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Much Awaited Silence

The drab buildings towered over the pale man with the dirty face. He watched from his bench as the massive crowed hurried around him. No one lingered around in downtown Chicago. Everyone had a place to go. He grabbed hold of his red suspenders and began to tug on them. He looked up and saw a young girl starring at him. The girl's hand was jerked by her mother as his colorless lips parted to reveal his yellow teeth. His mouth closed and he began to tap on his bench. He began to scrape at crusted pigeon droppings laying on his bench when a gray pigeon landed next to his boney hand. He swung at the bird, and it flew away.

It'll be back, he thought. They always come back. Why can't they realize this is my bench? It has always been my bench.

He glanced to his left and saw his friend Martin sitting on the ground next to a large cardboard box. He shifted is position on the bench so that he was facing Martin and said, "That box keeps the rain away, but I bet it draws ants."

"Aw! What do you know, Franklin? How you gonna draw ants if you ain't got no food?" answered Martin.

"Ya snot-filled freak! You gonna tell me you ain't got no food? You friggin fat fungus!"

"Come on man. That ain't fair! I's big boned dangit! Mama always said I was husky. 'You's a husky lil' fart,' she would say Mama loved me she did. She would . . .

Franklin sighed then turned his back to Martin. He now regretted speaking to Martin at all. "Oh shut-up," he grumbled. "All you ever do is talk about that lady. If she love you so much, why you on the street with me? She don't help you out none? Give you a place to stay? No. You sleep in that ol' ugly box."

"Heck man, Mama she loved me, I just made bad choices. She did all what she could to help me, but I was a bone-head. I didn't listen and ran from her and from all them else who loved me. I just ran, man. I took off faster than a rabbit at an Eskimo's wedding. Quicker than a bucket full of chicken at a grease lickin contest. Straiter than a one-legged man in a dog kickin' fest. Uglier than a . . ."

Franklin glanced over his shoulder and said, "What in the world are you talking about?"

"I dunno. I tend to forget at times."

Franklin looked across the street at the clock tower. It was a quarter 'til one. The crowd was less chaotic than it was earlier.

Lunch break must be over, Franklin thought. Two pigeons several feet away from him, one gray and one blue, caught his eye as they were both tearing at the same slice of bread. The gray pigeon pecked at the other and it flew back across the street to the clock tower. Franklin smiled at this small bit of entertainment.

"Oh! I remember now!"

Franklin jumped and looked over at Martin.

"What?" Franklin asked.

"I remember what I was talking about!"

"What?"

"You had asked what I was talking about! I remember now!!"

"That's just great," said Franklin as he let out a sigh. "Too bad I could care less."

"What else you gonna do? Scrape that pigeon poop off your rear?"

"Man, leave my backside outa this!"

"It's tough. I try to, but it just keeps catching my attention. Ain't 'cus your fat, but it 'cus it the bonniest piece of flesh I done ever seen!"

Franklin turned and closed his eyes while trying to ignore Martin, wishing that he would shut-up and go to sleep.

"It bonnier than a rag doll at a basket-weaving contest."

Franklin breathed deeply and said, "Anyone ever tell you that you make absolutely no sense?"

"Yeah, been told that. Mostly by short people, so I figured the joke was just over their heads."

"Idiot."

"So you wanna hear my story?"

"Don't you ever give up?"

"Ain't like I got nothing else to do. Want me to vacuum out my box? Here watch, VROOOOM!!"

"Get your mouth off the floor you numskull." Franklin balled his right fist and pressed his thumb against his forehead. Through clamped teeth he said, "If it'll shut you up, go tell me your story."

"Well, it all started back in my college days. I was a husky ol' guy. Big on cookies and full of Dr. Pepper. That was me all right. I was the cream of the crop, the corn of the cob, the Jekyll of the Hyde. Man, I could scrounge up some food. And boy, I ate it too. I was like the fat guy in the movie theater who just sorta sits there and pulls gummy bears off the screen 'cus he's hungry. In my opinion, I was cute and attractive and all. Well anyway, one day, you see . . ."

"Interesting as that sounds, I think I'm gonna go to sleep now."

"Hey! I'm not finished! Why you never let me finish? All I wanna do is talk!"

Franklin slapped his hands down on his poop-crusted bench and said, "All you ever do is talk! Listen, no one cares! We got problems of our own and don't be needing to hear yours too."

Franklin glanced up at the clock tower and saw the blue pigeon perching on the minute hand. It was one o'clock. The street was now empty except for the pigeons and Martin. Franklin knew his last remark had hurt Martin. He didn't care though, Martin was finally quiet. He looked over at Martin. He REALLY looked at Martin. Though it seemed as if Martin's pudgy cheeks cried out for caramel, his eyes gave away the pain of neglection and years of pent up guilt. Franklin then decided that the next time Martin began babbling on, that he would listen. No one had probably ever given Martin any attention since he got kicked out on the street, or ran out, or whatever had happened to get him there. It was just that Martin was so aggravating though. He seemed to suck all the life and energy out of Franklin. But yet, he is still a human being, and all people deserve to be heard at least once in a while. Franklin was not about to apologize right now, however, and get him started again.

Franklin closed his eyes and began to drift off to sleep when the annoying, high pitched voice began to scratch his ears.

"You just jealous 'cus of my box ain't ya?"

All sympathy Franklin began to have for Martin quickly fled in the presence of Franklin's short temper. His bushy uni-brow rose on his high forehead as he stood up and walked over to Martin.

"I honestly don't care none about your box," Franklin said. "You think you special 'cus that stupid box? Here what I think about that box!" Franklin grabbed the box and dashed down the street. He turned his head and saw Martin, wide-eyed and mouth gaping. Martin stood up and attempted to chase after him but stopped after several steps, clutched his chest, and fell over.

Franklin stopped running as he saw Martin falling to the ground. He leaned the box against a building then walked over to Martin. As he bent over to check for Martin's heart beat, a tear formed in his eye and streamed down his dirt crusted face leaving a trail of pail-white skin behind it.

He stood up, walked back to his bench, and sat down. He looked to his right and saw the gray pigeon finishing up the slice of bread. Franklin tossed a pebble and it and watched as it flew across the barren street to the clock tower and landed next to the blue pigeon. Franklin tugged on his suspenders and looked at the time. It was a quarter after one and silent.