Tuesday, October 20, 2009


By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 510

Ivan was sitting in tattered clothes, on a wooden box in the centre of the town. He was shaking a metal canteen cup, half full of change, hoping he wouldn’t be rousted by the locals and has to prove again that he was ‘On the Job’.

“Get a job you lazy bum,” one of the local hooligans yelled at him as he rode past on his scooter.

Ivan grunted half-heartedly and went back to his can rattling.

“Morning Ivan,” a petite young business woman said, tossing a couple of two dollar coins in Ivan’s cup.

Ivan smiled and tipped his hat.

“See you tomorrow,” she said, scampering off down the sidewalk to work.

A few other regulars tossed coins into the cup, and by the end of the day Ivan had collected over thirty dollars. Enough for a packet of smokes and a bottle of rum, Ivan thought. There may even be enough left over to buy something to eat, if he was lucky.

After the bustle of a busy day ended, Ivan packed up his few possessions and walked to the Botanical Gardens a few blocks away. He heard the gruff and aggressive voice of his master as he neared the bamboo cluster in the centre of the park.

“That is the last time you ever cheat me out of my money, scum!” the voice yelled at a cowering vagrant.

Ivan felt the sticky, wet splatter of blood hit his face. The vagrant screamed at the sight of his left hand lying on the ground, still holding the small leather pouch he used as a wallet.

“Get him out of here and to a hospital,” the master grunted. “Maybe he can earn more money for me begging with on one hand now.”

Two other homeless people stood in line in front of Ivan, waiting to hand over their takings to the master of the beggar’s guild. Ivan trembled slightly, fearing his turn.

“What have we here?” the master said, looking at the bag of money Ivan handed over. “Thirty dollars. Not as much as you are capable of collecting, is it?”

“No sir.”

“I will have to keep eighty percent today, I think.”

“Not fifty, master?”

“I don’t think I heard you right,” the master said. “It almost sounded like you were questioning my authority.”

“No sir, eighty is fine.”

The master tossed back the bag with ten dollars in it. Luckily for Ivan, neither of them could count.

Ivan bowed and quickly walked to the bottle shop to try his luck at pinching his booze now he couldn’t buy it. If he was lucky, he would get caught and end up in the watch house for the night, comfortable bed, decent meal and maybe even a shower. If he was unlucky, he’d get away with lifting the booze and the master would find out about it and expect a share and more if Ivan didn’t declare it.


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