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Sundry Street

Award of Excellence
                The sun was just peeking over the horizon.  Already the city was stirring, shaking off the hangovers of the night before.  A speeding car sent a beer can flying into the shadows of an abandoned subway.  A hand darted out of the shadows to grab it.  “Five cents before I’m even out of bed, this is gonna be a good day,” he chuckled to himself.

                He stuck the can in a sack next to him and stretched his back as he stood up.  Tim had been homeless since he was seventeen.  He had run away from his foster home after failing to graduate with his class.  Not much of a planner, he took only his jacket with him.  The same jacket he wore now, twenty years later.  The sack he had stolen from an unsuspecting Santa Clause.  The bright red had faded and the soft woolen lining had been replaced with a lining of dirt long ago.  It was his most prized possession.  He picked up his sack, tossed it over his shoulder and strolled down the tunnel.  His cheerful whistles echoed throughout the passage.

                Not far down the street from the subway the shrieks of an infant shattered the calm of the early morning.  A young woman jumped up from a couch to try to sooth him back to sleep.   Leah had been kept up every night for a week trying to calm her child.  He did little but cry until succumbing to exhaustion.  She had no idea what was wrong with him and was concerned for his health.  She had taken on extra shifts at work to be able to afford a doctor’s visit.  With all of these responsibilities she had no time for rest.  Being a single mother had been slowly pushing her life to the brink of collapse.  She settled the little tyke back into his crib as he gave into his fatigue.  Sighing, she reached for the phone, stepped outside, and dialed a number that she was disgusted to find she had memorized.  As expected, the answering machine picked up.  She left a message, “Jack, we need to talk.  I know you’re getting my calls.  Remember your son, Peter? He needs your help.  We need your help.  I know I’m the last person you want to be hearing from right now, and trust me, I wish I didn’t have to ask, but I don’t know where else to go.  Please.  Call me back.” 

Leah hung up and sank to her knees as a wave of hopelessness crashed down on her.  Tears came streaming down her face and violent sobs racked her body.  Her heart sank deeper and deeper into despair.  Peter began wailing again inside causing a fresh torrent of tears. 

Mingling with the wails of the child were the raging shouts of a woman from inside a limo parked on the street.  It was an odd sight on this street, though Leah did not notice it through her anguish.  The spotless paint job stood out against the pitted street and the crumbling buildings.  Inside a terrified driver cowered underneath the verbal assault that buffeted him as he tried in vain to coax a direction from the GPS.  “You imbecile!  How hard can it possibly be to find your way around this city?  I’ll have you fired for this!” his passenger screeched.  She sat back into her seat and opened her laptop.  “Of course there’s no Wi-Fi in this godforsaken dump,” she thought to herself, and slammed the top shut.    

Cynthia was a businesswoman.  Her life was devoted to managing her company.  She worked to make her business a success and did little else.  In Cynthia’s mind, everything important revolved around her.  The incompetence of this driver was delaying her schedule, setting off the rest of her day.  She settled into her self-pity.  Through the window she saw a young woman crying on her front step.  “Probably over a man,” Cynthia thought to herself, “She’ll soon learn that men are not to be relied on, they’ll only bring heartbreak.”  An old man walked by the limo.  She noticed a slight limp in his gait, and a back crooked from age and hardship.  He pulled himself up the steps of the house, set his sack down, and knelt to hug the woman.  As the driver, having procured directions, pulled away from the curb she watched the man help the young woman up into the house.  Cynthia’s empty heart filled and a smile spread across her face, her first genuine smile in years.  

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