Short Story Fiction
The Bench Part Two: A Second Chance

Wesley Gordon is offered a job.

The morning air had a slight chill to it. He sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He was stiff but happy to have had the bench for the night. He sat and stared out at the nearby water. He had nothing else to do. There was no job, no food and no home waiting for him. This was it.

short story fiction/The BenchJohn Tuesday/Unsplash

He did have a routine. His day would be like most others. It included going to his favorite dumpsters and scrounging for edible food scraps. If he was lucky he’d find a few bottles he could recycle for a few cents each. If he was fortunate, there would be an old piano sitting on the sidewalk outside the second hand store a few blocks away.

He was a good player and had started using it a couple of months ago. He earned some change whenever it was out. It was usually enough to buy a decent meal and a bottle of scotch. Sometimes the store would give him enough credit to purchase a shirt or a pair of pants.

The piano hadn’t been out for a few days. Maybe today he would be in luck.

It was late morning when he finally got up off the bench. He pointed himself toward the store and started walking. He stopping at one dumpster along the way. It was behind a bakery. Sometimes there would be some day old bread or pastries. They were usually in a paper sack. He figured the owner knew he came around and was being kind. He appreciated it.

This morning there was a loaf of French bread and the added bonus of several pads of butter. He ate the whole loaf and continued toward the second hand store in hopes of finding the piano. He was in luck. It had been rolled out onto the sidewalk. He sat on a nearby bench and waited to see if anyone gave it a go. One kid picked at it for a few seconds and moved on.

Lunchtime was the busiest time of the day. He waited until the foot traffic picked up and then made his move. He had his own jar by now. He set it on the piano and sat down, closed his eyes and began to play. Sometimes he would play songs he remembered and other times he would just improvise. The bread and butter had put him in a good mood this morning. Finding the piano out had increased his good mood all the more.

He played throughout the lunch rush. When he finished, he had collected close to fifteen dollars. He put the change in his pocket. As he was about to leave, one of the store clerks offered to let him pick out some clothes.

As he was in the store looking over the shoes a customer came in and talked to the clerk. The clerk pointed in his direction and the customer headed toward him.

“Excuse me. I heard you playing outside earlier. You look familiar. You wouldn’t happen to be Wesley Gordon, would you?”

He looked at the customer. “If you’re looking for an autograph, forget it. If you’re a bill collector, good luck. If you’re neither, Yes, I am.”

“Well, I’m neither,” replied the customer. “I know of you and like your music. I had heard you fell on hard times and if you don’t mind I’d like to help you in some small way. I’m actually here to offer you a job.”

Wesley looked the guy over. “You don’t want to hire me. I’m a homeless drunk. If you’re wanting to hire me for some manual labor job, I’m not interested. Manual labor has never been my strong point.

The customer blew off the reply. “My name is Corey Lake. I own the Morning Glory coffee shop not far from here. If you should ever decide you want to play the piano for wages and no longer want to be a homeless drunk, come see me. Here’s my card.”

Corey handed Wesley his business card and left the store. Wesley put the card in his pocket and finished his shopping. He left the store wearing new shoes and a change of clothes. He went to a nearby diner and ordered something to eat. After his meal he walked to the nearby liquor store and bought a bottle of cheap scotch.

He walked back to the bench he slept on the night before and found it was occupied by another homeless person. It was a woman he had met before. Her name was Sunny. He sat down next to her and offered to share his bottle. She looked at him with suspicion. “You aren’t expecting something from me like sex or my bench, are you?”

“No, I’m just in a good mood,” he replied.

“Well in that case, let me see that bottle.” She took a swig and handed it back to Wesley. “How’s life treating you these days? Shitty as ever?” She asked.

“I’m not complaining. I’ve had worse days,” he replied.

“Well you do have a bottle and you’re willing to share it with me. I guess that means I’m not doing too bad either.” Wesley handed her the bottle again and she took another swig.

The two of them sat and talked for several hours. Wesley told Sunny about his job offer. She was amazed he was even thinking about not taking it. “You should go talk to that man. You may never get another chance.”

“I’m a drunk. I haven’t had a real job in years. Why would this guy offer me a job? He doesn’t even know me.”

“Maybe he sees some potential. You should at least have the courtesy of listening to what he has to offer you or do you like digging through dumpsters for your dinner?”

Sunny had a point. He was tired of being a homeless drunk. Maybe this was his chance to turn his life around. “I’ll give it some thought,” he replied as he got up to leave. There was still some scotch left in the bottle. He handed it to Sunny. “Are you sure?” She questioned.

“I’m sure,” replied Wesley as he walked off to find somewhere to lay his head for the night.

Wesley had a restless night as he thought about the job offer. His mind was telling him one thing and his brain was telling him something else. Was he really ready to get back into the flow of society or was he really a worthless drunk who had his chance and blew it.

The following morning he decided he had nothing to lose. He fished the card out of his pocket and headed toward the coffee shop.

When he arrived he had second thoughts. This place was an upscale establishment, not the Starbucks type place he was expecting. He would never fit in here. He stood outside for a few minutes as he tried to make up his mind. He decided to leave. As he began to walk away he heard a voice behind him.

“Wesley, Wesley Gordon.”

Wesley turned around to see Corey walking toward him. “Come back. You’re at the right place.”

“I don’t think so,” replied Wesley. “This looks like a respectable place. Look at me. I don’t fit in here.”

Corey took a close look at Wesley. “Tell you what. Come back with me. I’ll bring you in through the back and give you some lunch.”

Wesley agreed. The two sat together at a small table in the corner. As Wesley ate Corey talked. He couldn’t convince Wesley to say yes so he made him an offer. “There’s a barber shop two doors down. Here’s twenty bucks. Go get a shave and a haircut and come back. If you do, I’ll give you another thirty if you play for one hour. If you decide not to, keep the money and do whatever you want with it. Deal?” He handed Wesley a twenty dollar bill and showed him to the door. Wesley thanked Corey and started to walk off.

Corey called out. “The barber shop is this way.” He pointed to the Right. Wesley headed in that direction. He had twenty dollars in his pocket. He seriously thought about walking right past it.

© Copyright 2023 by Scott A. Gese All Rights Reserved.

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