Parking Lot Panhandler

The heavy part is over by the time
a shadow falls across the bag
and a black hand pats
a second fifty pound load
into place in the trunk.
Thank you isn’t enough;
the man wants some change
but the change we have
isn’t small. He looks needy,
walks off balance, and the bones
don’t sit right in his skin.
I’m thinking Go away
but he just hangs there
like garlic breath after a meal.
He could use one himself
so we look inside the purse
and out comes a five,
too much for little effort
with much insistence
but promising to wheel away the cart
he folds the note into his pocket
before pushing for a few short yards
leaving an obstruction to the slow
stream of cars as he hurries
to the next overburdened person
with his slanted face beneath a dirty hat
and a wicked swivel
in his hips that steers him through
the gaps between Prius and Escape.
Call out to embarrass him.
Call Security.
Get him cornered
and ask for the money back.
He’s slipping away.
Looking for a dollar
without giving in return.
He’s a fraud
in every sense, except
for starving on his feet.

David Chorlton lived in Vienna for most of the 1970s before moving to Phoenix. It was an exchange of wind and rain for the desert heat and a cultural shift. He has a non-fiction book published this year that tells the story of a 1961 murder near Vienna, for which one of his cousins was wrongly convicted. That is "The Long White Glove," from New Meridian Arts. Read other articles by David.