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Sign of the Tims

Cameron Shaw steps outside every day to stretch his legs, smoke a cigarette and walk around the same flat city block. He always walks counter clockwise, right turn, right turn, right turn, right turn, back inside. The high view never changes, save for the occasional bird on the horizon darting through the street-wide gap in buildings that’s always in front of him. He doesn’t step on cracks, wet leaves or chewed gum. And he always passes a homeless man on the first corner who keeps the same hours every day, holding the same sign, “SPARE SOME CHANGE? ANDYTHING HELPS.” Cameron stopped one day to ask him why his sign said “andything.”

“Spare some change buddy?”

“I said, why does it say andything?”

“My name isn’t Andy.”

Which was precisely too much conversation to have with a man begging on the corner, so Cameron walked away. But the man remembered his face. And every day after, Cameron Shaw would step outside to stretch his legs, smoke a cigarette and walk around the same flat city block but now when he passed the man, the man shook his cardboard sign at him and yelled, “My name isn’t Andy!” People noticed this. They stopped conversations, turned heads, sometimes thought briefly about someone they know named Andy. One woman thought about a cousin who works on an Alaskan trawler. A man remembered that he missed his brother’s birthday again. A child named Andrew squeezed his mother’s hand. This was uncomfortable.

So Cameron stopped walking that way. Now he turns left, crosses the street and walks around the next block over. Left turn, left turn, left turn, left turn, cross the street, back inside. It’s getting cold outside lately, bitter enough last Wednesday that Cameron lit his cigarette and dangled it in his mouth so he could jam his hands in his jacket pockets.

Left turn.

Stiff wind.

Left turn.

Near the third corner of the new block he stuttered at the sight of the homeless man in front of him, on a new corner, on his new walk. The man was hunched over something small and brown on the sidewalk. He was cooing and smiling, not noticing Cameron or anyone else walking by. Cameron tugged his collar up and walked more briskly, anxious to get back to his own block, eyes askance enough to see the puppy that was draped in tattered wool, curled up and snoring at the foot of a new sign that read “SPARE SOME CHANGE? EVERYBOBBY LOVES A PUPPY.”

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