I Panhandled in Sacramento

ImageMy 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 filled with brown paper bags containing a carton of eggs, 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!” I giggled. “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.”

* * * *

Pamela’s latest book, JoyRide, Life, Death and Forgiveness, a Memoir is available by credit card or Paypal at http://www.joyridebook.com and through Amazon.

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