Friday Fictioneers: Little Girl Lost

PHOTO PROMPT © Anshu Bhojnagarwala

‘You must dry off, or you’ll catch your death.’ The homeless guy beckons me to the fire with stubby, soot black fingers.

Crows feet deep as cuts, weathered skin – he could be in his seventies, or ten years younger, hard to tell. The street does that to you.

The drenching has me shivering and the autumn wind cuts across the river, knife sharp. Hypothermia is a real danger.

‘Thank you,’ I say, giving him my best little-girl-lost smile.

He offers me a blanket that stinks of rats and body odour.

I accept it gratefully, hide the knife in its folds.

***

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

This could be the prequel to An Unforeseen Event, the story I wrote for What Pegman Saw last week.

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43 thoughts on “Friday Fictioneers: Little Girl Lost

  1. I fear she’s going to repay his kindness in a savage manner. Or perhaps she sees it as releasing him from a miserable life. Either way, I don’t think I’d take to her. Tantalising, Lynn.

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  2. Wonderful picture of the homeless man – I can see that worn-down face and smell his humble abode. On the first read, I thought maybe she meant him harm, but on the second read I’m rethinking that: she really is grateful for the help on this cold and rainy night, and although she’s prepared to defend herself, she’s hiding that, to not spook him.

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    1. Thank you, Joy. Glad you thought the description of the homeless man worked, especially as it was pretty brief. I don’t think she means him harm, particular, but she won’t be shy in causing some if she needs to. A tough cookie. Thanks again

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  3. Now I do wonder, is that knife in readiness against need of defence? In which case, wise little girl. Or is it readied for a brutal attack? In which case … why? Does she seek revenge for some previous attack on her or her family? Or has she lost her cute little marbles along the way?
    See the question your briefly-penned fiction raises! 🙂

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    1. I think it’s for defence. Who knows what a strange man has planned for a vulnerable female, no matter how friendly he might seem? And I think she’s been through some crap and that’s made her wary. He needs to step carefully, that’s for sure! Thank so much Crispina

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      1. Thanks? For reading and enjoying? My pleasure.
        And yea, I feel for the girl. I prefer that explanation that the one that makes her an evil bitch! 🙂

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  4. What a compelling story. I really like the immediacy of their encounter, the ratty stink of the blanket. I could feel the woman’s tension – hypothermia, desperation set against her disgust & fear. Great writing.

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  5. Another finely crafted vignette, the import of which remains deliciously ambiguous and which leaves things balanced on, er, a knife’s edge. (Sorry about that.)

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    1. Thank you Iain. Yes, that was how I meant the knife, though I don’t think she’d hesitate if she felt under attack, so the poor guy needs to watch himself! Thank you for the kind comment

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  6. Wonderful descriptions again, Lynn. At first read I was puzzled about the knife, but they aren’t really in a trusting situation. The homeless man seems very nice, but you never know what comes next, she’s is wise to be prepared.

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    1. I think she’s a prepared kind of girl. Not quite sure what she’s just been through and why she was in the river, though it’s going to have been pretty bad … Thank you for your kind comment Gabi

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  7. Having written a lot about a tramp recently I really liked this, the descriptions are a lot harder than my more superficial, romanticised efforts, showing the true horror of rough sleeping. I hope the knife is only there because she’s not sure of him and feels she may need a little protection, after all the man is giving her all he has to give. Brilliantly done.

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    1. Aw, thank you Michael. I’ve got to know a few homeless guys a little over the years, mainly Big Issue sellers, and they all look older than they should. All those rough nights and sleeping badly, and often substance abuse too, are not a mix that promotes youthfulness. I think the knife is there for defence, but she’s a tough cookie … Looking forward to reading your stories

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  8. You’ve written this with your usual immaculate use of the significant details, and they convey so much. For example “giving him my best little-girl-lost smile” tells us that she manipulated him into giving her the blanket, which says a whole lot about her approach to life on the streets. She’s a gritty, realistic character in a hostile world and you tell it how it is, Lynn!

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    1. Thank you Penny! I think you’re right, she’ll manipulate him to get what she needs and then move on. She’s a survivor if nothing else. Thanks so much for reading and for your thoughtful comment

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  9. Her sense of self-preservation comes through, in a scary existence. I like the description of the homeless man, with wrinkles–– “Crows feet deep as cuts,” is wonderful! I think using knife twice can cause confusion and softens the impact of both. A really excellent piece!

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    1. Excellent point about the word knife Dawn – thanks for the feedback. And I’m glad you liked the crow’s feet description. Thanks so much for the kind and useful comments

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  10. I think she is willing to accept help, but not blindly. Only natural that she ensures her own safety.
    I really liked this. And prefer the positive thought that a homeless person is more generous than one who lives in comfort…

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