The Hell Butterfly

“O, what’s in a name?”

The following short story is in need of your help. It’s working title is ‘Exchange’ however I am displeased with this. I therefore invite you all to read this 600 word piece and come up with a title of your own. Post it in the comments section and the best one will have the honour of, well, being the permanent title. Here goes.

Exchange

There’s a man in my neighbourhood that likes to be talked to. He’s a hobo but he listens good. I see him slumped in underpasses when I go to lectures, pick up a ten bag, buy a box of Minstrels. He has one of those hats, you know the ones. Flappy ear bits that make him look like Goofy on a windy day. I give him a bite of my Snickers sometimes, I know he likes the crunch. It’s the sound it makes, you see. I bet his soul makes the same sound, like throwing a handful of peanuts in a washing machine and spinning the drum.

I’ve grown pretty accustomed to that upturned palm. Never get to read it much but he says he’ll crack me a peek one day. He’s a hobo but he lies good. I know he pays no mind to visual affairs. He can’t read none but he likes to hear a pretty tale any day. Even painful ones have a music that quivers a man’s heart strings he says. A lot can be revealed in a Devil’s chord. I played him some Debussy once. I didn’t hear the sea until he sung it back to me. See? See lad? He cried that day into his cavity-smile.

Most folks won’t shine a watch in his eyes but he doesn’t care for them. No point wasting time on the Rolex-clad. He’s a hobo but he holds himself good. I asked him one day about the napkin he always had tied to his belt. It was the colour of rust. He tapped his nose and smiled his smile and sent me on my way. I thought he meant to learn me something so I came back again the next day. Again I asked and again he brushed me off. I never saw that pouch get bigger or smaller until one afternoon when I saw an old broad walk his way. My eyes were glued but therein lay my lesson I assumed. So I shut my eyes, sparked a J and listened.

Penny for them? Clink clink. Oh, oh alright, dear boy. Well, it’s my husband you see. We met oh so long ago, right after the war. He was wearing his beret and looked dashing, he was such a handsome man, my Bert. I was a simple girl back then but he saw more in me somehow. He always seemed to … it’ll be so hard without him. He had a weak heart, you see. He loved too fiercely and it just … gave out. Oh but I mustn’t be too sad. He lived a long life and I’ll join him on that porch in Vienna soon enough. Thank you, my boy. God bless you.

I poked my nose round the corner to see the old man bathing in his tears. He was smiling that cavity smile and savouring some private melody. Through all of this I hadn’t seen the purpose of the rust-coloured napkin. It looked the same to me as it did before. The woman crossed my path in a talcum cloud and in her hand was a dirty coin. I had to know, so I went to him and posed my question for the final time. Morning, Trash-Can Dan. What’s in the napkin? Through his salty streams he tapped his nose and smiled his smile and sent me on my way. I never knew my Dad. Fresh liquid pebbles manifested in his lashes. He’s a hobo, but he cries good. His fingers worked at the napkin package for a second then he turned and pressed a copper coin into my hand. Penny for them?

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