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It is easy to go along with a group.  The question is how do you cope when you are alone?  Enjoy the final part, Part 2, of The Walk.  Thanks.  

 

PART 2

 

THREE DAYS AGO, THE five train commuters (Jeff, the financial analyst.  Cassie, the paralegal.  Dalton, the maintenance man.  Bryan, the electrician.  Dara, the insurance attorney.) had walked down the alley to Tenth and Far Street.

 

The group had steeled themselves for the homeless man’s verbal assault.  They were also prepared for any violence the homeless man would bring their way.  Each had their hands in their pockets.  They were ready to use their mace or knife, or worst-case scenario, the gun.

 

The group looked around for the homeless man.  Where was he?  They were halfway down the alley.  He should have assaulted them by now.  He must have planned a sneak attack, the group said.

 

They were almost at the end of the alley.  They were twenty feet away from Tenth and Far Street.  There was still no homeless guy.  They were surprised.  He did not come that day.  The group wondered aloud.  Was their fifty-meter walk to Tenth and Far Street back to normal?

 

It was that day.

 

There was nothing but smiles.  The group talked and laughed like old times.  One of them saw something up ahead.  It was odd that they had not noticed it before.

 

Near the street was a park bench.  It sat back and away from the street.  No one in the group had noticed the bench before.  As they neared the bench, the group took more than a quick glance at it.

 

“Stop,” Cassie said.  The others stopped abruptly.  “Look.”  She pointed at the bench.  “What is that?”

 

The group walked cautiously toward the bench.  A pair of old shoes stuck out from behind the bench.  The soles were torn halfway off.  They could see filthy socks with holes in them and dirty feet inside the shoes.  A pair of pants legs were slid up above the person’s ankles.  The ankles were dry and ashy.

 

The group looked at one another.  They moved in closer to get a better look.

 

Behind the bench and between the shrubs in back of the bench lay the homeless man.  Their torturer was lying face down.  He was in that filthy green jacket he wore.  The scarf he wore was around his neck.  An empty Gin bottle was on the ground.  It was a few inches from his outstretched fingers.  He did not appear to be breathing.

 

Someone in the group said they needed to call 911.  Jeff took out his phone.  Three hands put their hands on his and covered his phone.  Jeff squinted at the faces of the others.

 

The others looked at the homeless man and at Jeff.  He was still holding his phone.  He had not made the call.  The others shook their heads at Jeff.  He slowly got the message.  On the ground was their tormentor, their enemy.

 

Jeff put his phone back into his pocket.

 

This was the first morning they had had peace and quiet since the intruder showed up.  This was the first morning in eleven months that they could walk all the way to their offices in peace.  This was the first morning in a long time that they felt good about getting to their destinations.  This was the first morning that had felt normal in almost a year.

 

The group stood watching the homeless man.  They were communicating without words.  Their looks and body language said everything.  What if their mornings went back to the way they were?  Would that be bad?  Why shouldn’t their mornings return to normal?  What was this man contributing to society?  This man brought nothing to society except anguish and pain.

 

They cut their eyes from one to another.  It was as if they came to a consensus.  They had not seen this park bench that was out of the way.  It was hidden by unkempt bushes.  And they had been walking this same route for almost two years.  They could not be alone in not seeing it.  How many others had not seen it?  Maybe lots and lots.

 

The group looked up and down the alley.  No one else was around.  It was not a popular cut through.

 

Bryan looked at trash and old clothes lying nearby.  He suggested they cover the homeless man.  Someone said that was the least they could do.  Another said that no one would notice him for a while.  Her statement was clear to everyone.

 

They were not going to cover the homeless man for his protection or well-being.  This was their moment to possibly put a permanent end to his harassment.

 

They quickly piled trash and clothes over the man.  When they were finished it looked like a pile of debris.  A human silhouette was not visible.

 

The group pulled their jackets and coats closed as they stared down at the heap of trash.  It was fifteen degrees out.  The wind chill had put the temperature at eight degrees.  The wind was cutting through them.

 

The group hurried to Tenth and Far Street.  Before going in different directions, several in the group said, “We never saw him.”  They nodded to one another.

 

They went to their offices with a glimmer of hope that this was the start of a new day.

 

Three days later the group was back walking down the alley to Tenth and Far Street.  Their tormentor and his harassment were gone.  They had taken the initiative to rid themselves of their problem when no else would help them.

 

But the day did not feel new.  The terrain was the same.  But the mood was not.  The casual, friendly conservation was gone.  The peace and quiet were hard not to like.  They just needed to learn to live without thinking about the costs they would eventually have to pay.

 

The group stopped at Tenth and Far Street.  They glanced at one another and went in different directions.  There were no goodbyes.  No small talk.  Just guilt and relief and hope.  Hope that maybe, just maybe, one day they could forget what they had done.

 

Certain things are not worth the price when we think them through.  This group found that out too late.

I hope you enjoyed the final part of The Walk.

Thank you for stopping by.

Stephen Wallace