Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009 - , 12 comments

PoW - 7

It's that wonderful time of the month again when we get to post our Portrait of Words stories, a writing challenge where we develop a story based on a set of pictures chosen by our humble host Jeff B at Portrait of Words. If you'd like to see the inspirational pics, please CLICK HERE. Some of them will be included with the story.

Bangles, Baubles, and Screws
Maurice was in the middle of his act when I saw him performing for a crowd of people on the sidewalk. Though, truth be told it was a wonder that I recognized him at all with his stripey shirt, all those necklaces, and the fedora hat, the de rigueur uniform of street performers. The last time I saw him, he looked quite respectable in suit and tie, however that was some years ago.

It looked like he was working up to a big finish with an impressive juggling maneuver as I joined the crowd of about 30 that surrounded him. He ended to enthusiastic applause, and to my surprise, the hat he passed around came back to him overflowing with money!

As the crowd dispersed I said to him, “Oh my gosh, Maurice! I had no idea. When did you start doing this?”

He looked a bit startled as the sound of his name but rallied quickly. “Cherie! Cherie! I didn’t know that you were in the City. Not too bad for 20 minutes work.” He stood up and gave me a quick hug. “When did you get in?”

“Oh, I came in a couple of days ago to do some shopping, I’ll be headed back to the country soon.” Now, that I had a chance to look at him more closely, I didn’t think that he looked well. He was too thin and sickly pale. His clothes and jewelry served to give him a youthful appearance, but I knew he was over 40. Besides, I could see the lines of strain and worry around his eyes. It made me want to take him back to the farm to fatten him up and send him to bed. But for all that, he looked happy. I repeated my question, “When did you start doing this?”

He finished putting his props into his case, stood up, and took me by the arm. We began to walk down the street before he answered. “It was about six months ago. I needed some extra money, and I’d always watched the street performers. I knew that I could do a better job than they did.”

The look I gave him must have communicated disbelief because he went on. “Oh, I know that sounds arrogant, but I’ve got to be pretty good ‘cause I wound up making so much money that I quit my job at the office. And it gets better; I’ve saved enough money that I'm finally getting my teeth fixed.” He flashed me his snagle-toothed smile, “which is why I started this in the first place. Hey, why don’t I take to my apartment, and I’ll make you some lunch.”

While walking to his place, we passed a florist shop. In one quick movement, he snagged a carnation and presented it to me.

“What’s this for?” I said.

“I’m trying to charm and manipulate you,” he said as he looked down at the sidewalk.

“Why would you need to do that?

“You see, my dentist appointment is today, and I don’t have anyone to come with me.”

I looked at him with some confusion. A man who leaves a good office job to make his living on the streets of New York is afraid to go to the dentist’s office by himself? But I could see the tension in his face. This was no joke. “If you want me to, of course, I’ll go with you.”

He said, “Thanks!” as he squeezed my arm.


By far, it was the oddest dentist’s office I had ever been in, and I certainly didn’t expect the dentist to be French. I have no wish to promote stereotypes, but I’ve never exactly associated the French with good teeth. However, I must admit that this guy had a mouth full of perfect ones.

Quite apart from being ready to see us at the scheduled appointment time, he burst into the waiting room, giving me a fright. He came to escort Maurice back to the exam room personally. With a thick French accent he said, “Monsieur Jackson we have a busy day, non? We must get started right away.”

I started to get up to go with him. “Oh mademoiselle, I’m afraid zat you can’t accompany monsieur back to zee exam room.”

“Why not?” I replied trying not to sound too annoyed. Why had I spent all this time to come down here for moral support if I couldn’t even go into the room with him?

“Zee noise and zee procedures, they can be difficult to watch if you’re not used to it, you understand. Monsieur will be sedated, you see. He will not see or hear a thing, but you …” He left the rest unsaid as he tilted his head and raised his eyebrows. I decided that this might not be the best time to be obstinate, but I gave it one last shot.

“Perhaps, I could walk back there with you and wait until you’re ready to begin.”

“But we are ready to start now.” I had to give the dentist some credit. He must have noticed the look of dread on Maurice’s face because as he went on he was much more conciliatory. “But if it will make you feel better to see him safely to his seat, I suppose it would be alright.” He held up his finger, “but you must promise to leave immediately.” Then he almost whispered conspiratorially, “It’s a matter of insurance, you understand,” and gave me a wink.

“Okay,” I promised as I winked back.

We all walked back to the exam room. The nerves had really set in on Maurice. It looked like he was walking to his execution.

I patted his hand as we entered the room. Inside was a very competent looking woman. Was she the anesthesiologist? “Don’t worry,” I said. “You’ll be juggling in no time.” He gave me a weak smile.

Absolutement!” said the dentist with his happy voice.

We got Maurice all settled in his chair, and I asked, “When should I be back, Doctor?”

“In about four hours, he should be ready."


I could hardly believe my eyes when I returned. The transformation was incredible. I hadn’t realized that this was a cosmetic dentist, doing years worth of work in a few hours. Between veneers and tooth whitening, my Maurice was a new man. Yes, he was a new man who was stoned, I chuckled to myself. But it was no wonder that they had to sedate him. And I was so glad that I was there to pick him up. There was no way that he could have made it home in that condition.

As we went along, however, I wasn’t sure that he wasn’t putting on the staggering a bit. The performer was coming out. I guess that was why I didn’t feel guilty about giggling at him, still in his stripey shirt and fedora hat. And then there were all the necklaces jangling around his neck.

We were a couple of blocks from his building when he started digging around in his pocket. “You want to see something?”


He pulled out a piece of long rusted metal about three inches long. “It’s my lucky screw.”

I coughed as I suppressed an urge to say something vulgar. He was deadly serious. “Ummm … isn’t that kinda risky to carry around in your pocket? Wouldn’t it make holes in them? Not to mention your pants? Ummm … how does one get a ‘lucky screw’?”

“Well, I was walking by this construction site one day, and I nearly tripped over it. Speaking of holes, it damn near put one in the bottom of my foot. While I was bent down to look at it, something came flying out of the construction area and landed in the street. If I hadn’t been bent over, it would have hit me in the head. Stupid little thing might have saved my life.”

“Speaking of screws, you don’t mind if I think that you might have one loose do you?” I tempered my comment with an encouraging smile.

“No, I don’t mind. Everyone thinks that about me these days.”

A wave of compassion flooded over me. We had reached the door to the apartment building. “Why don’t I put you to bed, then I’ll get your prescription filled. Where’s there a drug store around here?”

He pointed up the street. “There’s one on the corner there.”

I noted its location and hustled him inside.


A couple of hours later, I was sitting in a chair next to his bed. He almost looked normal snuggled in his bed with his pj’s on though he still looked terribly pale and much too thin. He noticed me studying him, and I quickly moved to cover.

“You want to see a picture of my baby, Ginger?” I asked.

“Baby! Why is this the first time I’m hearing about this?”

“Why was today the first time I knew about your ‘change in circumstance’?”

He shrugged and smiled, “Touché. So, where’s this picture of your baby?” I handed it to him. He smiled and said, “She’s a bit hairy; isn’t she?”

“Not for a llama!” I laughed at him.

“When did you get her?”
“We started raising them last year for the wool, and besides they’re so darn cute don’t you think?”

“But of course,” he said with a wicked, but newly perfected smile.

“You’ll have to come up to see them. Please, say you will.”

“I don’t know. I’ve become a city creature. I think a breath of fresh air might kill me.”

“You could be right about that.”
It was soon time for me to leave, and Maurice insisted on getting dressed and walking me to the subway. His brought his case of toys with him, so I was not surprised to hear him gather a crowded around him for his second performance of the day, as I walked down the stairs.

Photo Credits: Photo Credits: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License (From commons, unless otherwise noted) Main Character- nico; Wild Card #1- kcolwell.


Very good story about people and their dreams.

(I thought for sure that dentist would turn him into a mime; D)

What a good friend to have, and right on time too.

What a fun story! And you managed to work all the elements in and surprise me with each one!

I enjoyed that - it was a good read. :)

The best story I've read today. I loved all the detail and how little by little it allc came together. You are a good writer.

Your story is so wonderful. It is nice to have friends. I enjoyed reading it and it flowed so well.

Great writing! That story had it all. Fun characters, a humorous bent (loved the baby), and I actually liked all the folks there. The dentist scared me at first, but then I realized they were all well intentioned characters.

Good story with likable characters. I want to repeat The Things We Carried said.

Nessa: Oh, what an interesting twist that would have made!

Jeff: Wouldn't it be nice if we could all have that.

Jay: Glad you liked it!

Dr. John: Thanks!

Pam: Friends can certainly help over the rough patches.

Things: I was so taken with that picture of the llama. I had to figure out a way to work it in. :)

Betty: That is so kind of you to say so. :)

I enjoyed that story and I am so glad you included the llama!

I enjoy the comfortable way you write.

The story has a nice even flow. I enjoyed every word.

Maggie: Llamas are just the cutest.

Travis: Thanks!

BJ: Glad you enjoyed it. :)

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