Jimmy stumbled across the street, trying to ignore the pain in his stomach. The people passing did their best to ignore him. He knew that he smelled bad. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a shower, or even seen soap. Still, a small part of him died a little when the faces of the people around him scrunched up as he got close.

The smell of pizza lingered on the air. Just up the street he spotted a man staring at a cell phone, holding a white box in one hand. The man was dressed nicely enough. Clean clothes, certainly. A blue shirt with a collar and jeans that weren’t faded and thin from everyday use.

Jimmy wrapped his heavy green coat around himself, hoping to hide the smell, and approached the man carefully. People did not like to be surprised. Ducking his head a little, he moved up next to the man, who took an involuntary step back.

“Excuse me,” he said. “Do you have a dollar? Or maybe some food?”

The man looked at him for a second, before sliding his phone into the front pocket of his jeans. “No, sorry, I don’t have anything.”

The lie hung in the air, and Jimmy’s eyes drifted down towards the box. Steam drifted up from it, and the smell was making his mouth water. He looked back up at the man’s face.

“Come on, man. Please. I’m starving here.”

“I really don’t have anything.” The man’s hand shook, rattling the pizza in the box. If anything, the smell was making Jimmy’s stomach hurt even more. He took a step forward, his eyes focused on the box. The man pulled it back against his body, pressing it against his chest with the free hand.

“Fuck you!” Jimmy shouted, lunging forward. He slammed the man up against the wall, the box falling to the ground in between them with a loud slap. The man flailed in his arms, his cries for help coming out as a low whimper.

A few people walked past, keeping their eyes focused on the streets in front of them. It was all Jimmy could do not to scream at them. He was tired of people looking through him every day.

When the punch came, he wasn’t expecting it. For a brief moment, he’d forgotten the man with the pizza. The hit didn’t even hurt, really. The man was swinging wildly as Jimmy backed away. People were watching now, recording with their phones, laughing to their friends.

Jimmy ducked under a punch and darted past the man who was now red-faced and screaming obscenities. He tried to push through the crowd, and get as far away as he could. The shouts of the man mixed in with the crowd around him, a surprising roar of noise.

When the weight of the police officer’s bicycle slammed into him, Jimmy hit the concrete hard, feeling a tooth break in his mouth. He watched from the ground as the crowd began to shuffle away, the pizza box kicked open and the food scattered. He tried to pull himself forward, crawling towards the food that was being mashed into the pavement.

Tears welled up in his eyes as he was pulled to his feet. The officer tried to talk to him, to get his side of the story, but all Jimmy could say was, “I just wanted some food.” The words tumbled out of his mouth over and over. “I just wanted some food.”

©2016 Chris Page. All rights reserved.


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