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July 2018, vol 14 no 2

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Charles Halsted

The Handout

Driving into the shopping center, I see a woman hold up a sign: HELP ME, MY HUSBAND JUST DIED! About fifty, with a brown face and scraggly black hair, she wears a man’s threadbare coat, holds out a cap for some change. Avoiding eye contact, exiting drivers turn the corner, speed away. Is this just a scam or a chance to do good? Would my gift be used for drugs, booze, or food? When I’m ready to leave, should I avert my eyes or come to a stop at her side? I check my wallet: a few twenties, none smaller. When I give her a twenty, she draws my hand to her mouth, plants a wet kiss. Tears streaming, she murmurs, “Muchas gracias, señor.”

stopped at a side street
sunset gleams off rearview mirror
I wipe off my hand