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The Man Beneath The Street

Posted on November 29, 2010 at 10:11 PM

Lancaster, or (langkisster) as we Texans call it, is a street that holds a lot of history.

Named Jan. 7, 1931, after J. L. Lancaster, a president of the Texas & Pacific Railway.

However, today the street is the home of vagrants, Hobo’s, Transients, or The Homeless, as I like to define them. And one of these people resides under the street in sort of a flood tunnel, and his name is Gus. No one has ever gotten his last name; he just says, “My name is Gus.” He comes out of his hole in the ground every morning like clockwork, almost as if he had an alarm clock down there.

He walks up to the road and sits in his make-shift chair and takes out his cardboard message that says “Hi, I’m Gus and I need Some Money” I was shocked the first time I saw the sign, shocked and kind of tickled by it, I mean the nerve of this guy.

But unbelievably people stopped and gave him money.

I heard one guy scream out “At least you are honest!”

I drive by Gus everyday on my way to work and I find it incredible how he survives through all manner of weather and such, but he does, and he has survived for many years. He was there when I moved into the neighborhood five years ago and he seems to stay healthy enough (At least for a homeless person living underground) I, one day after heading home from a hard days work decided to stop and walk over and talk with Gus. As I approached him, he seemed to gather his stuff closer to him with a sort of uneasiness and distrust.

I must have looked like a city worker or something to him because he immediately started to saying “There’s no posted sign that says I can’t be here!”

“Easy old man,” I said.

“My Name is Richard Weathering, and I live across the way in Lancaster heights. Do you mind if I speak with you a minute?”

He looked quizzically at me and said,

“Why you want to talk to me? What about Mister.”

I smiled to loosen the situation a bit, knelled down next to him, and said,

“I would like to pay you to give me some honest background on yourself, and an honest accounting of your life on the streets from the first day you landed here.”

He looked away, then back at me, and said, “Why come?”

I said,

“Because you interest me, you been here a longtime and I would like to know why you’re here, when you got here? And how you got here… amongst other questions.”

He stared at me a second, and then looked away again before turning and saying,

“What you going to pay for me telling you that stuff?”

I said,

“Twenty Dollars everyday you answer my questions honestly, if I even feel you are lying to me I won’t pay you nothing.”

He got up and retrieved a dollar from a motorist that stopped for him, then walked back over and slowly sat back down.

I said,

“So what will it be?”

He nodded yes with a sneaky smile on his face then held out his hand and said,

“Can I have a signing bonus? You know, like those football players get?”

I half laughed at him and said,

“Gus! What do you know about signing bonuses?”

He grinned and said,

“I get to look at a little TV every once in a while, and I got a battery operated radio that I listen to.”

I reached into my pocket, pulled out a ten, and handed it to him.

Gus thanked me and told me that he would see me soon as he headed across Lancaster to the restaurant to get something to eat.

He never looked back at me as I stood there watching him run through traffic causing people to blow their horns at him.

He raised his hands in the air as if to be a cop working traffic all the way across to the other side and entered the restaurant.

I left and went home with thoughts of writing an incredible book,

And I thought, I think I will call it “THE MAN BENEATH THE STREET”

Categories: Short Story, El Roi' Jackson

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Reply Phil Neale
5:52 AM on November 30, 2010 
Made me smile, did this one.

You could turn it into something longer - it sure has the potential.
Reply El Roi' Jackson
9:02 PM on November 30, 2010 
Phil Neale says...
Made me smile, did this one.

You could turn it into something longer - it sure has the potential.

Thanks Phil I appreciate it.
Reply Stuart Hughes
12:57 PM on December 1, 2010 
I really enjoyed this one. Well written and intriguing. You've created a very interesting character with Gus and I'd like to know more about him.

I agree with Phil. This definitely has potential and you could do more with it I'm sure. It read like an introduction, a first chapter if you like, and there's more to be written if you want as Richard Weathering finds out more about Gus and will Gus tell him the truth ... or not?

A good read. Nice one.

Best wishes,

Reply Christopher Law
4:07 PM on December 4, 2010 
With the others I'd like to see you do more with this.

Just for myself I've a newspaper cutting on my wall I found six or seven years ago that this story made me think off - it's a homeless gut holding a sign that reads 'Why lie? I want some beer. $10 will help'.

Having been almost that low myself - if my sister ever asks, tell her I will pay her back one day and thanks for the room to sleep in - there's a poingnacy to stories like this.

Nice work.