by Carl Scharwath

His eyes, piercing, bloodshot and desperate, were captured in the wide angle of the streetscape.

Those people who saw him quickly moved to the other side of the street as if he were a menacing phantom ready to interrupt their day. Who could blame them? The man—unshaven, dirty and despondent—cast a temporary shadow on their memory as they hurried to their parked cars.

He stood alone in a parking lot. The hot Florida August sun boiled the tar beneath his feet.

Awkwardly, he kept moving as the heat burned through shoes pockmarked and filled with holes.

Not a soul gave a second look to the forlorn, sad half-human who smiled at anyone who would give him a condescending glance—his teeth a dark brown like the dirt he would call a bed tonight, his beard a damp nest holding perspiration til it dripped to the ground and evaporated. All he wanted was some change, precious money to buy food and drink.

A beautiful young blonde woman exited the store. She was walking in his direction, and all he could do was hope she would come his way. He brushed the dirty hair from his forehead, a reaction from long ago when he was once a handsome man, still nervous around pretty girls. He descried her in anticipation as she opened her pocketbook and held up a ten dollar bill.

“Hello,” was all he could say as he extended a nervous hand. She looked down at the dirty, lined, and callused palm awaiting its reward. She could not have imagined this hand as one that held a football as a high school quarterback, or as the hand of a skilled math teacher solving algebraic formulas with chalk. She also didn’t picture the clean, trimmed fingers that placed an engagement ring on his college sweetheart, or that steadied a rifle during two tours in Iraq. No, today the ugly extremity only gripped a bottle of liquor which soothed his despondency with a daily diet of forgetting and forgiving.

The grimy palm accepting the beautiful stranger’s ten dollar bill contrasted against a human blank canvas of soft fingers painted in an indescribable red color. The girl, too, looked at her hand. In the act of helping a stranger, she had only realized it was time for a manicure.

Carl Scharwath’s work appears internationally with over fifty published poems and six short stories. He recently won the National Poetry Contest award on behalf of Writers One Flight Up. The poem was selected and critiqued by Vivian Shipley, a Pulitzer Prize nominee. His first poetry book Journey To Become Forgotten was published by Kind of a Hurricane Press. His art photography were featured in the Conclave Journal and Edgar Allen Poet.