He's fortyish, heavyset, and when he attempts to sit up I can make out his features more clearly in the glare of the streetlamp: a few days' growth of beard, triple chin, a ruddy nose lined with thick brown veins. He's dressed in some kind of tacky-looking lime green polyester pantsuit with washed-out Sergio Valente jeans worn over it (this season's homeless person's fashion statement) along with a ripped orange and brown V-neck sweater stained with what looks like burgundy wine. It seems he's very drunk - either that or he's crazy or stupid. His eyes can't even focus when I stand over him, blocking out the light from a streetlamp, covering him in shadow. I kneel down.
"Hello," I say, offering thy hand, the one the dog licked. "Pat Baternan."
The bum stares at me, panting with the exertion it takes to sit up. He doesn't shake my hand.
"You want some money?" I ask gently. "Some... food?"
The bum nods and starts to cry, thankfully.
I reach into my pocket and pull out a ten-dollar bill, then change my mind and hold out a five instead. "Is this what you need?"
The bum nods again and looks away, shamefully, his nose running, and after clearing his throat says quietly, "I'm so hungry."
"It's cold out, too," I say. "Isn't it?"
"I'm so hungry." He convulses once, twice, a third time, then looks away, embarrassed.
"Why don't you get a job?" I ask, the bill still held in my hand but not within the bum's reach. "If you're so hungry, why don't you get a job?"
He breathes in, shivering, and between sobs admits, "I lost my job..."
"Why?" I ask, genuinely interested. "Were you drinking? Is that why you lost it? Insider trading? just joking. No, really - were you drinking on the job?"
He hugs himself, between sobs, chokes, "I was fired. I was laid off."
I take this in, nodding. "Gee, uh, that's too bad."
"I'm so hungry," he says, then starts crying hard, still holding himself. His dog, the thing called Gizmo, starts whimpering.
"Why don't you get another one?" I ask. "Why don't you get another job?"
"I'm not..." He coughs, holding himself, shaking miserably, violently, unable to finish the sentence.
"You're not what?" I ask softly. "Qualified for anything else?"
"Tm hungry," he whispers.
"I know that, I know that," I say. 'Jeez, you're like a broken record. I'm trying to help you..." My impatience rises.
"I'm hungry," he repeats.
"Listen. Do you think it's fair to take money from people who do have jobs? Who do work?"
His face crumples and he gasps, his voice raspy, "What am I gonna do?"
"Listen," I say. "What's your name?"
"Al," he says.
"Speak up," I tell him. "Come on."
"Al," he says, a little louder.
"Get a goddamn job, Al," I say earnestly. "You've got a negative attitude. That's what's stopping you. You've got to get your act together. I'll help you."
"You're so kind, mister. You're kind. You're a kind man," he blubbers. "I can tell."
"Shhh," I whisper. "It's okay." I start petting the dog.
"Please," he says, grabbing for my wrist. "I don't know what to do. I'm so cold."
"Do you know how bad you smell?" I whisper this soothingly, stroking his face. "The stench, my god..."
"I can't..." He chokes, then swallows. "I can't find a shelter."
"You reek," I tell him. "You reek of... shit." I'm still petting the dog, its eyes wide and wet and grateful. "Do you know that? Goddamnit, Al - look at me and stop crying like some kind of faggot," I shout. My rage builds, subsides, and I close my eyes,bringing my hand up to squeeze the bridge of my nose, then I sigh: "Al... I'm sorry. It's just that... I don't know. I don't have anything in common with you."
The bum's not listening. He's crying so hard he's incapable of a coherent answer. I put the bill slowly back into the pocket of my Luciano Soprani jacket and with the other hand stop petting the dog and reach into the other pocket. The bum stops sobbing abruptly and sits up, looking for the fiver or, I presume, his bottle of Thunderbird. I reach out and touch his face gently once more with compassion and whisper, "Do you know what a f**king loser you are?" He starts nodding helplessly and I pull out a long, thin knife with a serrated edge and, being very careful not to kill him, push maybe half an inch of the blade into his right eye, flicking the handle up, instantly popping the retina.