In the wayward, icy wind, blowing the city fumes in all directions, Miss Plenty tucked in the errant locks that had escaped from her wool cap and pulled it tightly over her ears. Warming her freezing hands, framed in fingerless gloves over the heat of the fire, she scrutinized Mr. Nothing. “I see a pensive look in your eyes. What’s up?”
“Sometimes, my thoughts drift to the past, but what’s done is done.”
“This is our reality. Your memories belong to a life that is no longer yours. Or one you left behind for your own reasons. No point in slipping back into something that’s gone.”
“I know. Still, acceptance or not being acceptable bugs me.”
“Acceptable, hmm,” she said, watching her warm breath turn into white vapour in the cold night air.
“I betcha,” she said, with a smile, “we can make a difference.”
“How so?” Mr. Nothing asked. “The only difference we make is they run away from us as if we carry the plague.”
“Yup. But what if we meet them on their terms? Other than that stark discrepancy we conjure when we walk down the high-street.”
“You mean dress like them, and mingle with crowds without anyone noticing us?”
A mischievous spark gleaming in her eyes, she answered, “No. That would be against our philosophy and decision to live on the streets. Something more clever and subtle.”
“Hmm,” he said thinking. “By staying the same and beating them at their game?”
“You’re getting there,” she said, fumbling through the pockets of her over-sized, shabby coat. “You got a fag? I must have smoked the last one.”
“Yeah,” he said, digging beneath the layers of clothes on his slim torso to extract a crushed pack. “Here,” he took one out and stuck it in her mouth, then dipped a twig into the fire, lighting hers and one for himself.
“So, what’s the plan?”
“I’m thinking,” she said, as Wino approached the barrel, with a flask in his hand.
“Evening, guys. The nice lady at the bar gave me some mulled wine and magazines to read. Want some?”
“Why not,” Miss Plenty replied. “Keeps you warm. What did you do, sweep the shop front?”
“I carried some stuff for her.”
The temporary warming effect of the spiced drink invigorated their bodies, as the homeless settled into their corners, watching the lives of the homeful spread out on the pages of the glossy magazines. An article about a socialite triggered Plenty’s attention. A Costume Party Fundraiser, with a reward for the winner. Tickets $65. How to get the tickets … do I dare?
The following morning, Plenty ambled to the pay-phone and made a collect call to her best friend.
“Hi, Sandy, I need a favour.”
“Where are you? When will I see you?”
“Don’t know, yet. I’ll call you. Please do me favour, get me two tickets to the fundraiser…”
“Why? Are you into the benefit events?”
“Don’t ask questions, and please have them delivered to The Mayflower on West Street…”
“I’ll do anything for you. Just promise not to go AWOL too long. I miss you.”
“Promise. I miss you, too. Thanks.”
Two days later, Plenty picked up the envelope containing the tickets from the local bar.
Back at the homeless settlement beneath the bridge, she looked for Mr. Nothing. She spotted Wino, stretched out in his corner, fighting with a crossword puzzle.
“Good to see you sober for a change, Wino. Where’s Mr. Nothing?”
“Crosswords keep the mind active,” he said, with a big smile, exposing his missing teeth. “He wasn’t feeling well, maybe pissed out of his mind. I saw him going to the bushes down there.”
She found Nothing asleep behind a tree, by the embankment. His face appeared flushed. She put her hand on his forehead. It was burning. “Wake up, wake up. You’re going to get hypothermia here. You have a fever.”
Nothing opened his bloodshot eyes and moaned. “I don’t feel well. My tummy is churning.”
“What did you eat again? Didn’t I tell you not touch anything thrown in the garbage bin? Especially, after the last time.”
“It was only leftover pizza in a box.”
“You don’t know how long it’s been there, do you? Or whether it’s been contaminated. Get up, we’re going to the shelter for some soup.”
She dragged him along to the homeless shelter. After serving him a bowl of soup with a generous squeeze of lemon, she gave him a paracetamol tablet from the first aid cabinet and made him drink it with lots of water.
“For the next two days you’re having nothing but soup, and my mother’s remedy.”
“I didn’t know you had a mother.”
“Everyone has one. Hot lemon juice mixed with fresh mint is the best. You’d better get well soon. We’re going to a party.”
“A costume party.”
“What? Are you mad?”
“I’m not. It’s a fundraiser with a reward.”
“Where do we find the costumes?”
“We won’t have to.”
Plenty kept an eye on Nothing for the next two days as he recovered.
They arrived at the venue of the Fundraiser and mixed with the crowds stepping out of their cars at the entrance.
“You’d better turn on your best accent, Nothing. I betcha, you’re some kind of academician with your knowledge of literature.”
“I’ll try,” he said, grinning.
The event was televised live by a local channel working with the charity website. The homeless couple was photographed at the entrance, along with the other guests in fancy costumes. Kings, queens, knights, Cinderella, Snow White, Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Don Quixote, Long John Silver. Dracula, Superman, Brigitte Bardot, Marlene Deitrich, George Sand, Madonna, Rita Hayward, and many diverse characters and icons.
Awed by their sumptuous surroundings and the publicity involved, Plenty and Nothing tried hard not to look out of place. Once they settled into the ambiance, they scoffed as much as they could eat and drink from the buffet. They danced and chatted to the other guests.
A couple of hours into the event, the highlight of the evening came as the votes began to pour in. Plenty and Nothing watched themselves and the other contenders on the screen. The session closed down at the end of the hour.
A presenter mounted the stage to announce the top three winners: Brigitte Bardot 950 votes, Dracula 1240, The Homeless Couple 1350 votes.
Heads spinning, legs shaking, Plenty and Nothing made their way to the stage. Nothing took a deep breath and thanked the audience. He coughed and continued, “We won’t be able to accept the award because we didn’t make the effort to prepare our costumes. These are our regular clothes, second-hand gear from charity shops. We’re real homeless people.”
The presenter took the microphone, as a commotion rose from the audience. “I invite the Charity President, Mr. Smith, to the stage.”
Mr. Smith climbed up the steps and greeted the homeless couple. “There’s nothing I like better than genuine stuff. The cheque for $1000 is yours to do as you please. We’re happy with the results.”
Dodging their way through a sea of photographers, Plenty and Nothing managed to leave the venue. They ran down the streets, taking shortcuts via narrow alleys, between blocks to lose the press on their tail. They hid in a derelict building near the settlement and waited to make sure there were no reporters around.
Back under the bridge, they called the members of their clan to make a decision about the cheque.
“Cigarettes for everyone.”
“Wine for everyone.”
“Burgers and pizza for everyone.”
“Give it to the shelter for everyone.”
The shelter won, by the majority of votes. Plenty and Nothing, accompanied by Wino, as the witness, took the cheque to the manager of the Shelter from the Storm. “With our compliments.”
On the way back, Plenty nudged Nothing with her elbow. “See, we make a difference.”
This story first appeared in Ripples on the Pond, my debut anthology of flash fiction and short stories.
OMP Admin Note:
Sebnem E. Sanders is a native of Istanbul, Turkey. Currently, she lives on the eastern shores of the Southern Aegean where she dreams and writes Flash Fiction and Flash Poesy, as well as longer works of fiction. Her flash stories have been published on the Harper Collins Authonomy Blog, The Drabble, Sick Lit Magazine, Twisted Sister Lit Mag, SpelkFiction, The Bosphorus Review of Books, Three Drops from the Cauldron, The Rye Whiskey Review, and CarpeArteJournal. She has a completed manuscript, The Child of Heaven and two works in progress, The Child of Passion and The Lost Child. Her collection of short and flash fiction stories, Ripples on the Pond, was published in December 2017. Her stories have also appeared in two Anthologies: Paws and Claws and One Million Project, Thriller Anthology. More information can be found at her website where she publishes some of her work:
Ripples on the Pond
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