Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I was going to write a little entry about the old man in the coffee shop who was flirting with the waitress. I was going to write a little clever phrase like “with a twinkle in his eye and not a tooth in his head he sang an old French chanson to the smiling waitress”. But, on the way home I saw a rough looking and young man, maybe a junkie, punch and kick an old homeless man I have seen on many occasions. A businessman immediately shouted at the assailant and rushed across the street to intercede. The attacker stopped his kicks and shouted the explanation that the homeless man had stolen his hat. I never saw a hat on either man and assumed he was referring to a previous occurrence. With this explanation and the assault ceased, the businessman looked unsure. We all looked unsure. A dozen people who had come to this intersection with nothing more to think about but waiting for the light to change and to look both ways for errant traffic were all unsure. One man was sure. I hadn’t noticed him in his usual spot where he sits and panhandles with his dog. He’s another young man whose living on the streets had prematurely aged him. He rushed across the street, past the businessman, and made a lunge for the fallen man’s attacker. He and his dog were only just missed by the taxi moving through the crosswalk. The dog was excited and confused at his usually sedentary master’s quick and clearly malicious intentions for the other man. It barked and jumped with frenzy. A half-hearted pursuit began. I didn’t know the full story. I didn’t know who was the bad guy. Maybe the first guy did steal a hat. Maybe not. All I know was I didn’t want to see anything more. No one else seemed to know what to do. The only man of action, the businessman, stood frowning at this newest development. Who knows why I shouted what I did? I don’t remember planning it. It just happened and luckily it produced the correct result.

“Hey! Take care of your dog!” The dog was confused and lagged behind its owner as he threaded through the crowd behind the man that had kicked the first beggar whom still lay motionless on the ground. The owner of the dog momentarily returned focus to his pet and forgot his pursuit. The dog caught up and gave a nervous bark and the man returned to his pursuit, but hopefully that gave the first guy a few seconds extra lead to get away. Who knows if I let the bad guy get away, but a kicking for a stolen hat was enough violence for one day.

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