There he goes again.

Every day, it’s the same thing. I hear the door across the hall slam, a foul-smelling cloud of pot smoke finds its way across the hall and seeps under the door, giving me a migraine. A series of thuds as his heavy tread goes down the stairs. A series of metallic rattles as he undoes the chain holding his battered green bike to the awning pillar.

I peer out the window and watch him pedal off, a hunched old man wearing a battered pea coat, with a ragged flap of cardboard tucked under his arm and a joint cocked in the corner of his mouth. It always amazes me that he manages not to light his greasy salt-and-pepper hair on fire while it whips around him with that flame dancing so close. How he keeps it lit in the omnipresent drizzle is also a mystery.

I know where he’s going. I’ve seen him almost every day on my way to work. He stands at the corner of Lancaster and Center, sandwiched between the Target and a Mongolian BBQ place. The flap of cardboard is his sign. The sign always irritates me, makes me want to grab it out of his hands and beat him with it.

“Tests of kindness, still only 25 cents,” it says.

Fuck your kindness,  I think.

Sometimes he has a dog, a mangy-looking mutt of no particular breed, dust-colored. I don’t know where it comes from. I never see it at the complex, which makes sense since animals aren’t allowed – of course, neither is smoking, and he drowns us all in his weed, so I doubt they’d be too concerned even if he was caught with a mutt – but somehow he gets it to him here. Other days he’s alone. I’ve watched him; he always does better on days he has the dog.

I’m not surprised. People can be stupid, sometimes. “Oh, look at the cute homeless puppy,” they say. Then they give him a five or a ten or sometimes even a twenty instead of fifty cents or a buck.

Be more charitable, the voice in my head sometimes says. Hell with that. I’d be charitable if I didn’t know he lived in a $900 a month three bedroom apartment or if I didn’t know he smoked enough pot to knock out a room full of rock stars or if I didn’t see him every night clomping back up the stairs with two or three overloaded Applebees bags.

He’s scamming everyone. Meanwhile there’s plenty of folks like me, struggling to make things work out, working two or three jobs at a time and trying to remember to find time to sleep and still sometimes having to decide if they’re walking to work that day or going hungry because you can have gas or food but not both. But they’d say I’m the monster, I’m the complainer.

I’d seen this every day for the last eight months. Getting angrier each day, getting tired of busting my ass to follow the rules and try to be productive when someone like that gets away with whatever they like and survives – thrives, even – on the stupidity and errant kindness of others.

I think that’s when I made up my mind.

I had to kill him.

KA Spiral no signature


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