Flash Fiction: The Panhandler (Take Two) by Phil Yeats

Has anyone else been having trouble keeping up with days during these quarantined times? I’m juggling my full-time job with full-time childcare and all my other duties and neglected to post this story by Phil Yeats, which he sent well before April 23 🙂 I hope everyone is staying happy and safe.

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write about a chance encounter. Today’s post is written by Phil Yeats. Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) has published two soft-boiled police detective stories in his Barrettsport Mysteries series. They’re set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community with very quirky citizens. The Amazon link for the more recent one is: https://www.amazon.com/Tilting-Windmills-Barrettsport-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07L5WR948/

Today’s submission is an alternative take on an earlier SW submission. It might become the opening scene for a sequel to his current WiP – The Road to Environmental Armageddon. He’s trying to invoke late Middle Ages or Renaissance vibe, but story is actually set in a post-Apocalyptic future.

The Panhandler (take two)

by Phil Yeats

Benjamin trudged home in the waning sunlight after delivering a parcel containing four flintlock pistols and a supply of gunpowder to the southwestern gatehouse. He entered the town square from Southwest Road and turned onto the busy Western Road, heading for Little West Lane. His home was near the end of the lane, within sight of the town wall.

He hadn’t feared for his safety as he strode along the busier thoroughfares. The purse of coins he’d received in exchange for the pistols was tucked into a secure compartment within his leather tunic. It suddenly felt heavier as he approached the narrow lane with many nooks and crannies where thieves could lurk.

Thoughts of the weapons at his disposal distracted him as he approached his corner. He barely noticed the scruffy young panhandler sitting on the cobblestones suckling a fractious infant. She was wearing rags, her hair was crudely shorn, and she looked like she hadn’t washed in weeks—a perfect incubator for fleas and lice. When he dropped a penny in her pot, the baby reached for his fingers. The tiny hand and abandoned breast distracted him. He lingered for a moment too long.

“Benji?” she said as he tried to leave.

She handed him her baby and paused before covering her breasts. He diverted his gaze as he took the surprisingly clean tyke and tried to determine who she was. Was she from home, the nearby village where he grew up? If not, she wouldn’t know the childish nickname his mother dumped on him. No one but his friend Thaddaeus used it. Solving the little puzzle wasn’t difficult. She was Leah, Thady’s little sister.

She would have been twelve when he left home six years earlier to study at Caverns Technical College. He crouched beside her, leaving a gap he hoped fleas couldn’t leap and let her inquisitive tyke tug the wisps of hair representing his pathetic efforts to grow a beard.

“Are you okay?” he asked when she began gathering her meagre possessions. “Somewhere to go? Someone looking out for you?”

She dumped the coins from her pot into her hand, counted them, and slid them inside her smock. She stood while pulling the drawstring closed and adjusting the shoulder straps of her kirtle. After hoisting an ancient rucksack onto her shoulder, she reached for her child. “Completely alone and nowhere to go. I’ll find a street vendor willing to sell me a bowl of gruel, then…”

He stood without relinquishing the tyke. “I have bread and makings for stew, enough for two.” He paused glancing up the lane. “And a tub for a bath. You could get cleaned up and…” He stopped, unable to complete the sentence.

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

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