A short story by Joseph Englert

The man sat huddled in the corner of the doorstep which had once served as the entrance to a large industrial car tyre factory. The now derelict building provided little protection against the fierce winter winds that pounded against its corrugated iron walls and the fresh snow that was blown with it. To an outsider, he would look something like a large snowman, his makeshift home of layered scraps of cardboard coated in inches of snow. His pale weathered face gave the impression that he was at least twenty years older than his middle aged self.

As the steady stream of Christmas shoppers flowed by, he desperately begged for any donations of food or money to satisfy the agonizing pain of days without food. His pleas for help were either unheard or ignored and occasionally met with an outburst of abuse. He was somebody else’s problem, not theirs.

The rhythmic flow of shoppers was interrupted briefly by a group of three drunken youths returning from a late night drinking session.

“Scum,” the largest of the trio slurred, gesturing towards the man with his half-finished Jack Daniels bottle.

“Street filth!” his companions agreed with looks of extreme contempt etched upon their unshaven faces.

The man seemed to shrink into the depths of the doorway as the intimidating youths got closer and closer. His eyes were wide with fear, close to tears. It would not be the first time he had been attacked but it never got any easier. His tattered filthy clothes rustled against the cardboard boxes and plastic bags that he called home. As he tried to stand up on his impossibly paper thin legs in an attempt to flee the oncoming danger, his escape was thwarted. The youth brandishing the Jack Daniels bottle anticipated it and hurled the bottle at the man’s face.

There was a sickening crunch as the glass met bone and shattered against his jaw. The man fell to the ground and lay in a crumpled heap. The snow did little to break his fall when he smashed into the hard concrete surface. The other two youths keen to prove themselves stood around the man, launching vicious kicks and drunken punches at the frail man’s body.

The man, who had just struggled to his feet in another feeble attempt to escape, let out a groan as the massive youth who had chucked the bottle, landed a brutal uppercut. The man fell to the ground one last time. The three youths then stood back admiring their handiwork and laughed before walking off into the starry night.

The man lay unconscious on the pavement, his blood staining his clothes and the snow dark red. The stream of shoppers continued to pass by but only on the opposite side, preferring to avoid the disturbing scene. He was somebody else’s problem, not theirs. As time went by his skin began to turn a deadly shade of purple and his pulse got weaker and weaker until it was no longer recognizable not that it concerned the shoppers, he wasn’t their problem, he was nobody’s problem.

Joseph Englert is a Yr 11 student at Paraparaumu College