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The Tramp

by RoJ 

Posted: 21 August 2003
Word Count: 1382
Summary: Set in a fictional city, one mans downfall, and some humanity questions as well.

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

The raggedly dressed man shuffled slowly down the sun soaked street, surrounded by green, luscious palm trees on either side. Lots of people milled past him. Wealthy people. Poor people. Fat people. Thin people. Some spared in a glance of disgust, of curiosity, of pity, of hate. Most ignored him, some laughed at his old clothes that were being reduced to rags, or his unkempt hair - if unkempt could be used for it, as it may only have been the tip of the iceberg, as his hair stuck out wildly at all angles, and it was in a filthy matted state where it did not stick out. He wore a tattered red shirt, with many holes, as if he had been caught in a razor wire fence and could not get out. It was filthy as well, covered in food stains, dirt and grime stains and odd black stains that oozed from under the armpits, like tar but of a viler smell. Over this red shirt he wore a long brown overcoat, also equipped with tears and stains. He wore a pair of filthy Levis, with torn pockets and a broken zipper. Dirt entrenched shoes were on his feet, with missing laces and tongues that had been ripped out long ago. He carried a brown bag full of meagre possessions - a picture of his dead wife, 2 dollars in change, a children’s stuffed doll and a small bottle of gin. He hadn’t been reduced to drinking mentholated spirits like a lot of other homeless people he knew and, unbeknown to him, he never would be.

The owner of these clothes and possessions was called Charles Landhurst. A grand name for a tramp you may say, but Landhurst used to be a very successful lawyer. He was a good man, he had wife, a kid and a mortgage. He lived in a small suburb outside the large luxurious Silhouette City, which was situated near one of the tropical oceans and so a popular spot for tourists. Charles, or Charlie as he preferred now to be known, couldn’t remember what the ocean was called. “It doesn’t matter jack-shit, does it? Its all bloody water isn’t it?” was what he would tell tourists if they ever asked him.
Apart from Charlie’s short temper, he also had a stubborn quality. He would never go back on his word. It was that particular quality that was his undoing.

Charlie was a good lawyer, one of the few left in the city that wasn’t corrupt. It was for these to reasons that he had a client come to him, a certain Bobby Sanders. Bobby was the owner of a Fruit and Veg store in the city, and like all the stores, they all had to pay “protection money” to one of the big gang lords in the town - Nico Vlanderez. Not only did Vlanderez operate in prostitution, gambling and the protection “scheme”, he dealt in drugs as well. Hashish, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, etc. Whatever he could get his greedy hands on and sell to his various pushers. The police were useless in these instances - Vlanderez had boxfuls of money and could bribe anyone - or have them “took out”.
Bobby’s problem was that he was late on a protection payment so Vlanderez had his shop windows smashed, as well as getting some of his thugs to beat up Bobby. The damage rose up into thousands of dollars, so Bobby wanted to press charges against Vlanderez and hopefully have him put in jail. Charlie was only to happy to take on the case. He had been doing well in the past while, and thought he could handle this, going against the advice his friends gave him. Vlanderez decided to “persuade” Bobby not to press charges. This “persuasion” involved burning down Charlie’s house - with his wife and daughter inside it. Charlie was devastated. He told the police but, - big surprise - they failed to take any action. Charlie figured he had nothing to lose so he continued to pursue up the case. Like I said before, he was stubborn. Later on he realized he did have something to lose when the Drug Baron used his contacts to freeze Charlie’s bank account, destroy his car and beat him up severely. Charlie dropped the case.

That was a nearly ago, and ever since then Charlie has been living rough on the streets - or alleys - of Silhouette City. It is a city infested with criminals and gangs, of drug dealers and wasted losers, and corrupt politicians and police. The attitude in the city is this - “Do well for yourself by standing on other peoples heads to get there. If you do well, congratulations. If you don’t, then screw you. Your on your own”. This was probably the reason why there were no homeless shelters in the city, and why paramedics looked in your wallet when you were in the ambulance. Not enough money to pay the hospital bill? Open the back doors and chuck you out. It happens, believe me.

Charlie now was wandering aimlessly down an alley. Evening had sprung out, and it was summer. He was about to drop down by the steps of some abandoned house to try to get some sleep when he heard a noise, further down the alley. He knew better than to go poking around, in this city of all places, but his life couldn’t possibly get any worse and besides, he was curious. So, with this thought in mind, he slowly crept down to the origin of the sound, which was someone talking. Rounding a bend, he stopped and pulled back. Then he slowly bent his neck around the corner, low down so he wouldn’t be seen. There were for men in a small clearing. One of them was wearing a baseball jacket and jeans with white trainers. He was bleeding from the nose and being held from behind by two other men. They wore baseball caps pulled backwards, along with faded leather jackets and jeans also. They looked like Puerto Ricans, and then Charlie saw the symbol on the back of their jackets - a heart with a gold stripe around it - and the word underneath - DIABLOS. Just another one of the punkass gangs in this city, thought Charlie, just a load of scum. The fourth man looked a little different though. He was short, stocky but wore a hoodie instead of a leather jacket. He had one of those caps that had a peak all the way round that is quite floppy, those Australian guys wore them, thought Charlie, only this one didn’t have all that corks and strings and stuff that they normally had. Also, this Diablo had a brass knuckleduster which he punched the baseball jacket guy with a few times. The he spoke.
“Hey Ricardo, where’d you put my coke, amigo?”
Ricardo spat on the ground, beside the Diablo. A sign of defiance.
One of the men holding him looked at him with horror.
“Are you fuckin loco man? You spat at Juan? You piece of shit putino!” He let go of Ricardo and gave him a rough shove. He fell to the ground, where he kicked him viciously a few times.
“Easy compadre,” The guy with the knuckleduster said, apparently the one called Juan.
“Don’t waste your energy on this fuckin tio mio. I deal with him.”
He took a step back, then pulled out a small revolver from his hoodie. He lowered it at Ricardo. “Adios, amigo.”

The gunshot echoed all the way around the alley walls. Charlie let out a yell of horror and revulsion. The three Diablo’s spun around. “Hey - get that putino!” They started running towards Charlie. He backed off, but tripped over something in the alleyway. He went on his back, just as the three Diablo’s came round the corner. Juan lowered the silver revolver. The moonlight glinted off it, making it seem more deadly that it was. Charlie’s last view was of the hammer off the gun being pulled back, then being released as the Diablo pulled the trigger. Charles Landhurst had his life snuffed out like a candle. But what did any one care? After all, he was a tramp.

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Comments by other Members

Anna Reynolds at 11:40 on 22 August 2003  Report this post
This is a really good read- it held me all the way through and the slightly bitter, cynical tone appealed to me as well. It's a simple story with complex themes, told in such an economical way that they shockwaves in it only hit the reader afterwards.

I wondered about the death of Charlie's wife and daughter- you've been so low key in mentioning this, just a line, that he's 'devastated'- maybe you could explore that a little more? It almost feels too briefly dealt with- and he moves on so quickly immiediately afterwards.

The observations and detail are really well written. Nice work.

RoJ at 12:08 on 22 August 2003  Report this post
Thanks for the comment and the constructive criticism. I'll work on improving the part you talked about.

old friend at 16:01 on 01 October 2003  Report this post
Hello Roj,

A nice one. A good, intense style that creates clear mental images.

I would only advise that you carefully read your work (out loud) for there are a number of typos and what I felt were omissions.
'mentholated'(?)...'a jack-shit'... 'that wasn't corrupt' should apply to Charlie and not the city.

Your description of Charlie brought him to life, and was particularly poignant. Make up your mind about single or double quote marks you use.

I am looking forward to reading more of your work.


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