My stomach ached with hunger. Mother left my eleven-year-old sister Robin and me home alone for several days without food. The cupboards were bare. The refrigerator had a half empty jug of Gallo and some dried out celery in a produce drawer but that was all.
Panhandling wasn’t something I ever imagined for myself. I was nine-years-old, almost fearless, and absolutely lacking in begging skills. I stationed myself outside the neighborhood grocery store, and waited beside the automatic doors. How do I do this? I guess I just stand here until someone nice sees me and gives me food.
Five minutes later, a woman exited with her shopping cart of groceries. She’s rich, I thought as I ogled her cart and her brown paper bags filled with milk, bananas, oranges, steak, and French bread. All that good looking stuff made my mouth water and my stomach grumble. Meekly, I held out one grubby hand. She stopped for a minute and met my hungry gaze. Then she surprised me. Reaching into her purse, she pulled out a dollar and gave it to me before hurrying away.
“Geez, thank you,” I called after her.
When I returned home, I smiled smugly at Robin. “Guess what?” I asked in a low voice.
“How would I know?” she said. “Tell me.”
“No. You have to guess,” I said.
“You found something.”
“Nope. Guess again.”
“The ice cream man gave you a fudge sickle.”
“No. That was last week.” I looked over my shoulder as if someone were in the room with us. “I had a candy bar,” I whispered. “And guess how I got it?”
Robin’s eyes grew large with curiosity. “I don’t know, how?” The tone of her voice rose. “What did you do?”
“I stood outside the store and a lady came over to me and I asked her in a super sad voice, ‘Do you have a dollar for a poor child?’”
Robin’s face dropped. “Pam!” She gasped. “You didn’t!”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“What’s wrong? You shouldn’t ask people for money. That’s what hobos and street people do.”
I smiled at her shocked expression. “Just kidding! Would I do something like that?”
“Yeah, you would.”
“Really, I didn’t have to say a word. I just held out my hand, and she gave me a dollar.”
“Pam, don’t do that ever again.”
* * * *
More can be read in my latest book, JoyRide, Life, Death and Forgiveness, a Memoir. Available by credit card or Paypal at www.joyridebook.com and through Amazon.