The Best Intentions [ficlet]

Thomas Baker woke up that Monday morning with the beatific feeling that all was well with the world. He’d gotten his 8 hours of sleep, he’d finished grading all of his students’ essays on the Civil War the night before, and his wife was feeling amorous before the sun came up, which was quite rare.

Later that morning on the way to work, while waiting for the light to turn green, he noticed a bedraggled woman standing on the corner. She was dressed in grimy rags. Her hair and face were both matted with dirt. As was often the case with the homeless, Thomas couldn’t tell if she was thirty or sixty.

On impulse, Thomas lowered his window and beckoned her over, a crisp twenty dollar bill in his hand. Why not, he thought to himself. She looks like she needs it more than me. The woman took it with a shy smile, and Thomas noticed that her eyes, though faded now, must have once been beautiful.

“Thank you,” she said, her words slurring together slightly.

“You’re quite welcome,” Thomas said, and he meant it.

The light turned green and Thomas drove away, soon forgetting all about the woman and the twenty dollar bill.

Less than 24 hours later, an ambulance was racing through the city, weaving through traffic and running past stop signs, the paramedics inside struggling to resuscitate the woman strapped to the table.

Before they even reached the hospital, though, she was dead from a heroin overdose. One of the paramedics, a young woman in her twenties named Marci, was trying hard not to cry. Her partner, a stocky fifty year-old named Bruno, turned to her and said softly, “These damn junkies, they never learn. New York is full of ‘em.”

Marci ignored him as she stared at the lifeless woman on the table, wondering if she’d ever learn to affect the same distance to the dead that Bruno had learned.

The dead woman’s arms were criss-crossed with the scars of countless needles. Her wide open eyes were a faded blue, like over-washed jeans. Like all the living had left long before her soul slipped out the door.

0 comment(s):