Monday, May 31, 2010

The Singer

Prompt: Write a story about a beggar who loves to hear himself sing.


Response: I sat down in the street, leaning against the wall of an adjacent building. It was cold out, but it had been dry enough for several days that I was sitting in neither water nor ice. I stretched my legs out in front of me. My muscles were stiff from the chilly weather and my skin felt dry and eerily smooth.

I leaned my head against the wall and waited. I was tired and dirty. My feet ached inside my worn leather boots. I wasn't used to wandering the streets - wasn't used to walking so much. I wasn't used to walking - not out of desire, but out of necessity.

My head was so heavy, my eyelids so heavy, that I almost fell asleep while I was waiting. I thought when I first heard the singing that it must have been a trapped bird in a window, but when I realized that the voice was human I sat up straighter, drawing my legs up to my chest.

I didn't know the tune and apparently he didn't either - as he hummed several lines between words - but the sound was melodious and strong. I turned my face toward the voice, hoping he wasn't coming my way so he wouldn't notice me listening.

The beggar's tin rattled slightly with the distinct sound of jangling coins and his cane tapped at the ground. And above them his voice rose - rough and worn, but powerful and moving.

I closed my eyes as I listened and I could remember the first time I had heard his voice. It was a lifetime ago - before I was living on the streets. It was back when I had a warm winter coat to stave away the wet and the chill. It was back when I had a whole closet full of shoes - all more sturdy than the ones I had on. I passed him on my way to a restaurant suggested by a friend. His lonely, compelling voice had stopped me from a few blocks away.

He had been singing a haunting gosepel song I thought I had heard somewhere before.

The words had struck me hard enough to bring tears to my eyes. Hallelujah, the great storm is over. Lift up your wings and fly.

Huddled against the wall I listened intently to him sing. It carried me to a room with a roaring fire and a piano in the corner with the smell of apples and cinnamon wafting through the air - a place I had once known.

Though I didn't know the words he sang, I felt his voice rush through me like a gust of wind, break over me like the crest of a wave, and I no longer felt quite so cold.

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