The Solitary Beggar – A Short Story by Comrade Ogbu A. Ameh

The solitary beggar sits rigid with his hands in a fixated stretch for alms. He looks dirty and drab in his black heavily soiled robe, as he remains calm and oblivious of activities around him. He alters no word or chants litany of solicitous refrain even in the kaleidoscopic of human traffic at the bus stop.

The solitary beggar is in a world of his own where time stands still. He shows no desperation for the alms from cheerful or compulsive givers, yet he remains a pitiful sight of one who lacks in the midst of plenty. The man is one among hundreds of people who have walked past the beggar today.

He walks briskly as he groans under the scorching sun, thinking about series of disappointments he has met with on this day. He is deep in thought, yet takes notice of every movement and action around him.

The man notices the solitary beggar in his prey mantis posture. He walks by like many others before him, but stops a few steps from the beggar. The man listens for repetitive chant or song from the solitary beggar, but none comes as expected.

He stands casting side-glances at regular intervals to see who is giving alms to the beggar. He becomes worried and sad as no one drops coin or note in his outstretch palms. Fleeting emotions fill his thought about the beggar, the thronging human traffic and the city that has no mercy on the socially depraves.

The man remains on the same spot standing as his mind goes on memory lane. Growing up as a child, he remembers seeing colonies of beggars in his small hometown. He usually sees them around the market, road junctions and other public places. He grows up believing that they were born blind, lame, deaf and dumb or with all sorts of physical disabilities. His sympathy for them as a child makes him wants to grow up an adult who can help to put smiles on their faces. He often wonders why their relatives would allow them to wander around begging for alms.

He knows too well that, these sorts of people are not from among his own people. In his place or community, begging for alms even food is almost considered a taboo. He remembers vividly his latter childhood through adolescence when he travels on board train up North. The melodious songs and chants rendered by these itinerant beggars was a side attraction to railroad journey. As the man, jolts back to reality from his retrospection, he casts a glance at the solitary beggar and he is still there.

The man’s mind becomes disquiet at the tableau-fixated posture of the solitary beggar. Hundred and one thoughts compete vigorously on his mind struggling for processing for a solution, but none comes readily. As he steps to move, tears well up in his eyes. He shrugs his shoulders and drags his numb feet sluggishly towards the ever-busy bus stop to scramble back home out of the city centre.

That night, the man sleeps with the thought of the solitary beggar on his mind. No sooner has he closes his eyes than the visuals of the day’s events pan before him. In his dream, he does what he cannot do in real life. He sets about picking beggars from the roadside and other public places. He has a large truck with volunteers and other hired hands that help in rounding up these beggars from the street. He has always thought of a way to intervene in human miseries, but constrained by lack of fund. In his dream world where wishes were horse, he and his beggars could ride.

The man is so happy to see the actualization of his heart desires. In less than two weeks of active humanitarian volunteering service, the street becomes clean and deserted of beggars. The man’s charity work soon comes to the notice of relevant social institutions and the press starts hunting him for interviews. Basking in the euphoria of doing his desired charity work and the media attention on him, he grants his first media interview to the press.

The media briefing and interview schedules to hold at the large premises used as home for the mass of beggars. The man seams upbeat working himself to multi task in preparation for the D-day when he opens his eyes and yawns. It is yet another day, for him waking up to the reality of life where there are too many beggars than he can ever cater for. The man looks around his small room where he lives in one of the numerous shanties of the city suburbs, closes his eyes again and releases a prolong hiss. In the end, he mutters as he reluctantly pushes his body up from the bed; “the city is really a lonely place where everyone is on his own in the midst of the surging crowed “

Comrade Ogbu A. Ameh, (onwaters2011@gmail.com)