Photo of homeless tent encampment and dumpster on dirty sidewalk in front of a faded mural of an immigrant woman and an American flag

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This story was written for the NYC Midnight Microfiction Challenge 2021.
Max 250 words in 24 hours
Genre: drama
Action: pointing at someone
Word: figure

On the street, Brian’s waistband itched, his bowels ached.

He watched two pockmarked men pull the guts from a beaten stereo. A woman with red cheeks massaged her foot, which looked like a ham rolled in an ashtray.

Keith sucked the gap of his missing incisors. “Got a gun or a knife, Brain?” Keith was calling him “Brain.”

“No.” His parents took his Swiss Army knife before they kicked him out.

“Guys’ll cutchyer throat.” Keith pointed at a man straightening a cardboard awning. The man glared.

Brian’s abdomen groaned. He looked down and asked, “Where do people around here, uh… go?”

Keith said loudly, “One or two, Brain?”

Brian murmured, “Two.”

Keith made a show of leaning to look up and down the block. “G’wan behind that white car. Coast is clear. I gotcha.”

The stereo men chuckled.

Brian left his backpack, walked fast and squatted behind a white sedan. He reasoned this was something the others experience all the time.

A woman with keys appeared between the cars and said an involuntary, “Uh-guh,” and got in her car and pulled out, revealing Brian to the street.

The tents roared with laughter.

Brian didn’t look at Keith as he picked up his backpack, pulled out his cigarettes and lit one.

Keith laughed. “Look, kid, I’m sorry. Say, you couldn’t spare…”

Brian offered the pack. One left.

Keith stared at it. Then took it, and his eyes went serious. “Gotta get you a weapon, Brian. We’ll figure somethin’ out, don’t worry.”

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  1. jim ilika

    “…a ham rolled in an ashtray”. Yikes. I have seen way too many feet like this and I never thought of this image. And now I can’t stop. I like the implied shift in interpersonal regard from Keith after the forgiveness and unexpected kindness of Brian. This resonates with my personal beliefs.

    1. Zachary Dillon

      I have to admit, that description concerned me when I wrote it because my first inclination was that “ham” might have humorous connotations. But most readers who comment on the story mention that line as something that will stick with them. I’m glad the story resonates with you. I think there’s some crossover in our personal beliefs.

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