Brian Mayer

The Giving Season


ISSUE 44 | FREE MONEY | SEP 2014

Every morning Wentworth stakes out a corner of the Square because that's where the out-of-towners congregate. He knows their patterns. With his pressed suit and slicked-back hair, clean shave and faint perfume, he gives these people exactly what they expect to see on the streets.

They idle by, each with a purpose. Men hunched over in dark jackets float around him like silent shadows on the wall. A woman in drooping rags pretends not to notice him there with his hand outstretched. His plight is obvious but they move on.

He tries different techniques. He holds a wad of cash in his hand, to show his generosity. He tries stacking the bills neatly in piles around his feet. He puts the big bills on top so they beg to be taken. He puts the small bills on top so he looks less desperate.

One time a child notices him presenting a solitary, crisp banknote in his manicured fingers. The child stops and outstretches his dirtier fingers to take what he desires. But his mother yanks him away with a rebuke. (At least Wentworth assumes it is his mother. He can never tell with these people.) They roll off with their shopping cart piled high with bags and old clothes and sandals. She steels her eyes forward.

The days go on, and sometimes Wentworth has some luck. Occasionally, he manages to give away some cash to a caring passerby or an older fellow. His clothes need constant replacement. His fingernails need constant trimming. Once in a while he does not go to the Square at all, but sits and weeps in the corner of his house, clutching his last remaining suitcase full of money. Every day the suitcase becomes lighter. Every day he walks a little quicker.

One winter evening he rests on a bench near his usual spot on the Square, and buttons his fur coat to the neck. The winds are whistling Christmas music. It is the giving season. He cannot remember the year.

The sound of rustling steps in snowdust catches his attention. He looks up to see several boys, seemingly restless with the slog of adolescence, approach him across the whitewashed plain. They drag heavy bags. Scraps of cloth hanging from their pants tickle the ground as they quickstep over. Tappity-tap, quicker and quicker, the soles of their shoes scrape the street as they snicker.

He has heard of such attacks, but they have never happened to him.

He doubles over as the first boy kicks him in the side. The other boys take turns on his stomach, his legs, his face. His nose is dripping blood on his pressed white shirt. His tie is ripped. His feet are swelling. One of the boys has a backpack that he has to lift with both hands as he brings it down onto Wentworth’s prostrate body. The bag bursts at the seams. The last thing Wentworth remembers is a shower of green money raining onto him. His eyes swell shut as the boys stuff the useless cash in his pockets, his pants, his collar, his mouth.

The next morning, he is awoken by the bells of the holiday carolers as they make their way ghostlike across the Square. They are speaking in hushed and excited tones. Wentworth peers through swollen slits at his pristine body ruined, his black and white turned green and dirty. He struggles to right himself as a wave of out-of-towners crests the hill and bustles past. They notice him but quickly avert their gaze and move on. He collects handfuls of green bills from his body. Some are covered in vomit. He stacks them all in neat piles. Then he exhales and pushes himself up on the icy ground. His corner on the Square beckons him only a few steps away.

He knows now he needs to start again. He needs a new suit and haircut and manicure and shower. He needs to put the money through the wash so it comes out clean. It will take a lot more work than before. But his corner is waiting. He will be back. After all, it is the giving season.


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