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The Best Of 2008

A Fallen Comrade
By Wayne Scheer -- Contributing Author [Email This Story]

The old man in dirty clothes staggered on a busy city street. His torn pants and stained shirt hung loosely from an emaciated body. People quickened their pace, allowing themselves only quick glances at the man before turning their heads.

The man muttered, then shouted, "Take me, goddamn it! Take me home!" He raised his hands and collapsed to the sidewalk.

People gathered around the old man. No one dared approach him. A woman pulled at a little boy, dragging him to the edge of the sidewalk.

The man stared at the crowd. As one, they retreated. He stretched out his arms towards them. They moved back further.

"Help me," he moaned.

A young woman started towards him but the man with her, dressed in neatly pressed jeans and a leather coat, grabbed her by the shoulder. "Don't," he said. "You don't want to touch him."

"Let him sleep it off, someone shouted. "He may be dangerous. They carry knives, you know."

The old man rose to his knees. Strands of greasy white hair hung down his face. He forced an unsteady hand through his hair. Wetting his lips, he looked to the crowd. "Some water, please."

No one moved towards him. "Damn you all!"

He tried to stand, but his legs collapsed from under him.

"Stay still, old timer," a voice in the crowd said. "I called for help."

"You stay still, damn it!"

The crowd grew. The old man pounded his fists onto the pavement until they bled. Small drops of dark red blood stained the concrete.

An ambulance pulled up, followed by a fire truck and two police cars. Men and women in uniform tended to the fallen old man. The police pushed the crowd back.

"I didn't know what to do. He just collapsed, a man said."

"He was cursing," a woman added. "I was afraid."

The medical personnel calmed the old man and covered him with blankets. They lifted him onto a stretcher.

A police officer examined a bracelet on his wrist.

"Mr. Crane," the police officer holding the bracelet said, "Gerald Crane?" The old man turned to the officer. A smile formed on his lips. "Your daughter's been worried sick."

Turning to the crowd, the officer thanked them for their help.

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