Publicado por: RedClyde | sábado, 25 outubro 2008

The Bum

The man descended into the subway station. The light bulbs on the walls illuminated the place just as much as the streetlights outside, but the air seemed somewhat staler to him. It gave him the distant sensation of walking into a cave, though he realized that his mind could have a hand in that, considering the circumstances in which he frequented the subway.

The unfortunate result of not being as studious as he should have been years before was that the best job he could muster was a two hour drive from his home. Saving money on fuel, he found it economical to take the train.

When he left work, it was already late, and he had not yet had dinner. Every day, he plunged into the subway, tired, hungry, and usually frustrated by some nuisance or other. Of course, it was while he waited for the long, silver passage home that he mulled over his own impotence when it came to certain dealings, usually in his job but oftentimes at home, as well.

However, it wasn’t the fact that his problem-filled afterthoughts caught up with him while he stood there waiting that made him dislike the subway station. He had always found the place too rowdy for his taste during the day, and too deserted for his taste during the night. It was a locale that seemed to be perpetually dirty. And of course, there were the weirdoes and the homeless that seemed to pop up (in)conveniently just around the time he needed to catch his train.

He didn’t like the situation, but what could he do? Maybe if he won the lottery or bet on the winning horse he could move on to a better life, but only a fool would hold serious hope on something like that.

It had been ages since he had been able to afford to bet. Fortunately, he had stopped before he himself was one of the homeless, trying to sleep near the train terminals, covering himself and his torn and filthy finders-keepers coat with week-old newspapers he had borrowed from someone’s trashcan. Unfortunately, he sometimes felt no better than one of them, as he stepped behind the yellow line and waited for his ride.

People sometimes told him he was pessimistic, and in the subway, he sometimes almost believed them.

That night, when he entered the subway station, it seemed like it would go as it always did. And maybe to him, it did go as it always did, aside from a most nonsensical exchange with one of the homely impaired that left him perplexed at the time, but was hastily forgotten thereafter.

Stepping out in the train terminals, he saw the usual individuals who, he assumed, were returning to their own homes after a hard day’s work (though not as hard as his, of course). There was also the usual bum or two, out of everyone’s way and in their own corner but still present enough to be felt and consequently unwanted. Or at least, it usually went that way.

Yes, there were two bums this night. One, though, was sitting down by the wall instead of lying down, and eyed the man with a curious glare. His uncared-for hair and beard grew long, too long for comfort, it seemed to him, and had mutated into a gross shade of purplish grey from what seemed to be dirt and other such substances best left unknown. The brown shoes seemed more socks than shoes by how worn they were, and that wasn’t even considering the half-dozen holes the pair had collected. If the bum was wearing a shirt, the man couldn’t see it; he was wearing an unnerving fur coat that was in such a state of disarray – with several tears and rips and, of course, muck of several different sorts and dark colors –, that it seemed as if he had strangled a small animal and wrapped it around his body.

All in all, he appeared a bum like any other. Except he wasn’t. Or maybe, in the end, he was. The man wouldn’t know either way.

The man found himself shifting uncomfortably under the stare of the bum. The train would take at least a minute more to arrive, but he wouldn’t go anywhere; he didn’t want to risk missing the train. If that were to happen, the next one would only be in thirty minutes. Well, thirty-one, counting the minute left for this one to arrive.

He figured the bum wouldn’t try to mug him. Even if he did try, he seemed too weak to pose any real threat – for a moment, the man felt a small amount of pride, for he could hardly say that about anybody. He seemed to forget that, though, when the bum suddenly stood – even if hunched over like a zombie – and shuffled over to him. The man stood in fear, hoping that someone would intervene, even though he knew no one would.

Thankfully, the bum stopped a few feet away and just looked at him. The man wondered if he wanted money. Maybe if he chucked some quarters at the bum, he’d go away. Before his shaking hand could creep down to his pocket, though, the bum opened his mouth. As first he said nothing, and even from that distance, the man could smell his rancid breath. Then the bum spoke, a horse croak of a voice that actually made the man yearn to hear nails on blackboard if it meant drowning it out.

“Tragedy! Tragedy!” he paused for a moment, looking up at the ceiling. Before the man could even think to inquire, the bum continued, “Bananas! One hundred and seventeen thousands!”

The man stood dumbfounded. What the hell did that mean? Now convinced that the bum was not only homeless but also crazy, the man began to slowly step away, but froze, perplexed, when the bum suddenly dropped down to the ground and began flopping around like a fish out of water.

“Tragedy!” he kept repeating for several seconds. Then he stopped. Five seconds later, he began flopping around again. “Tragedy! Coffee, hot, it burns! Ow!” He flopped on his belly, then back on his back. “Trip, ow! Friday reports! One hundred and seventeen!” The bum stopped for a second, and added: “Thousands!” And promptly began flopping around again.

The few other (normal) people there snickered at the display, and the man felt embarrassed despite himself. He began to wonder if he should back away faster, or try to help the bum as he began to slide dangerously close to the edge of the platform and the tracks below.

Then he stopped and laid still for almost a minute, staring blankly at the ceiling. The man shifted uncomfortably, wondering how much longer it would take for the train to arrive.

The bum stood up again, and began walking back to his sleeping place, much to the man’s relief. He stopped halfway and turned to the man again, though.

“Nice tie! Thanks! Ow, hot! Bananas!” He jumped once, then twice. “Tragedy.” He began walking back to his sleeping place once more, but the man could hear him repeating: “Early? One hundred and seventeen thousands. Late.”

The train finally arrived as the bum reached his destination and began to sit down again. The man gladly entered the train, and breathed an audible sigh of relief when it started to speed away. His mind slowly drifted off to other things, his encounter with the homeless man quickly pushed to the back of his mind.

When the man awoke the next day, he didn’t even remember the strange encounter. He got dressed for work, had breakfast and kissed his average-looking wife goodbye. He left for work, taking the train and getting off on the same stop as always. He stopped to get a snack at one of the street stands, though – he found his wife’s breakfast horrible, though he certainly would never tell her –, and arrived at the building in which he worked shortly thereafter.

He made his way to his office (though it was actually just a cubicle) on one of the lower floors. The floors dedicated to the less important people, he reminded himself. He greeted several people on the way – though not because he cared about them, it’s just what you did –, including the new secretary girl, who complimented him on his tie. He thanked her, and felt a little happy until he reached his cubicle and his boss quickly showed up to inform him that he was late, and that it should not happen again.

After his boss left, the man, looking to stall the boring duties of his job as long as possible like he did on most days, left his cubicle and walked to the floor’s coffee machine. He noted with a smile that the new secretary girl was there, as well. He began to pour himself a cup of coffee, but someone bumped into him and he accidentally dropped some on her hand. She shrieked in pain. He cursed his bad luck and tried to help her, but all present dismissed him, saying she needed proper care for the burn.

Resignedly, he returned to his cubicle and got to work, and there he stayed for the rest of the work day, only being interrupted by lunch break and by his boss dropping a stack of papers on his desk and saying he wanted the reports by Friday.

The man sighed as he rounded up his things and got ready to leave. Just as he was exiting his cubicle, he tripped on his table and painfully banged his knee on the floor. He cursed his bad luck again, and his life while he was at it, and left the building after checking out for the day.

Only then did the man remember his encounter with the strange bum, and despite his hesitance, he decided to take the train at the same stop. It would take too long to get to the next one, he thought.

He immediately spotted the bum from the day before in the same spot. The bum seemed to be looking at him intently, though he couldn’t be sure; the man only looked at the bum out of the corner of his eye.

The man didn’t notice the banana peel near the edge of the platform. While his attention was on the bum, he stepped on it and slipped off the platform. By chance, the train had arrived a little earlier that day and had been passing at that exact moment. The tragedy was reported on one hundred and seventeen thousand television sets.

The bum shrugged and went back to sleep.



  1. How much time has it been? Two years or so? Not sure, but I read it again, though I knew what was going to be like, and still liked it. That’s a good sign, I guess.

    Gostei em particular do jogo entre early e late na fata do bum.

  2. I like it. as yumejin said, when chatting with me about this text, it wasn`t a common example when it was written.

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