My newest Submission to a contest didn’t work out so you can have a look at this short story!
“Can I have a dollar?”
An older man in his ratty, smelly clothes watched as I pushed a few coins into the washer. The homeless man invaded my personal space. He stood almost close enough to kiss me.
“Can I have a dollar, please?”
“If you want to wash those clothes, it’ll cost about seven dollars in total. So, no.”
I edged away from the homeless man and around the row of washers centred in the room. He followed. His breath smelled, his matted hair hung down past his shoulders, but his eyes looked soft and kind with no immediate desperation.
“Fine, I’ll bite. What do you need the money for? My wash will take twenty minutes. We can leave, and I can buy you whatever you want. Just get away from me.”
“I just want to buy a dinosaur toy from the toy shop around the corner.”
“A dinosaur toy, really?”
“Yes. It costs thirty dollars, and I have twenty-nine dollars. Your dollar is all I need.”
“Show me to the store, and I’ll buy your toy.”
Rex from Toy Story rested on the shelf alongside the rest of the cast from that movie which captivated my childhood. The homeless man shuffled his feet while his eyes glowed behind an inner light. His eyes darted between me and the toy.
I grabbed Rex from the shelf, marched it to the counter and paid for it. The cashier looked at the two of us, unsure of what was going on, not that I knew anything more than she did.
“Here’s your stupid dinosaur. Now, leave me alone.”
“What? Why would it matter what I think of your toy?”
“I guess twenty years in the psychiatric ward causes a few things to change. This toy isn’t what girls like anymore? When I got the news that my wife died and my daughter had moved here, I did my best to get better. I spent the last of my money coming to Melbourne to find my daughter. Two years of travel, living on the street, I’ve looked for my daughter.”
“Since she’s over twenty years old now, she’d probably like a present that wasn’t for a child.”
“I guess you’re right. It’s too late now, though.”
“So, this daughter of yours. You’ve found her?” I sighed and took a step towards the door.
“I have. Here you go.” He handed me the toy.
Shocked for a moment, I realised why those eyes looked so refreshing and kind. Those same eyes used to stare at me while my father tucked me into bed each night. My eyes stung as the tears found their way down my cheeks. “Daddy?”
“I’m here, kiddo. It just… took a while.”
Regardless of whether it made me smell just like the homeless bum he’d become, I hugged him.
“I’m not letting go of you ever again.” Dad’s arms tightened around me.