This is a brief bit of the life of a bum or to be politically propitiatively* correct a
“Homeless Person” which is the same thing.
So I picked up the life of Joe. In this story, he’s not the worst bum as bums go.
He still thinks sometimes and realizes there are things he should do, should
handle. Let’s get started:
Joe wakes up from the numbing chill of the night. But the numbing is not
enough to stop the demanding pain in his head, shoulders and back. He’s
been asleep on the sidewalk under a bridge in the winter.
Joe thinks “Oh my god, I’m freezing and I hurt all over.” His attention goes first
to his throbbing head, then to the pain in his shoulders and back caused by
sleeping on the concrete. The pain in his head is always there. Drinking took
his attention off the pain as it numbed his perception.
Joe’s attention goes further south and he realized he desperately needs to
pee. He thought “I’m going to piss all over myself if I don’t get to pee soon!”
His thoughts go on “I could just pee across the street on the sidewalk” but he
remembers the last time he did that and the cops stopped and beat him up
with their night sticks and he’d woken up laying in the dried up puddle of his
own piss. “No, I’ve got to go to the gas station.”
Crossing the Street
Joe slowly and painfully walked from under the bridge out into the bright
winter sun. The sun hurt his eyes and it was hard to see. Little spots flew
around in his head as he started to lose balance. He stopped and the world
slowed down and he could see the station across the intersection.
They didn’t like Joe. They had put a locking door on the bathroom and you
had to go inside to get the key. Joe had tried once but they wouldn’t give it to
He finally got over to the station and stood just out of sight at the back of the
station. He would have to wait for someone to go in and catch the door before
it closed so he could get in.
The sun felt good as he began to warm up. But the warmth only seemed to
make the need to go pee worse. It was starting to hurt.
Finally an old man went into the restroom. Joe moved towards the door to
wait. He must not miss the door before it closed!
The Need to Go!
The pain from the need to pee was now raging out of control. Earlier he was
warming from the sun. Now he was sweating from the pain and hot flashes
surging through his body. The sky started to move again and the dots became
sparks of light in his head and eyes.
He put his hand against the building to steady himself. Suddenly, the door
opened and the old man came out. He saw Joe and the look of desperation on
Joe’s face. The old man held the door open for Joe.
Joe still had some ability to recognize kindness and was able to mutter in a
horse cracked voice “Thanks.” It was barely audible but the old man got it and
went on his way.
Joe went in as fast as he could and relieved himself. He wondered if he
needed to take a shit but no, that urge hadn’t come to him in a long time. Last
time he could remember was when he had diarrhea at the shelter over and
over again. He remembered the shelter but didn’t know where it was.
A bit of Water
He drank some water from the sink. This seemed to help him feel a little bit
better. He noticed his hands as he drank out of them. He noticed how they
were almost black from the grime built up on them. He started to wash his
hands. He was glad there was soap.
It was nice to have the dirt off. He only had two sores on one hand that hurt.
The other sores didn’t hurt. He put some water on his face and it kind of woke
For a moment, he wondered “How did I get to be in this horrible condition?”
There was no answer for the question.
He drank a little bit more water.
There was banging on the door. He became afraid because it could be the
cops wanting to beat him up again. He started to cry silently and opened the
With relief, he saw it was a young punk who wanted to use the restroom. He
cursed at the punk for scaring him. “You son-of-bitch, why can’t you be
patient!” and walked a way as fast as he could because the kid looked
dangerous and wasn’t happy.
Joe noticed his head still hurt. The back and shoulders only ached, they
always ached. He went back to the corner and sat down. He felt weak. The
sun was warm again. He held out his hand to the people walking by. He sat
there and the sun moved in the sky.
He kept itching and once while his hand was out, he noticed two dark little
spots. Looking closer, they moved. When he reached to see what they were,
they seemed to jump and disappear. For some minutes he wondered about
this. Time passed and suddenly, he realized, “Fleas! I have fleas!” He
scratched vigorously and hoped he killed them all! Still the itching continued
but he no longer wondered what it was or even thought it unusual.
It was getting late according to the sun in the sky. People had given him $3.75
today. He was starving and his head hurt, he wanted to cry, but what’s the
use in crying?
He tried to stand up. It hurt to move and he was very weak and the dizziness
and fainting spells kept coming at him in waves. Finally he made it upright.
The gas station wouldn’t let him use the bathroom, but they would take his
money. The old woman always grinned about that. For a second he had a
clear thought. “She’s a foreigner!”
He hobbled in. He could still count his money and was able to get some
crackers and a small bottle of cheap wine. It must have been exactly $3.75
because she didn’t give him any change. Without putting his wine and
crackers in a bag, she told him “Get out!”
This scared Joe cause he knew the cops would beat him if she called them!
So as fast as he could he picked up the crackers and wine. He left.
He hobbled over across the street and under the bridge. The newspapers he
covered with were still there in the tattered box along with some old dirty
plastic bags. There was his spot, he thought with some small relief.
Joe sat down and ate the crackers, washing them down with the wine. The
crackers were gone and the cheap wine too. It wasn’t much wine but it was
strong and Joe only weighted about 95 pounds now. But Joe didn’t notice how
starved he was or how close he was to being dead.
The effects of the wine lessened the headache but the world spun out of
control. The sun must have gone down as it was dark. The flashes of light
were everywhere. Joe lay down and blackness finally relieved his misery.
Joe seemed to rise above the body and thought “I’m never going back to that
Night passed and the sun came up. Joe didn’t move.
Later in the afternoon, the cops arrived with their sticks drawn. One of them
pushed Joe’s cold body with a toe.
“Well, call the coroner. He’s gone!” The cops didn’t look sad. They also didn’t
want to touch the body. “Boy, I don’t know how he could live with the smell!”
The other cop held his nose, agreeing.
Joe was hovering across the street watching the entire affair. He agreed.
“How had I been so unaware of the stench?”
The coroner arrived and carted off the body.
Two days later, Joe watched them lower the body of “John Doe” into the
ground. He thought, “They got my name wrong.” But Joe didn’t care.
He was free and left for a new better life. He was certain he would do better
this time, how could he do worse?
Where does Joe go and what does he do? To be continued….
© Carl Watts11/18/08
*“Propitiatively” This is to mean: an effort to please, appease, like throwing a sacrifice to a god. Used mockingly.
Page created 11/6/08 modified