The beggar took credit cards…

(A little bit of a story, it may form part of a larger collection one day.)

It was late, well after midnight, on one of those warm summer evenings with a slight breeze, the moon out, and the crickets chirping; pretty much perfect. I couldn’t sleep, which was nothing new for me, so I went out for a coffee at the 24 hour cafe nearby, across from the beach. There was no one else home, anyway, as I lived alone, a good way to be for a wandering, insomniac writer.

I got a cup of joe and sat at one of the tables on the patio out front, enjoying the smell of the coffee mingling with the ocean air, and the moon sparkling off the waves. There were others out enjoying the night: some on the beach, some on bikes, a few in cars, some on the sidewalks, and some in cafes.

I looked over at the other patrons of this particular cafe, of which there were only three: one couple engrossed in each other, and some other strung-out guy staring into space. No one paid me any mind, and I liked it that way, as I could be alone with my thoughts and my loneliness, which wasn’t all bad, as I got some good story ideas that way.

I didn’t get to enjoy the nuances of the night for long, as along came a clearly homeless man, dirty-looking, and his smell preceeding him. “Oh, god,” I muttered into my cup, drinking some more delicious coffee down (I could still sleep after coffee, if I were really tired, so it didn’t phase me). He stood across from me on the sidewalk, only a flower box providing me any protection. It didn’t take long for him to utter the expected words: “Can you spare any change?”

“No, sorry, I only carry a card most of the time, these days,” I replied, sure it would defeat him and cause him to turn to his next prey.

The beggar’s deep-set eyes widened and he smiled a dirty-toothed smile. “That’s ok,” he said. “I take credit cards! All of them! Phone payments, and crypto, too!” He pulled out a mobile phone with a card reader attached.

I stared at his device, just about lost for words. “I-I…can’t, I’m sorry.” I shut my hanging mouth and drank some coffee. There was no way I was going to trust this guy with a payment from my credit card, and besides, what was a beggar doing accepting all those sorts of payments? Was he making a career out of it? That type of thing I definitely didn’t support; someone truly in need was another story. But not a guy with a setup like that, it just seemed like a good way to play on people’s sympathies and be a scammer. Maybe I was wrong, but that’s how it appeared to me.

I left the patio as the beggar worked the others, taking my coffee down to the beach. There were fewer people there, and I was nearly alone with the sound of the water. It was good to feel the slight moisture from the crashing surf. I walked slowly in the sand, trying not to get too much of it in my shoes. I looked up at the partial moon, and how its light fell on the waves.

I walked along the seawall for a long time, restless, until my coffee was gone, and the first light of dawn was starting to appear in the sky. I made my way back home, to my empty house, and wondered if I’d be able to sleep, hoping I could.

Copyright 2024 by David Sloma





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