“Hey lady! Can ya’ spare a dollar?”
Hi, I’m Lisa, in case you were wondering, and that simple question is where my little tale begins. Looking back, I wonder why I couldn’t have just given the man a damned dollar when he’d asked. That would have saved me so much trouble. It was a day that began just like any other, and as usual I was walking out of the coffee shop I frequented when I first saw him. He was tall…. Unusually tall now that I think of it… With long, stringy salt and pepper hair. His clothes were tattered and obviously filthy. He looked as if he hadn’t bathed in weeks, and he reeked of booze, body odor, and urine. Being a woman of only 4’9” I was slightly unnerved by his sudden approach, and I instinctively cringed back with a slight look of disgust. I quickly tried to gather my bearings; I didn’t want to appear rude or hateful after all!
“I’m so sorry… I generally don’t carry cash.” I said, trying to sound at least a little more friendly, while simultaneously clutching my purse a little closer to my body. I’m sure he could see right through my blatant and obvious lie, but I tried not to get into the habit of giving cash to the homeless. Especially when the scent of alcohol wafted off of them like cheap cologne. The man’s face changed then. If looks could kill, I would have been dead right there outside that little coffee shop. He almost snarled, gritted his teeth, and the pace of his breathing seemed to have increased. He clenched his fists tightly as if he was preparing to strike me. “Well… Sorry again!” I said with an awkward look, backing up a few steps. “Uh...Have a nice day!” Then I turned to walk away, stumbling a little in the process. I’ll admit, I was a little frightened by the encounter, and I wish I could say it ended there…. But of course I’d be lying.
I drove a large SUV (yeah, I’m overcompensating for being short, so sue me), and I can clearly remember sitting in the drivers seat rifling through my purse, looking for my keys.
“Where are those damned things!?” I demanded angrily, slapping the steering wheel. Suddenly something smacked hard against my window causing me to shriek and drop my purse to the floor, spilling its contents at my feet. My eyes widened in surprise when I realized my homeless “friend” was now standing inches away, glaring in at me, his hands pressed to the thin pane of glass which was all that separated us. I’d always kept my door locked, but he made no move to get in anyway. He was so tall that he had to hunch down slightly to be level with my window. He looked absolutely furious, his nose almost touching the glass, and he was breathing so hard and quickly his breath was fogging it up. I was terrified, not knowing what this man intended. We looked each other in the eyes, mine a dark shade of blue, his a murky, almost black, shade of brown.
As we continued to stare at each other, tiny red dots appeared at the center of his palms, which began to expand until I realized it was blood, which soon began to drip slowly down the window. A frightened sob escaped my mouth. The man now pressed his forehead to the glass as well, which also began to leak blood. I could see his lips moving, and hear vague, mumbled, words. I tried to make out what he was saying, but it was impossible to hear, as he was speaking so quietly. It seemed as if he was cursing, and spittle flew from his lips. He slapped the window again with his bloody hands.
“I…. I told you! I don’t have any cash!” I screeched sounding slightly manic. At this point I knew this went far beyond a dumb dollar, but I couldn’t think of what else to say. The man’s eyes widened… Widened some more… and then abruptly fell out of his head. My stomach churned with a sickening lurch, and my mouth gaped open in disgusted shock as the rest of his face began to slough off in large chunks, splattering with slimy plops against my car, and down to the hot asphalt outside. At this point sobs and unintelligible words that I can’t remember were coming out of my mouth, which quickly changed to loud screams of bloody (no pun intended) murder when I realized I now gazed into the deep hollow sockets of a bloody skull, it’s bloody skeletal hands clawing at my window. I brought my hands up to cover my eyes and continued to scream at the top of my lungs. This went on for what felt like several minutes when I heard a light knock on the glass. I snuck a peek through my fingers (screams still pouring out of me) and saw a young kid, about 15 or 16, standing there looking in with deep concern, no sign of the recent gore present. My screams trailed off like a balloon running out of air, and I lamely cleared my throat as if I thought that would disguise it.
“Uhhh…. Is…. Everything alright?” He asked as if not sure what to say to a woman who had clearly gone insane. What the hell? I remember thinking. I sat there staring at the kid with a stupid look on my face.
“Umm…. There was a spider…” I said, pointing at the window. “On my window.” I added, as if the pointing didn’t give that away. Geez… Because that was believable! The kid rolled his eyes with a look of pure disgust, and let out a loud sigh.
“Sheesh lady! You scared the shit out of me! You must really hate spiders!” He said, sounding a little exasperated.
“Uhh… Yeah… I really do…” (I didn’t.) “Sorry about that…” I turned away, my cheeks burning, feeling immensely embarrassed, and realized my keys were sitting on the dash. Still shaking, I grabbed my keys, started my car, and quickly got out of there before I was institutionalized.
I was truly beginning to question my own sanity and whether being institutionalized was really such a bad idea. I did just see a man melt right before my eyes, then disappear without a trace. Perhaps I was going crazy! No… It must have been that leftover casserole I ate for breakfast. Lack of sleep maybe? Maybe I’d just dozed off and it was a bad dream. Maybe a combination?? It’s truly amazing the hoops your mind will try and jump through to explain the unexplainable and by the time I got to my destination I’d happily settled on the “dozed off” theory. It made perfect sense. Besides, I couldn’t afford to be committed, I had a job interview today. The mortgage isn’t going to pay itself is it?
I parked my SUV and entered the large office building, then quickly ran for the restroom. I checked myself in the mirror, straightening my dress suit, and did a quick touchup of my makeup. Satisfied that I was presentable after my ordeal (daydream! It was a daydream!) I exited the restroom, and took the elevator to the 8th floor. When I entered, a large, severe looking woman sat behind a small desk and eyed me over the top of her glasses.
“Can I help you?” She said, in a tiny, mouse-like voice. Well that wasn’t a tone you’d expect from such a large woman!
“Hi! I’m here for a 1 o’clock appointment with Mr. Sullivan?” I said in a slightly questioning tone, for some odd reason. “I have an interview?” Again with the questioning voice… “Um… I mean I have an interview.” Ah, There was my confidence. Ms. Mousey just arched her painted on eyebrow at me and turned to her computer screen.
“Lisa Smith?” She said in her mousy voice.
“Yes, that’s me.” I said with a smile. I didn’t think it was possible for this woman to frown any deeper, but she managed it like a seasoned pro.
“Mr. Sullivan will be with you momentarily. Please have a seat.” She said this as if she had a bad taste in her mouth and gestured to a small waiting area to the left. I gave her my brightest smile (kill them with kindness, that’s my philosophy!) and chose a blue chair with a flowery pattern. I leaned back slightly in my chair with a sigh and looked out the large window behind my delightful friend and considered the day I’d had up until that point. What a strange dream that was… I chocked it up to the nervousness about the meeting and lack of sleep, still trying to wrap my brain around the strangeness of my encounter. As I sat deep in thought, a clacking noise drew my attention to the bottom corner of the window. A small, bright red creature, with tiny little horns sat on the window ledge and waved happily at me, his face split with a big toothy smile. I could feel my forehead creasing into a look of concern, mixed with a good helping of terror. A small whimper escaped, drawing Ms. Mousy’s attention.
“Is everything alright dear?” She tinkled. “You look a little… pale.” She said, her lip sneering again. Was she trying to smile? The little demon-creature let out a high-pitched giggle, jumped a few times like a tiny monkey, then scampered straight up the glass, and out of sight.
“Umm….” Daydream! It’s another daydream! You dozed off! “I guess I’m just nervous about my interview.”
“Hm…” (That came out as more of a “hmph.”) “I’m sure you’ll do... fine... dear.” She said this as if it was the last thing she actually believed. I sat in my flower chair for another 10 minutes, desperately trying to convince myself that I hadn’t seen what I knew I had. Thoughts of a cozy mental institution, a warm straight jacket, and lots of mind altering drugs briefly crossed my mind again. That bum had really done a number on me!
“Ms. Smith?” I looked up to see Mr. Sullivan standing at the door of his office with a pleasant smile on his face. Had he called me more than once? I was so lost in thought I didn’t notice. I took a deep breath, composed myself, and stood up to shake his hand.
“Hello sir. It’s good to meet you.” I said, shaking his hand.
“Please, come in. I’m terribly sorry to keep you waiting so long. I was dealing with an important client.” He walked to his desk, and gestured to a large, comfy looking, leather chair in front of it. I sat down, trying not to sigh and collapse into that wonderful chair. It was like getting a big hug from Santa Claus. “I hope Mildred didn’t give you too hard of a time. I’ll admit she can be a bit…. Unpleasant... at times?” He said, whispering slightly, as if we were in on a conspiracy together. So that was her name. Mildred the Mouse. Perfect. I had to fight back a fit of giggles.
“Oh, no! She was very... friendly.” I said, not sure of how convincing I was. Mr. Sullivan arched his eyebrow and looked at me in disbelief.
“Please Ms. Smith, let’s not start this interview out with such a terrible lie. She’s my sister-in-law, so I know exactly how…. ‘friendly’... she can be.” He said good naturedly. His friendly demeanor was draining away my nervous feeling, and quickly making me forget my strange delusions. “Now, let’s get this show on the road. You’re applying for a job in our accounting department. Accounting is a very competitive field in this city. What attracted you to Sullivan & Schwartz?” He asked. I jumped directly into the answers I’d been practicing for the last month.
“Besides the fact that Sullivan & Schwartz has a stellar reputation, I….” I was interrupted by a loud chirping noise from off to Mr. Sullivan’s right, which drew my attention away from the interview question. This isn't happening! THIS ISN'T HAPPENING!!!! I told myself; desperately trying to cling to my sanity. The little red demon thing clung to the upper corner of a tall, thin table with a large potted plant sitting on it and let out it’s high-pitched giggle. Mr. Sullivan didn’t seem concerned in the least, which led me to logically assume that he couldn’t see it.
“Is everything ok Ms. Smith?” He asked, a true look of concern on his face. I peeled my attention away from the demon that was now rocking the table back and forth, intent on toppling the potted plant, and tried to pretend I wasn’t seeing it either.
“Oh yes… Sorry… I lost my train of thought. I promise that doesn’t happen often. Anyway! As I was saying! What attracted me to Sulli…” The potted plant crashed to the ground, shattered, and sent plant fronds and potting soil cascading across the floor. I was mortified! Why did these blasted delusions have to start today, when I had the biggest interview of my life??? “Uh… Um…” Mr. Sullivan seemed unperturbed, so I tried to begin again, when another little demon hopped up onto the corner of Mr. Sullivan’s desk, smiling mischievously at me. It crouched down like a cat, leapt onto Mr. Sullivan’s back, and began to ruffle his carefully coifed silver hair, laughing insanely. Mr. Sullivan appeared completely oblivious. Then, yet another demon crawled out from underneath the desk and began running and jumping about the room, tipping furniture and letting out maniacal shrieks. All that was coming out of my mouth at this point was “Uh… Uh… Uh… Uh…” I sounded like a record, broken beyond repair.
The second demon was hopping up and down on the big desk, tossing papers in the air, the first was at the window again, pushing it open, and the third was just running around shrieking and doing backflips off of the walls. That’s it! I’d snapped! Mr. Sullivan couldn’t see a thing. Never-the-less, demon one signaled to the other two, speaking in a chirpy language, to join him at the window. Two hopped down behind Mr. Sullivan’s desk, and began to push his chair towards the window, while three bounced over jovially, and began to help him push. When they’d positioned him in front of the window, One jumped down, and the three demons proceeded to throw Mr. Sullivan and his chair out the 8th story window. I could only sit there in stunned silence. This couldn’t be happening. This could not be happening!!! I repeated to myself over and over again. Since I could think of nothing else to do, I grabbed my papers off of the late Mr. Sullivan’s desk, and staggered out of his office.
The waiting area was absolute mayhem. Demons of various sizes wreaked havoc, throwing papers in the air, clawing large gouges into the walls, and bouncing off of Mildred the Mouse’s head.
“Leaving so soon dear?” She asked, her glasses sitting slightly askew on her face, papers and other detritus swirling about her head.
“Um…. I think Mr. Sullivan might need your assistance…” That was the understatement of the year, but I was in shock and could think of nothing appropriate to say. Mildred turned to her keyboard and began typing as I walked out, even though the rest of her computer lay smashed to pieces on the ground. I had truly gone insane. I had no choice but to head to the nearest mental hospital to have myself committed.
That was my plan. Great one eh? As I exited the building however, things drastically changed. The streets were pandemonium. People ran down the sidewalks screaming in terror, being chased by much larger, much meaner, versions of the little demons. Cars careened out of control, smashing through shops, and slamming into other cars.
“Is everything ok dear? You seem like you might be ill.” Don’t look! Don’t look! I looked… Mr. Sullivan’s smashed and bloodied body lie on the pavement, limbs bent in directions they weren’t meant to bend, his head on backwards. “We can reschedule if you need to.” He said politely in his fatherly voice. I let out a squeak of a laugh, my hands clawing at my hair, and I turned to walk towards my car, stepping to the side as a screaming man ran by, being chased by a large demon brandishing a spear.
“Hey lady! Can ya’ spare a dollar?” I turned to my right to see my homeless friend, his hand outstretched. My whole body was shaking now. “Can ya’ spare a dollar?” He said again, in his raspy, alcohol slurred voice.
“Leave me ALONE!!!” I yelled at the top of my lungs, turning and running to my car.
“Hey! Wassa’ matter with you?” He called towards my fleeing form. I could only scream in reply.
Now in my vehicle, I sped down the street, dodging other cars, demons, and fleeing people. A helicopter flew low overhead, two fat demons clinging to it’s sides, carving gouges into its surface with wicked looking claws. It careened out of control and slammed into the side of a large building, raining fire and debris onto the streets below. The demons who had downed it dropped down to the pavement below without a scratch to join the hunt for people. I didn’t care, I just kept driving. When I got to my house, I drove directly onto the lawn, hitting my mailbox in the process, killed the engine, and ran inside, slamming the door behind me. I stood with my back to the door, trying desperately not to hyperventilate. I got my breathing under control, headed into the kitchen, and tried to drink some water, hoping to calm my nerves, but I could still hear the chaos of screams, explosions, and other destruction raging outside.
“Hey lady! Can ya’ spare a dollar?” A voice said from the kitchen entryway. My head snapped in that direction to see the bum standing before me once again, his eyes inky pools of darkness, the reek of alcohol, urine, and now sulfur, pouring off of him.
“You!” I shouted. At this point, terror had fled, replaced by a rage so deep that I was seeing red. This thing was trying to systematically destroy my life, both physically and professionally, and I would have no more of it. “YOU!” I shouted again, grabbing a large butcher knife from the counter and charging towards him. The man chuckled and made a dismissive shooing gesture with his grimy hand. I felt as if a giant tennis racket slammed into me. The knife flew from my grasp and I stumbled backwards, my back colliding painfully with the counter. I collapsed limply to my hands and knees. “What do you WANT!?” I shouted, tears streaming from my eyes. There was a deep rumble from the earth, my house shook and large cracks formed in the wall.
“Hey lady! Can ya’ spare a dollar?” He said again, as if I was inept. The house boomed once more and gouts of flame shot from the cracks in the walls, igniting my curtains, the counters, and my kitchen furniture. My home, the one I was so proud of, was quickly ablaze.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT!?!!!” I screamed at the top of my lungs, still resting on my hands and knees. The house shook violently again, pieces of wall and ceiling falling to the ground around me. My whole life was collapsing right before my eyes.
“Hey lady! Can ya’ spare a dollar?” He asked again, much louder this time. That question… That moronic question... was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back.
“FINE!” I screeched. “You want a dollar!? TAKE THE DAMNED THING!” I said, reaching into my pocket to take my change from the coffee shop, then thrusting it to the man, my eyes closed tight in anguish. “TAKE IT YOU BASTARD! AND LEAVE ME ALONE!!!” And just like that, everything went quiet. It was like I had gone deaf the silence came so quickly. No rumbling. No smokey smell. No sounds of chaos from outside my house. I opened my eyes to find myself once again standing outside of the coffee shop staring at the bum in his filthy attire. My hair and clothes were disheveled, my coffee was splattered at my feet, and there was now a crowd of people standing around staring at the lunatic woman accosting the poor homeless man, now clutching my dollar in his outstretched hand.
“Thanks!” He said, smiling a big friendly smile at me.
“Wh…. What?” I said, sounding confused, staggering back a step as if slapped. I didn’t understand a thing that was happening.
“Thanks!” He said again, cheerfully. “And ya’ better hurry. Ya’ don’t want to miss your big interview!” Then he patted me on the shoulder, smiled once more, and walked away. I looked around in disbelief, unable to comprehend my situation. I again wondered if I had gone insane, but it was all so real! So clear in my mind! I began to cackle, sounding more than a bit deranged. People still stood there staring at me, one woman clutching her child to her as if I might eat them both. I decided I’d better go before the police were called.
When I got in my SUV, I started it up and adjusted the rear-view mirror to see if my appearance could be salvaged enough for the interview. Much to my horror, the first demon-creature stood in the back seat, hopping up and down, cackling madly. I screeched and turned back, but fortunately he wasn’t there.
I got the job at Sullivan & Schwartz if you were interested. There were no other supernatural events that day, thankfully. I still wonder sometimes if I’m crazy, and I still occasionally see demon hopping about when I least expect him, as if to remind me of the lesson I’d learned. I’ve found it’s best to just ignore him. No one else can see him after all. My mother was fond of saying “Be nice to strangers Lisa! You never know when you might be entertaining an angel unaware.” She never mentioned demons though. If only she had… Realistically, it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway, since I’d never put much stock in her old wive’s tales. Needless to say, my beliefs have changed quite a bit since “The Incident”, as I’ve come to call it. It’s also probably unnecessary to say that I always give money to homeless people when they ask now. A dollar at the very least!
You probably think I’m nuts, and maybe I am. But if you’re ever approached by an unusually tall bum asking “Can ya’ spare a dollar?” You might want to think twice before blowing him off. You never know who…. or what... you might be entertaining.