The Man on the Sidewalk
by William Michaelian

The man on the sidewalk asked me if I had any change. I did, so I gave it to him. It was somewhere around a dollar, not much more.

Thank you, he said.

Youíre welcome, I said, and I started to walk away.

You look familiar, he called after me.

Do I? I said, turning around.

Yes, he said. You look like my brother.

That seems unlikely, I said.

No, the man insisted, you look like my brother. Hold on. Let me show you his picture.

The man showed me his brotherís picture. Other than the fact that we both had big noses, there was no resemblance whatsoever.

Amazing, isnít it? he said.

Amazing, indeed, I said.

Maybe weíre related, he said. Wouldnít that be something?

Yes, it would, I said. Although, again, it seems unlikely.

He was a nice man, really ó a bit dirty and smelly and definitely not all there, but nice just the same. I have a picture of my mother here, he said, reaching into his coat pocket. Would you like to see it? He showed me the picture. His mother looked like my mother in one way and one way only ó they were both women. To please him, though, I told him there was a small resemblance.

You donít say, he said, full of enthusiasm. Well, Iíll be.

We stood there, looking at the two pictures. I donít have a picture of my mother, I said, but I do have one of my daughter. Would you like to see it?

Iíve got the time if youíve got the shine, the man said with a big smile.

I reached into my back pocket and took out my wallet. Here she is, I said. This is Lorraine.

My, my, the man said. That is one pretty girl. Then he told me that my daughter, Lorraine, looked like his daughter, Lucille. He even showed me Lucilleís picture to prove it, though it proved exactly the opposite. We have got to be related, he said as I politely studied the photograph. Thatís all there is to it.

Maybe we are, I said. Tell me. Where is your family from?

Tennessee, the man said.

I was born in Seattle, I said.

Seattle? the man said. My great-grandma lived up there.

So did mine, I said, even though my great-grandmother spent her entire life in Wyoming.

Well, Iíll be, the man said. Was she black, by any chance?

I donít know, I said, lying again. She died before I was born, and there werenít any pictures of her that I know of. Could be, though. You never know.

We looked at each other.

We got to be related, the man said again. He stood there, lips moving, lost in thought.

When I finally told him that I had to get back to work, he was so surprised he jumped. Then he told me to wait. After fishing in his pocket, he proudly held out the money Iíd given him, along with several pounds of very questionable lint.

Knowing it was a matter of pride, I took back the change. Then we shook hands and parted company.

It was such a beautiful moment, I had to smile ó as I always do when I meet a new member of the family.

William Michaelianís newest releases are two poetry collections, Winter Poems and Another Song I Know, published in paperback by Cosmopsis Books in San Francisco. His short stories, poems, and drawings have appeared in many literary magazines and newspapers. His novel,
A Listening Thing, is published here in its first complete online edition. For information on Michaelianís other books and links to this siteís other sections, please go to the Main Page or visit Flippantly Answered Questions.

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