In her twenties, Katie was struggling to find a beautiful path. Having discovered what was false, she was waiting to encounter what was true. But thus far, the quest for something changeless and good had left her penniless and depressed. Every day she would eye the homeless man who hung around her block with a growing sense of kinship. She liked his signs. We’re all in this together, or, We all need a little help sometimes. Once he’d even had the wisdom to write We grow rich only through what we give, which Katie felt should surely be the universal slogan of all panhandlers.

She'd lost two jobs in two weeks. First a businessman had come into the Barnes & Noble near Lincoln Center, where she was working the registers and stacking the shelves. As she totaled his stack of Cliff Notes, she’d said gently, “I realize these are convenient—God knows I’ve used them myself plenty of times—but you might go back and read the books sometime. Maybe later, or in addition or something.”

The slick head thought about this. “Yeah, I could do that,” he’d replied. Then, casually handing her a hundred dollar bill, he’d added, “but then again, look where that got you.” She didn’t know what he must have said to her manager, but the next day, without warning, she was fired.

The following week, she went to work in a midtown office besieged by phone calls. On her first morning, she’d had to say, “Thanks for holding, can I help you?” so many times in a row that she’d once said, “Thanks for helping, can I hold you?” and then couldn’t stop laughing. An honest mistake, but apparently one that was not much appreciated by the client.

~This story may be read in its entirety in the Spring/Summer 2008 issue of The Chattahoochee Review.~


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