Feed the Wolf

A Day in the Life                                                                   by Bryan Dawe

James grabbed his brother’s arm, “Bill, come with me.”
Bill tried to shrug off the restraining hand; he pulled a hand through his hair, “Leave me be.” The grip on his arm only tightened, “I’m okay.”
“You’re embarrassing me, come!” James tried to lead him to a nearby bench.
Bill pushed at his brother, his hand leaving a smear on the younger man’s Burberry topcoat. He stumbled over the curb, but recovered and began to walk away. James caught up and stopped him, a light pressure on his arm.
“Let me help you to get better,” he said.
“I’m not sick.”
James turned his brother, “Don’t be so stubborn.”
“Can I go home now?”
James wiped at the stain on his Burberry, “What under the bridge?”
“My friends are there.”
“What about your family, what about me?”
“Look, Jim — ” Bill started.
“Don’t call me that, my name’s James,” he said his spine stiffening as he stood to his full height.
Bill looked at the ground, “I’m sorry.”
“You’re making this very difficult for me,” James continued, “people I work with see you here. They ask me about you.”
“I never meant to cause any trouble.”
“Then why do you hang around here?”
“This is where I live; it’s my home.”
James’ eyebrows lifted, “The street?”
“It’s where my friends are.”
James sighed.
“I live here Jim,” Bill stumbled over the words, “I mean James.”
“I wish I could get it through to you. You are so much better than this. Mother would be disappointed.”
Bill pulled a crust of bread out of his pocket, peeled off some crumbs and threw them on the ground near the sparrows perched on the fence. The birds flew to the morsels, chirps, and titters of excitement filling the air. A squirrel hopped across the lawn scattering the birds for the briefest of moments. They wheeled, some returning to the fence, others dropping back to the scattered crumbs. He pulled more small chunks off the piece and tossed them in the direction of the flock. Bill didn’t lift his eyes from the activity as he said, “I’m happy here.”
A cold pre-Winter gust forced James to pull his coat closer. “I don’t think you’re getting it,” James shrugged, “like I figured you don’t care.”
“I do, it’s just that I’m not cut out for your life. The nine to five of it; the worry about paying the mortgage having a car that’s less than three years old.”
“That’s not my life at all,” James interrupted, “you don’t know the pressures we’re under.”
“I think I do; it’s peaceful here without them.”
A streetcar rumbled by slowing to take the corner. The scree of its steel wheels against the tracks putting a lie to the peacefulness. It stuttered to a stop the doors hissed open disgorging more people dressed like James.
“You can’t just ignore life like that. How will we know if something happens to you?”
“I won’t be here,” Bill used his hand to indicate the spot where he stood.
“That’s not what I mean. You need to be a contributor to society. Not this,” James’ nose wrinkled, “Aren’t you embarrassed?”
“You mean my clothes?”
“That’s part of it.”
Bill stuffed his hands in the jacket pockets, “I have all that I need.”
When did you eat?
“Last night the truck came by.”
James’ eyebrows lowered, and his mouth became a hard line, “You’re happy with that, with charity?”
Bill smiled up at his younger brother, “I know it’s hard for you to understand.”
James shoved his hands deep in his pockets; the poses mirror images, “How anyone could live this way, off the charity of others,” he shook his head.
“I don’t take anything that isn’t offered.”
“Damn it, Bill.”
“This is demeaning; you look like shit. You’re so much better than this.”
Bill started walking again, “I should be getting home.”
James caught up when his brother stopped to reach down and pet a dog. Bill smiled at the man sitting with his back leaning up against the fence; they exchanged a greeting and Bill straightened in time to hear James.
“There has to be something more. Don’t you want to better yourself?”
“See this man, his name is Barnabas, like the apostle, he’s got nothing except for Julius, that’s his dog.” Bill halted as a siren split the air, loud air horn stopping everyone in their tracks, the fire truck slowing before proceeding through the intersection.
James prompted, “He’s a friend of yours?”
Bill held up his hand, “The dog is everything to him. I asked him once, and he told me that Julius doesn’t judge him. He gives to him before he takes for himself. I admire that. He’s out here begging on the street to feed Julius, he has no address gets no assistance, yet here he is sitting in the cold.”
James looked down at the dog and then at Bill. “Is that what you want? You don’t have to live like this. You have people who care about you.”
James reached out and stopped Bill as he began to walk away.
“Wait,” James dug into his pocket and pulled out a twenty, some change scattered on the ground, “take this. I need to be getting back to work. Will you be here later?”
Bill shrugged and took the bill from his brother, “I suppose if it won’t embarrass you too much.”
James huffed and turned on his heel.
Bill bent over and collected the change; he counted it absently, a loonie, three quarters, four dimes and even a couple of pennies. He shoved it into his pants pocket. He held the twenty in his hand as he walked back toward Barnabas.



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