Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Baby Angels (excerpt)

Sweetapple was Halifax's man of mystery. Not that anybody ever tried to solve that mystery. Most folks stayed clear of him, just because he looked different. Nothing new in that. I always figured he didn't care whether or not people liked him. Any man dressed like that had no interest in making friends. He was alone by choice.

As far as I could tell, his only social contact came from riding the Metro Transit system. Transfer slip by transfer slip, he eased from one route to the next, touring the city for the price of a large cup of coffee. The veteran drivers, used to his eccentricities, were the most accommodating. It was the newer ones gave him grief.

"This is an in-bound bus, sir. That's an out-bound transfer. You have to pay to go back."

Made no difference to Sweetapple. He was just as happy to walk. For an old guy, he was in pretty good shape--lots of lean muscles and just a bit of a potbelly. His only real problem was his right leg. All the pieces were there; they just didn't work properly. Somewhere along his way through life, he'd seen action. The kind that leaves permanent reminders. For Sweetapple, that meant using a cane for the rest of his life.

Seemed he couldn't afford a real cane, but he made do. That's the first thing anyone noticed about him, that golf club. A driver, or whatever it's called. The fatheaded one. Someone had drilled a hole through the club and into the shaft, then stuck in a blue-handled screwdriver. Made sense, really, as a way of keeping his hand from slipping. On my cynical days, I pictured him using the screwdriver to hunt cats in dark alleys.

I met Sweetapple during one of my outgoing, adventurous, can't-stop-me-now days. I'd followed him to the Public Gardens. This after watching him pass in and out of my peripheral vision for almost four months. It took me that long to work up the courage to talk to him. What was I worried about? Panhandling? Cooties? A blue-handled screwdriver?

He leaned on the rail of the pond, tossing breadcrumbs to the swans. With each motion of his arm, he glanced over his shoulder at me as I approached. I got the feeling that he was more scared of me than I was of him. Imagine. And me all of five foot three. Even at his age, he'd be more than my match.

"Excuse me," I whispered, then cleared my throat to try again. "Excuse me. Sir?"

He put his hands in his coat pockets and grumbled, "Ain't got no change. Go away."

Caught off guard, I could only stare: first at his scraggly beard, then down at my clothes. To be honest, I didn't look much better than he did. My shirt, though tucked in, was a couple sizes too big for me--a souvenir from my last boyfriend, Kenny, and the only part of him I kept. I could see my socks through the holes in my jeans. And my baseball cap was still backwards from when I'd stopped a few blocks back to shoot my next masterpiece.

The Nikon should have tipped him off that I wasn't just another street person. Of course, for all I knew, he probably thought the camera was stolen. Or maybe he was just plain crazy. Whichever. I flicked him a half-hearted goodbye and headed back to the main gate.

I hadn't gone more than three steps when something hit the back of my head. It didn't really hurt, but the shock was enough to make me curse. Crumbs. He hit me with a bag of breadcrumbs.


“Baby Angels” explores the unlikely relationship between Janet, a young photographer, and Sweetapple, an aging sculptor. The story takes place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I have lived since 1991. I wrote this piece to explore the human tendency towards preconceptions and show that few people are as they seem on the surface. The story is full of twists, most of which surprised even me during the writing process.

1 comment:

  1. This is interesting..really grips you to want to read more...gonna have to get it.