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Always an Alternative by Sebouh Gemdjian
SUMMARY: A homeless man will be reborn in a world where everyone gets high on being charitable.
Gray, transparent and melting, his boot prints disappeared quickly in the slush. Santa looked confused, stumbling down Madison Street. He looked like he was in a panic. His real name was Leroy, and he thought he was running because the projects and bodegas around him seemed to be moving quickly. To the projects and bodegas, however, he was just kind of staggering, keeling and panting. He knew something was wrong. "Damn wet brain," he thought.
He wanted to tell somebody that a crazy young man wearing a hood has been fixing the laser aim of his gun at him for blocks now, but he knew they would not believe him. He could handle him, though, he thought, didn't matter that it was dark now and that Leroy had just taken out his two front teeth.
He had taken them out while lights in windows were going on and off all the time in the backs of buildings at dusk. Screaming and laughing had taken just a second, before the sky completely changed its color. This is how he knew he could handle anything: He had taken out his two front teeth with a pair of pliers he had found by the river. Washed it down with some Thunderbird. That was the kind of man he was. He wasn't afraid of no punk.
Looking at that damn red dot dancing on his scratched-up snow-boarder's coat was making him dizzy. He lurched out onto the traffic circle by the subway on East Broadway and crossed over to the park across the street, cars honking. He could not remember where he left his cart.
"Another unemployed member of the pimp industry trying to be homeless" the hood had said earlier, before the chase had started, at the walkway under the Brooklyn Bridge. "How the mighty have fallen."
"I ain't trying to be nothing," Leroy had mumbled as he stumbled away from his blanket-nest on the bench. He didn't care the hoodlum had a twenty dollar bill in his hand. The boy was crazy. He didn't want no money from crazy people. Then, before he raised his handgun with the laser aim, the boy had said:
"You know, Leroy, suicide is always an alternative. No one can take that away from you."
"Don't I know it" had been Leroy's retort, which he murmured as he scurried away from his bench. "That's what kept me alive for so long..."
The hood had laughed at this as he aimed. Now Leroy was stumbling up Essex Street, and the laser was gone. He was kind of sad to see it go. Leroy could sure take the punk kid, but maybe the kid would be doing him a favor, he thought. He had to face facts. He didn't know what he was doing all the time, and there was no one around to take care of him. Hernan the pimp, his old boss, came by once in a while all cracked out, but he was mostly useless. He had some wine for him sometimes.
The neighborhood was starting to look familiar. Leroy did not know much, but he knew that he had just been there earlier that night. He had been to the tenement building on the other side of the high school. The door had been cracked open, and he had made it into an apartment. He didn't know why or how he had gotten in, but he sure remembered what he had seen.