Jacob’s Secret (short fiction)

images[2]Daily Prompt: A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma

Tell us something most people probably don’t know about you.

“I’ll give you a hundred dollars if you tell me how you became a panhandler.”

Jacob smiled smugly. “There are secrets, sir, that no one should ever know about yourself. Keep them locked away. Don’t reveal them to friend nor enemy. Those are the things that display weakness that can be exploited.”

“Have you ever had such happen to you?”

“Yes,” Jacob said openly. “Many years ago. I revealed something very personal to a friend whose name was George. George became an enemy saying dreadful things about me. They were things that took away my dignity and left only what you see here today.”

“A panhandler on a street corner?”

“Yes,” Jacob said bitterly

“What was it?”

“I was at the top of my class and head of my fraternity. My friend, George, told me that for a secret he would recommend his father hire me for a summer working on his yacht. He went on to explain that it would only be used for one week and a couple of weekends all summer. The rest of the time I would live in luxury and be paid handsomely for my services.”

“You took him up?”

“Yes,” Jacob said. “I told him I came from squalor, nothing more than trailer park trash. I sold my secret and gave away my dignity.”

“And that’s why you are a panhandler today?”

“Yes,” Jacob said.

“So, the way I see it, you’re still the same person.”

“How so?” Jacob said sharply.

“Willing to sacrifice dignity for a hand-out.”

“Who do you think you are talking to me that way?” Jacob said inching closer.

“I’m George. I’m still your friend and willing to tell you the truth.”

Jacob squinted and looked closely at George‘s face. “Yes, it is you. Why did you tell others about me? I trusted you.”

“I told no one, my friend. I was young and made a foolish offer. I didn’t expect you to take me up on it.”

“The fraternity began calling me ’deckhand’ after that summer. I couldn’t take it. They knew all about my background.”

“No they didn’t. All they knew was that you were a deckhand for the summer. I said nothing.”

“You mean I’m doing this for nothing?” Jacob said sadly.

“Poverty is a state of mind, my friend,” George said.

“Give me my hundred dollars,” Jacob said angrily.

George held a hundred-dollar bill to Jacob.

Jacob slowly removed it from George’s hand.

“Little has changed, has is Jacob?”

“If ya don’t mind,” Jacob said. “Don’t tell the other panhandlers that I once belonged to a fraternity.”

“And tonight’s mystery blogger is…”

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  1. This was a great story. Thank you for sharing. It’s interesting to note that so many things are just of our own perception and those “secrets” we all think are really just an extension of how we treat ourselves and others. On that note, we all probably “think too much” – resulting in something of the Jacob situation.

    Out of curiosity, have you ever talked with someone who is (or you see frequently) that does panhandle? Have you ever asked them to tell you their story, or even, a story, for that matter. Have you ever wondered why they do? The majority, that we know, obviously do not have the resources for other things; on the other hand, there is minority who do live in rather wealthy situations – a few articles are posted up on this – but do so as a “means to simply increase their personal wealth” more.

    If I may be so prying as to inquire what your thoughts on such are?
    I understand that this was fiction; merely just curious is all.

    • Wow! You are asking for an essay, which if I fully answer at this point it will take so much time. I devoted an entire novella (<em>All About Homeless Hannah) about homeless people. Yet I don’t profess to even know the first thing about them. Deep in my writing is, what I believe, is how I am affected by the plight of the homeless; though not having or losing dignity I afford it to them.

  2. What you have written could be an analogy of how mistaken some of us perceive ourselves in our day to day life. I’m not sure that made any sense and I can’t decide to how it should be reworded. I like your stories of the homeless. Very interesting but sad on so many levels.

  3. You had me at… “Poverty is a state of mind, my friend”.
    I want to say it’s eye opening. I am a bankrupt and I am exactly in Jacob’s mentality. It’s a state of mind, nothing more. Thank you.

    • Thanks for your comment. There are people who live well at the so-called poverty level. I am at what the government calls the poverty level. I’m glad they told me, otherwise I would have never known.

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