"Yes" - Short Story Submission
The sandaled feet splashed through the puddles on the cobblestones of St. Peter’s Square. Head held high, their owner walked with determination and paid no attention to the pointed remarks he heard directed at him from well-dressed tourists. He was one of many homeless men and women who made their way to the showers under the Bernini’s colonnade. Today he was hoping for a shower and a haircut.
The other homeless in the area called him Yes, mainly because they couldn’t pronounce his name. Yes didn’t mind. He rather like being called Yes. Better than being called ‘No.’ He smiled at the thought. Some of his new friends just called him “Si”, a real Italian name they agreed.
Yes had only been in Rome a few weeks, he was a refugee from his homeland in the Middle East. Like many others, he arrived by boat. Unlike some of the boat people, he survived. That, it turned out, was the easy part. Trying to live through the cold, damp, Roman winter and spring was tough on even the hardiest of men.
Yes coughed as he stood in line with the others. His cold had gotten worse over the last few days. His chest ached. He hadn’t found a shelter that could take him in at night. They were all full. An apologetic volunteer at the last shelter had mentioned to him that at the Vatican, with its many corners and overhangs, he might be able to get out of the constant rain. They also had hot showers and a hot lunch. It might help get him through the day – alive.
As he neared the front of the line, he watched the men in their long black robes scurry from their apartment building to their waiting limousines. The apartments were only a few hundred feet from the Apostolic Palace, which housed the Curia offices, but, drive they must. Yes smiled to himself when a man in a black cassock with red trim walked by him and mumbled about “The Pope’s audacity to have these people bath in this sacred place.”
“Peace be with you,” Yes said to him. The Cardinal hurried away.
The door opened to the shower room and a friendly voice invited him in. Yes was amazed at the interior. Even the poor deserved a beautiful place to clean-up. He ran his hand down the gleaming counter tops. The area was well lit and inviting. A spacious shower stall with a changing room awaited him.
This is going to feel good.
A package of clean towels, shower soap, and shampoo was on a shelf in the changing area. Yes noticed the fresh smell of new-to-him slacks, shirt and pullover hanging on the changing room door.
“Summer Breeze shampoo, I’m going to smell pleasant myself,” he said.
The hot water cascaded down his face as he stood under the showerhead and enjoyed his first shower ever. Yes had never known this kind of luxury. Where he came from, a bath was in the river or the lake.
He stepped out of the shower and donned the new clothes provided by his host. “Thoughtful of him,” Yes said to himself. He used the pen and label provided to put his name on his jeans and sweater and then tossed them into the laundry bin.
The haircut was next. His hair had been beyond shoulder length for as long as he could remember. However, slightly shorter hair and a trimmed beard might help him get a much-needed job.
The barber, who volunteered his time, chatted and chatted without waiting for a response. Yes smiled the whole time he was in the man’s chair. He watched as his dark brown locks hit the floor. He wondered if he was going to have any left by the time the barber was through ‘trimming.’
“You know you have some open sores on your head. You ought to have those seen to before they are infected. There is a clinic here you can go to. They might give you something for that cold too,” the barber told him.
Yes thanked the man as he looked in the mirror at his newly trimmed self. “Not bad, when I’m cleaned-up, Si?”
E.M. "Yes" - Tuscany Prize 2015 Short Story Submission
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