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November 23, 2008

I’m lifting this short story from poet Jose Flores’ My Space Blog. Visit him HERE:

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My intentions were not to turn left on Casar Chavez street. I use the word “intentions” because that song ” I’m just a soul whose intentions are good, oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood” blasted from the car radio and I tapped ta ta ta ta ta ta tatatatata as I looked into the night on my left window. I was still driving an old and white Toyota wagon with the back window partly smashed and mended with gray duct tape and clear plastic. Three times I had patched that window leaving the old goo stuck to the metal edges of the tail gate and collecting all kinds of Austin smut. One late afternoon as I was rushing to my Work-study in the UT Tower, I paralleled squeezed that old Toyota in the only slot available between a small car and a red Jeep Cherokee. When I returned four hours later, a note written in pencil was stuck to my windshield wiper. ” You insensitive bastard,” it read. “I wasted 45 minutes getting out of here. YOU deserve this piece of shit you are driving.” That hurt.

But this evening I turned left on Casar Chavez street after I saw this vagrant on the corner. In austin these guys are landmarks. They mark most corners of busy intersections holding their tattered amusing cardboard signs. Most signs beg “Anything helps” and God Bless You.” or “Veteran…Need Food”. Some are clever found poetry, “Imagine a Burger and Fries,” but most of us have become insensitive to the signs and the holders, unless the pathos level is raised by the occasional dog with the red bandana around the neck or the leather-faced old woman.
This evening what grabbed me was the time. No one begs at the corner in the dark. And the sign. This sad figure held the sign backwards; from the sidewalk, he stared at headlight and held an empty sign.

My intensions were not to turn left on Cesar Chavez but that was the only way I could square a few more lefts and come onto him again to tell him about the sign. And I did.

” Hey man, your sign is backwards”. My window was rolled down about a foot and I could see him under the street light. The car radio was off and the only sounds were the traffic of IH 35 rushing under Caesar Chavez Street. “Your sign, man, it’s backwards!”

The man did not speak. He trotted towards me expecting the handout. “The sign…it’s backwards.”

He glanced at the cardboard, flipped it, and held the sign to my window. The backside was also blank. The sign was blank. As blank as his expression, as blank as his gray and empty gaze. What sticky change I could grab with my right hand from the cup holder, I gave him as I rolled the window open.

He stepped back on the sidewalk and held his empty sign. He held it tight in front of him. His message clear for all to read.

Jose Flores

and read one of Flores’ poems HERE

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