The next item on the agenda was homelessness. The doorways were filled, like the park benches, and the grocery store was losing a cart a week. You could imagine what the smells and leavings were.
The usual speakers stood up and offered the usual suggestions: a task force, a petition to the city, writing a grant proposal to a foundation set up by a robber baron as heaven insurance.
The chair asked if anyone else wished to speak before he turned to the following point of order.
“I would,” said a voice from the back. Most of us had to turn around to look, and when we did we saw the sort of square-bodied, bigger-than-average man you expect to see at the front of the room, or behind the desk at a construction trailer.
“The problem is,” he said, “that we’re not even trying to think outside of the box.” Oh, hell. Not that phrase. But we still didn’t know where he was going.
“We have to look at how other places have handled this kind of thing. And that means places in other countries, too.”
He didn’t seem like the multi-culti type, but now he had us intrigued.
“When I was transferred to Rio de Janeiro for a couple of years I got to see how they dealt with things down there, and I am here to tell you that they got it a lot more right than wrong. It didn’t get done overnight, but one block at a time they solved the problem.”
“Could you explain some of the problem-solving approaches that were undertaken?” asked the Grant Fan.
“I could,” the man said, "but it might be better to provide a demonstration. I hope you’ll excuse me for a moment.”
He left through the exit at the back of the room. A minute later a car door opened and slammed shut. Some people get carried away when they get a soapbox to stand on, and it seemed like he might come back in with a stack of handouts or a PowerPoint presentation. Others had.
But he didn’t come back. At least not right away. After an awkward silence and some fumbling around in the bylaws the proceedings moved on in spite of the noise outside: a dry pop and something dropping to the ground, a blast and a loud grunt, banging against crates, shattering glass, a collision with a wall. We took our time; nobody was in a hurry to go outside.
Still, we had reached miscellaneous business and were getting ready to adjourn when the man returned. He looked a little flushed, like he’d been out on a brisk walk.
“Sir,” the chair said, “we were hoping you would provide a demonstration of your ideas.”
“I have,” said the man. “On this block your homeless problem is solved.” He gave us a second to catch up. “But for now you have some extra garbage.”----
Biography, J.D. Smith My short fiction has appeared in Demolition, Out of the Gutter, Pulp Pusher and Thug Lit, and my stories have been anthologized in Hardcore Hardboiled and Volumes 5 and 6 of the Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica. I have published two collections of poetry and one children's book, and in 2007 I was awarded a Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts. My first book of essays is forthcoming in 2010.
More importantly, I have been mugged, and I am a fan of Tom Waits.