There was very little he could do about the fact that he was alone, in the rain, with the wind smacking him in the face like an angry woman, repeatedly. His entire wardrobe, 3 pairs of pants, 4 shirts, and 2 jackets, were currently on his body which made the experience somewhat less spirit killing. However, he had lost his hat to an angry dog several days ago leaving him with no cover for his head at all. He had attempted to protect himself with his upraised hands at first, but the sheer futility of that gesture quickly became apparent and he surrendered. Now he just stood on the corner, watching empty buses ride by, as nature mocked him for not being a successful capitalist.
A pair of young women in fancy clothes and fine jewelry ran out of a restaurant across the street, holding their shoes in their hands so as not to ruin, and quickly ducked into a taxi. They pointed at him through the rear window and spoke with looks of pity on their faces as they rode away in comfort. He did not move as the rain began to fill his shoes and saturate the outermost of his 4 layers of socks.
The brunette turned to her friend, “That poor man, we should really do something.”
The blonde clucked, “Don’t be foolish, Jasmine. It’s sweet and all that you care, I feel for him too, but what do you think we can do? Take him home? Should we start an ‘adopt a bum’ service?”
The taxi driver made a grunting sound. Jasmine’s shoulders slumped, just a little, she stuck out her bottom lip, “Don’t be mean, Alicia, he’s a person. Just because he’s poor doesn’t…”
“What does poor have to do with it? This is America. There is no good reason for him to be standing in the rain. There is plenty of shelter about. Clearly he is not right in the head.”
“Doesn’t that make him more in need of help, not less?”
“I suppose, and I will be happy to donate to an organization of people trained in how to properly do so, but I am not one of those people.”
“No, you are trained in shopping and vomiting after meals.”
“Fuck you, bitch! Where do you get off anyway? What exactly separates you from me? Other than being a hypocrite?”
“Yeah, Jasmine, hypocrite. You sit there in your $500 dress and $300 shoes after spending $250 on a meal we barely ate, talking about helping the poor only because you just saw one. At least I have the decency to not to pretend to be something I am not. We are rich only because our daddies are rich. And we will marry rich men, then divorce them and take half their money, and die rich without ever working a day in our lives. And I say God Bless America!” Alicia threw her arms up over her head and tossed back her mane of blonde, breasts still glistening with drops of rainwater.
Jasmine eyed her friend’s breasts, thinking secret thoughts. It was quiet in the cab for a few moments except for the sound of raindrops pounding on the roof as they sped through the deserted streets. “Well, that may be your plan, Alicia, but I have other ideas for my future. I hope to be a little more productive, and little less commonplace.”
“Well good for you my dear, maybe I’ll marry you then.” Alicia giggled as she dropped her hand on her friend’s bare, wet thigh, too self-involved to notice the muscle tension increase.
The cab slowed to halt as it pulled into the oval driveway of a 5 story, white house with large columns framing tall oaken doors. He turned his round, brown face slightly towards them, “We are being arrived at your destination. It will be costing $10 dollars, please.”
“Yes, yes, of course,” Alicia reached into her purse and pulled out $11, “Keep the change.” And jumped out.
The Cabbie looked at the money, raised his left eyebrow, “Thank you so much, ma’am”
Jasmine handed him another $3, “Sorry about that.”
“You are most kind. I hope you are having a pleasant evening.”
“Thank you,” Her long, thin face glowed from her bright smile, “You too.” She then jumped out of the cab and followed her friend into the mansion. Holding her Prada purse over her head and her Brunomagli shoes in her hand.
The cabbie pulled out of the driveway and back into the street, heading passed mansions, gates, limousines, and acres of open yards back towards the city, the images blurred by the unrelenting storm, he picked up his mic and called into dispatch. “This is car 475, completing last job, I am being at Elmwood and Devonshire.”
Static returned over the speaker, followed by the scratchy voice of Artie the dispatcher, “Copy that 475. Head towards the Hotel Monte Claire.”
“I am copying that Dispatch.” Raza set the mic in its holster and turned east on Devonshire. With the cab empty, he turned his music back on. The voice of Ben Harper filled the empty space. Raza began to sing in his accent, “If you are not liking my smoke, then you had better be leaving, because I am going to be burning one down.” As he made his way, the neighborhoods changed slowly. First the yards became smaller, then the houses, then the nature of the buildings themselves changed as he returned to the urban section of Claire Creek; becoming taller and more multipurpose. The streets themselves became narrower. As he entered the center of town, the park opened up on his left. And still standing there, like a human statue, was the homeless man being buffeted by the storm.
Raza pulled up alongside him, “Sir, are you needing a lift somewhere?” The man ignored him, Raza asked again, “Sir, if you are needing some assistance I will not be charging you.”
The man turned his head towards Raza, “Thanks, but I have nowhere to go.” He turned back to look straight ahead.
“I am going to the hotel, my friend is being in charge of the rooms there. He will let you wait out the storm in an empty room.”
He blinked several times, unsure how to respond to this unexpected turn of events, he looked at Raza again, “I-I am soaking wet, I don’t want to ruin your cab.”
Raza waived his hand, dismissing such consideration, “It is nothing, please, get in, you cannot be standing here like this, you will surely catch your death. Please.”
The man’s shoulders lowered a little, he stepped off the curb, opened the rear door, and stepped into the hospitality of Raza’s cab. Falling into the seat, he pulled the door shut, rested his back, and let out a long, low sigh.
The cab pulled away, heading towards the hotel. The sounds of raindrops continued to beat against the rooftop. “I am Raza, what is your name?”
“I-I, I am Joseph.”
“Joseph. It is nice to be meeting you, Joseph.”
“The pleasure is mine.” Joseph closed his eyes and laid his head back against the rest, immediately falling asleep.
5 minutes later they had arrived at the hotel. Raza parked by the back entrance where all the cabbies sat in a line, leaving Joseph to sleep in the back seat, he went inside.
The outside of the hotel was a simple rectangular tower, 20 stories tall, with the words ‘Monte Claire’ emblazoned across the front in red and blue letters. The inside, however, was something to behold. The main lobby was 2 stories tall, hardwood floors, marble columns, plush white couches, and staff in blue uniforms every few meters.
Raza walked up to the marble topped counter, greeted the young woman standing there; dressed in a blue skirt and button down jacket opened just enough at the top, “Hello, Stephanie, you are looking lovely as always,” she smiled with thin lips over-covered in glossy red lipstick, “is Michael around?”
Stephanie nodded, “Yes, he is in his office,” Raza started to move towards the back. She raised he left hand, holding him back, “but he asked not to be disturbed.”
“I understand,” He nodded, “But this is being very important. I am on a mission of mercy. You would not wish to be the cause of preventing mercy, would you Stephanie?” He cocked his head to the side, just slightly, and opened his dark eyes wide, giving her his best puppy dog look.
She stomped her foot, feigning anger, “Fine! But if he asks, I never saw you.”
Smiling and clasping her hand, “You are a wonderful human being, my dear.” Raza then slipped around the desk and into the office suite in back.
He walked down the hallway to the last wood panel door on the right, knocking softly, “Come in!” bellowed form inside.
“Good afternoon, Michael.” In the back of the tiny office a tiny desk sat cluttered with paperwork and knickknacks. Above it was a photograph of the sunset over the Grand Canyon. Behind the desk sat a short, fat, white man in a poorly fitting, stripped, button-down shirt and plaid tie.
“Raza! What the fuck? I told her no visitors, today.”
“Don’t be angry, Michael. I didn’t even see Stephanie.”
“Really? So how did you know who I was talking about?”
“Umm, who else could it be?” He held his palms up and shrugged.
“Uh-huh. Well, you’re here now, so, what can I do for you?”
“Actually it is not for me.”
“You didn’t bring another bum in here, did you?”
“He currently is being in my cab. But Michael, this storm is most terrible, and he was out there for at least an hour. He says he has no where to go, surely…”
“Of course he has no where to go, he’s a bum, if he had somewhere to go he wouldn’t be a bum. That’s what it means to be a bum, Raza. This is a hotel, not a shelter. Why don’t you take him to the shelter?”
“You know the shelter is dirty, dangerous, and usually full. Come, Michael, I know you are having empty rooms. Are you really going to be denying your fellow man shelter from the storm? When it is costing you nothing?”
“It could cost me my job, what then Raza?”
“Then I will be convincing Stephanie to be giving you shelter from the storm. And wont you be glad of the good karma?”
“That’s funny. Alright, meet me by the service elevators.”
“Thank you, Michael, the Gods will be smiling upon you for this.”
“There is only 1 God.”
“Well, all the more smile for you then.”
A few minutes later the 3 of them were standing in front of the elevator; Joseph dripping on the rug, Michael looking about nervously, and Raza smiling. The bell rang, the doors opened, and they stepped inside. Michael pressed the button for the 15th floor.
“Now listen, Joseph, I’m going to need you to stay in the room. Okay? Don’t use the phone, or any pay channels. We’ll bring some food by in a little while. You’ll find a robe and a bag in the bathroom. If you put your clothes in the bag, we’ll launder them for you. Understand?”
“Yes, sir. Thank you. I didn’t mean to be any trouble. I can go if I am causing a problem.”
The bell rang and the doors opened. Michael looked out into the hallway to be sure it was clear, “It’s no problem. At least it wont be if you follow the rules I just laid out. Okay?”
“Yes, sir. Thank you.”
“Okay, let’s go.” They walked the plush, red carpet of the hallway towards the room. Michael slipped the keycard into the door and popped it open with a ‘click’. The lights came on as their body heat registered on the sensors.
Joseph stopped in the entryway and stared, “Mein Gott!” The plush red carpet turned blue inside the room, the walls and ceiling were painted a light eggshell blue, a long oak dresser ran down the length of the wall to his left, semicircular lampshades embedded in the walls around the room forced the light upwards, and a king-sized bed sat in the middle of the right wall. What really held his attention, however, was the far wall. It’s entirety was a window looking out over the city. Even in the pouring rain, or perhaps because of it, it was a spectacular sight to see the buildings, the park, the river, suburbia, and beyond spread out before him. All of this territory that he had walked, slept on, made his toilet, become intimate with in ways few others had, and now he stood here seeing it in a way he had never imagined.
“Yes. I am fine. I was just a bit, a bit… I don’t know, stunned.”
“Indeed. People pay a pretty penny for this view. Now look, the bathroom is through that door behind you. Maria, the maid, will be by with some food in a little while. If you change into the robe and put your clothes in the bag she will take them to be laundered. Remember to remove everything from the pockets. She’ll bring them back later with dinner. Feel free to use the shower. Okay?”
“Yes.” Joseph continued to look around him, still stunned by his surroundings.
“Alright, I have to go back to work.”
Raza nodded, “Yes, I must also be getting back now.”
Joseph looked up at them, “Thank you, both of you, this was very generous of you. I wont forget.”
Michael smiled, “Think nothing of it. What would be the point of all this luxury if not to help a brother out once in a while?”
The door closed, and Joseph turned around to look at the room again. Still dripping he walked into the bathroom, only to be surprised once more by the extravagance of what he saw. ¾ of the room was the shower, with 4 shower heads pointing in from the walls and 2 from above. There were 2 toilets, although 1 did not appear to be a normal toilet. The sink was a long basin running the length of the wall within the shower. Hooks on the back of the door held 2 cotton robes and a bag marked ‘laundry’. Everything in the room appeared to be made of marble.
He began to undress, pulling off layers of clothing that had not been removed for months. Carefully searching the pockets for his personal items and piling them in the sink, finding things he had long forgotten about; coins, watches, bits of candy, slips of paper, magnets, rubber-bands, old baseball cards, a picture of someone’s family, a coupon for dog food, 3 knives, a fork, and keys to a pair of handcuffs.
Standing naked before the mirror in the back of the shower, he looked at his thin, pale, hairy body, barely recognizing the image as himself. The tattoo he had gotten as a young man across his lower back and buttocks still held its color; a green and yellow dragon head with open mouth pointing upwards. He stepped backwards, into the midst of the shower heads, activating the sensors, and warm water rushed out of all 6 at once pounding his body.
At first, Joseph was startled by the sudden shower, but he quickly acclimated and relaxed into the sensation. Tilting his head back he let the water rush down his cranium and across his shoulders. He turned about, feeling the water thrust into every crevice of his body from all sides. It had been years since he had felt any pleasure approaching this, reaching down he grabbed hold of his penis in his left hand and began to stroke back and forth as it grew long and hard in his hand. He began to imagine the maid coming in and ‘servicing’ him. The gentle pounding of the water on his neck, back, chest, and thighs only increased the erotic sensation of the moment. Due to the great span of time since he had felt any real joy, it took only a few moments before he exploded upon the shower wall. Unbidden, a guttural, primordial grunt of satisfaction emanated from his throat and echoed about the bathroom.
He stood there, leaning both hands against the wall, for a few moments more allowing the water to flow over him. Then Joseph stepped out of the shower, the water immediately shut off, he reached for a robe and found a towel beneath. Drying himself thoroughly, he threw the towel and his clothes in the laundry bag, put on the robe, and stepped out into the main room. Only to find a women sitting on the bed smiling.
“Feeling better, are we?” She smiled mischievously at him. A short, round girl with dark hair and bright eye makeup, dressed in a blue and white uniform, she perched on the edge of the bed with her hands resting on her thighs.
“Uhm, who are you?”
“Oh, hi, I thought Mike told you I was coming. I’m Maria. I brought some food for you.” She pointed to her right where a tray sat atop the dresser.
He nodded, remembering, “Yes, of course, yes, he did, yes.”
Maria giggled, “So, you’re saying, yes, then?”
“Yes..I mean.. look, I just wasn’t expecting you to be here yet, that’s all. I’m not really used to all this.” Joseph pulled his robe a little tighter. “I, uh, guess I’m supposed to give you this.” With 1 hand he held out the bag, while clenching the robe closed with the other.
She giggled again, “Yeah, I’ll take that. Just relax, enjoy your meal and the room. I’ll be around later to see if you need anything. Okay? I gotta get going. You need anything before I take off?”
“No, thank you, you have done plenty.”
“Alrighty, bye.” And she was out the door, leaving behind only the smell of cheap perfume and warm food.
Joseph stared after her for a minute and then walked over to the tray. Spread out before him were eggs, bacon, toast, sausage, home fries, coffee and orange juice. He thought he must have died and entered paradise while standing out in that park. Looking around he realized that by the window, the dresser was actually a pivot-able counter and chairs that folded out from underneath. So he sat and stuffed his face and watched the rain fall upon the park he called home from this plush paradise he could never afford and smiled.