Tammy Love pulled the plug on her computer straight out of the socket.  She’d received at least twenty instant messages in a period of two or three minutes while sitting in her quiet gray cubicle at her quiet gray job at a home and life insurance company that nobody had heard of.

Whoever these men were, they all had two things in common:  they all wanted sex and they all seemed to think that she would provide it as a service.  She was flush with panic and embarrassment sitting in her cube with her hand on her chest trying to catch her breath, and trying to regain her composure.  Clearly, she thought, there’s been some sort of mistake. My email must be similar to someone else’s!  Some WHORE!!!

That night, she laid in bed trying to sleep, but couldn’t get all of the filthy requests out of her head.  And for so much money!  These guys must be really be lonely and depraved! And what was more disturbing to her, was how it was making her feel.  Wasn’t she as lonely as they were?  And didn’t she need the same things they were needing.  She hadn’t been with a man for nearly two years.  And suddenly, she found herself a little bit….curious.

Maybe these weren’t all bad guys, she thought, maybe they were just a little lonely.  And then she remembered one of the messages, “I’ve never done this before.”  Maybe she was no different than he was.  Maybe he was alone in bed just like she was just wanting to be close to somebody?    There was something almost sweet to her about the nervous tone in the message, now that she thought about it.   She dragged her laptop onto the bed, wondering if she could find the message in her chat history.   She logged in, tammylove69, with a new kind of thrill inside, open to new  possibilities.

On the Threshing Floor

“Threshing Floor” – David Wilson-Burns © 2010

It had been a long day of winnowing barley.  I was well pleased with the harvest, well-fed, and had had my fill of wine from my vineyard.  I drifted to sleep with thoughts of the woman I’d met in the fields.   What a noble woman she was, and lovely.  She had done such a kindness, a hesed, for my kinswoman.  Rarely had I witnessed such faithfulness, and in a Moabite woman!  I couldn’t help to think that she would certainly make as faithful a wife.

Deep in the night, I was awoken.  During winnowing time, I sleep on the threshing room floor along with my servants.  But this was not one of my servants.   I was awoken by a sweet fragrance, something sweeter than the barley grain.  Sleeping at my feet was a woman wrapped in my cloak.  I sat up and touched her softly and whispered, “Who are you?”

My heart raced when the woman replied, “I am Ruth, your servant.”

Oh Ruth.  My dear, sweet woman.  She had come to me in my slumber to lay herself before my feet!

She continued on; her words as sweet as the honey I had supped on the evening before!

“Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.”

Yes, yes.  I was a redeemer, being very closely related to her mother-in-law, Naomi, but I was not the closest.  So I spoke words to honor her and let her know how I felt about her, and made also a proposition that was good and proper.

“May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.”  Her eyes met mine for just a moment, but being a modest woman she bowed them quickly.  “And now, my daughter,” I continued, “do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.  And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I.   Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”

And this sweet woman nodded her consent and lay back down at my feet.  And I, taken with love and compassion for her, could hardly sleep,  for she had redeemed our dear Naomi.  She, a Moabite, chose to live here in Bethlehem to care for an Israelite out of no legal obligation.  She must truly be a good woman, a woman of God.   And I prayed to the Lord until morning that my cousin, the closest possible redeemer, would pass her to me, if it be the Lord’s will.

Oh my sweet Ruth!  Let it be that I would redeem you and your husband’s line.  It is certain to be a noble one!

Chilled by the Fire

500 Club


"Camp Fire" - David Wilson-Burns © 2010

The campfire warmed our faces, but didn’t touch the icy chill inside. Whatever had been stalking us would be back before the night was through.  It or she had tasted human blood and would not be quenched until she’d had the rest.

My right arm throbbed with pain from the bite.  If Shannon hadn’t arrived when she did, I would be dead.  I felt certain of this.   One of the many questions I was turning over in my mind as I stared  blankly and numbly into the fire was why had the creature been so frightened of Shannon?

We’d only been hiking for a couple of days, but we were already deep enough into the refuge and far enough off the official marked trail that no one would see or hear us.  Shannon confided that it was part of a fantasy of hers to be deep in the woods with a man, and I wanted to be that man.  While Shannon was taking a break to adjust her gear, I was exploring a sound that I’d been hearing intermittently for most of the day’s journey.

She was beautiful, as beautiful as Shannon.  When she first revealed herself to me, the sight of her froze me in my tracks.  I felt a chill deep inside, as if I was in the very presence of death.  Her fangs were poised to bite as she crept toward me staring me down with her fiery, eyes.  But still, I could not move, or would not move.  I didn’t want to move at all.   I wanted the stench of death on my neck.  I wanted the blood drained from my body.  When I was free to move again, I reached my hand out to her and groaned as she sunk her fangs into my wrist.

Suddenly, the spell was broken and the creature fled.  I turned around to find Shannon walking toward me.

“There you are, Mike!”

She seemed entirely nonplussed.

“Didn’t you see her?!!!!”

“See who?”


“Oh my God, Mike.  What happened?!  Your wrist?!”  She quickly tied her handkerchief tightly around my wrist to stop the flow of blood.  I was still stunned and chilled.


Shannon’s voice broke the spell of my thoughts by the fire.

“We need to talk,” she began.

“Ok, what’s going on?” I asked.

She had a cool about her that made me feel uneasy, but her eyes told me not to be afraid.

“I lied to you earlier.  That thing, as you so aptly put it, was my sister.”


“She’s ALWAYS been so JEALOUS, that little BITCH!  Anytime I find a nice, warm-blooded mortal she tries to POACH him from me!  But she knows better.  She knows better than to mess with big sis!”

“Shannon!  I don’t understand what’s happening?!  Please help me understand what you’re saying”  I pleaded.

“How ’bout I show you!”

I wanted her to do it.  It was my destiny to join her.  Something deep down inside me knew that I would be hers…forever.

Corndog Angel

inspired by a true event.  thanks, Doug for your creative, compassionate heart!

“Corndog Angel” – David Wilson-Burns © 2010

This wasn’t the most extravagant corporate party I’d attended, but it was no small event either.  We were entertained and amused by a live, tiki-carving, alternative surfer band.  We were perplexed and somewhat titillated by a gaggle of  seventies-inspired rollerskating girls.  Beer and wine were flowing freely.  And food…the food was everywhere; more food than we could possibly consume that night.

There were tables and tables of chinese food, chili dogs, mexican food, fresh fruit, and my personal favorite, corndogs; hundreds , possibly thousands, of piping hot corndogs stacked up in massive heated metal pans.  It was a little nippy that night, so the corndogs also had a very pleasant warming effect.  We drank beer and filled our guts until we were loud, laughing, and stuffed.

The party, however, was not exactly taking off the way we were.  It’s difficult to throw thousands of software developers and database administrators together with weird surf rock and beautiful skating girls and prevent them from spending the entire time carefully documenting everything with their iPhones.  No one danced and many were too shy (and too busy documenting) to even speak to each other.  So, we decided to make our exit.

That’s when my buddy Doug was struck by a bolt of inspiration.  He picked up a couple of paper baskets and boldly shoveled a pile of corndogs into them.

“Hey guys!  Let’s give out corndogs on the street!”

Yes!  Why should we let all of this good food go to waste when the streets of San Francisco are full of hungry people?  I decided to follow suit.  I admit that I felt a little anxious about it.  What if someone questioned me?  Is it rude to take so much food and then just leave?   I cautiously eyed the corndog tray and the two servers who were working the buffet.  Would they stop me?  Even after half a dozen beers, I hadn’t lost my rule-follower mentality.

But it was time to leave and I wanted this to happen.  I  grabbed two paper baskets, just as Doug had done, and scooped up about ten huge corndogs and walked away.  When we got to the street, I began looking for people who might be hungry.  We were loud and bold as we made our way to our favorite little pub on Powell.   It wasn’t long before we came upon a man sitting on the sidewalk leaning up against a building.  He held out a cup,  his head hung, and his spirit low.  I was first up.  I squatted down and held out the basket.  I spoke softly and cheerfully, “Hey.  Wanna corndog?”  He looked up at me and laughed with a street-roughened voice.  “Thanks!”  he replied and grabbed one from the top.

We moved on up the street with our little gang, handing out corndogs as we walked.  I wondered how someone who might not be homeless might react if I offered one.  I mean, a corndog’s a corndog, no matter who you are and what your circumstances may be.  A guy on a skateboard stopped beside me at the cross walk.  I uncovered my pile of corny gold and held it out to him, “Dude!  Wanna corndog?”

“No way!  Are you serious?  For free?”

“Hell yeah! Take one!  They’re still warm!”

“Right on!  That’s awesome!”

He grabbed one and skated off with the changing light.

As we turned onto Powell, I only had one dog left.  The five of us were nearing the zenith of our evening revelry, which we would most certainly reach after a few hot irish coffees at the pub.  I nearly tripped over a man sitting on the street corner.  He was very nearly invisible.  He wasn’t speaking, playing drums, holding a cup or a sign.  He had a blanket around him.  He was holding himself, trying to keep warm in the chilly night.  It would only get colder.  I squatted down as I had done before.  I uncovered the last corndog.

It had been fun and games up till this point.  Weren’t we clever, and oh so compassionate, handing out corndogs that would get a hungry man through only a few hours on the cold, hard street.   Yes, we felt great.  And it truly did lift our eyes to some of the harsher realities of this city that we were being given only the best of.  But this was real now.  This was a real man, with a real problem, on a real street.  We would soon be in a warm, friendly place and would make new friends and have a few laughs, then we would crash in warm, comfortable, luxury hotel room beds for the night.  But he wouldn’t, he would be sitting right here where he was right now, alone, cold, and hungry.

I picked up the corn dog by its stick and spoke to him through the haze of beer and joviality, “Hey, brother.  Have a corndog.”

Something happened in that moment.  Maybe it was just a trick of the street lights, maybe it was the beer.  But I wasn’t the only one who saw it.  The man lifted his head slowly until his eyes met mine, nothing but a corndog between us.  His face melted into a smile.  His eyes glistened.  There was something happening in that moment that cannot be described.  There was a light or an energy…a glow.  It wasn’t coming from me.  It emanated between us, in our brief contact.  I don’t remember if he spoke, but his eyes expressed his gratitude as he accepted my humble gift, a warm corndog.

“Dude!  You were like the corndog angel or something.  That was weird!  Did you see that?!” exclaimed one of my buddies with a tinge of awe in his slurred state.

No, I thought, I’m not the angel here.  I thought of a story that I’d heard recently in church.  A guest preacher, Shane Claiborne,  spoke of a woman who lived on the street who said,

“I used to shine!!

I used to SHINE!!!!

but it’s a COLD



For just a moment, on a cold, dark, night on the streets of San Francisco, I wondered if I had seen an angel, who’s light was all but extinguished by our cold, dark, world.