You could see the man with the uncombed brown hair and the wrinkled khakis at the same street corner every day for two years. At 1 o’clock on Monday, he ate a peanut butter sandwich, at 2 o’clock Tuesday he had a doughnut, and the rest of the week he smoked a cigarette at 3:14. He always stayed on the corner until 4:20 at which point he would sigh loudly, slump his shoulders and shuffle away up Second Street.
He was there every day of the year, no matter the weather and was once featured on the local evening news, though when a reporter asked him some questions, he ignored the woman with the microphone and went about his routine.
From time to time, people said they saw him in other places around town, exhibiting much of the same strange behavior, though those stories were always second or third hand. No one knew his name, where he lived, if he had a job, where he bought groceries. Nobody knew him. He never talked to anyone, never deviated from his routine. In fact, he did not seem to realize that there was an entire world around him.
Children made fun of him, as children do. The teens were the worst. They called him names, shouted jeers at him, and once, about six months ago, a group of high school kids pushed him down. The man got back up, picked up his doughnut, and took a bite. Tommy Mason, the school’s quarterback, knocked the doughnut out of his hand and into the street, which caused the teens to begin a whole new take on their name calling. That was the only day the man deviated from his routine. When Tommy knocked the doughnut away, then man just turned and left, shuffling up Second Street. The high schoolers followed for a bit, but a patrol car came by and they gave up their taunting.
It all ended last week when the most extraordinary thing happened.
It was Wednesday afternoon and the man was smoking a cigarette looking around despondently. He then did something he had never done before. Rather than drop his cigarette at his feet and crush it out, he flicked it into the face of a passing bicyclist. The woman on the bicycle lost control, swerving into a newspaper box, knocking it over. The box crashed open, spilling newspapers at the feet of a father and son who were walking along the sidewalk eating ice cream cones. They both tripped on the newspapers, sending the ice cream to the sidewalk a few feet in front of them. A stray dog burst from an alley, running towards the ruined ice cream, and as it did so, it bumped a trash can that fell into the leg of a fruit stand. The fruit stand toppled over, spilling various apples onto the sidewalk and out into the street. The vendor at the hot dog cart slipped on the apples, jostling his cart. The wheel chuck popped out and the cart rumbled into the street directly into the path of an oncoming SUV whose driver was talking on their cell. The driver hadn’t seen the old man crossing the street he was about to hit, but he did see the hot dog cart and slammed down on his brakes, stopping just in time. Cart and old man were safe, and the strange, impromptu Rube Goldberg machine ended.
The man with the uncombed brown hair and the wrinkled khakis glanced at me and smiled sheepishly. Pointing to a bizarre looking watch on his wrist he said, “The Switch is two years off. I suppose I should have it looked at.” Turning, he shuffled away up Second Street.
For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Carrie gave me this prompt: You could see the man with the uncombed brown hair and the wrinkled khakis at the same street corner every day for two years. At 1 o’clock on Monday, he ate a peanut butter sandwich, at 2 o’clock Tuesday he had a doughnut, and the rest of the week he had.
I gave Diane this prompt: If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything. ~Mark Twain
UPDATE: The actual prompt I got was, “You could see the man with the uncombed brown hair and the wrinkled khakis at the same street corner every day for two years. At 1 o’clock on Monday, he ate a peanut butter sandwich, at 2 o’clock Tuesday he had a doughnut, and the rest of the week he had a vegetable of one kind or another at exactly 3:15. It never seemed like he ate enough to sustain himself, which may be why he hasn’t been seen for over a month.”
The email I received cut it short. Obviously, if I had gotten the whole thing, my story would have been much different.