By Steven Gowin
My wife opened our doors to a homeless man on Christmas Eve. He carried a New Yorker, so I took him for literate.
Under a button nose, he wore a ginger beard but no mustache. Gaps separated all of his stubby, brown teeth. He was bald.
Having welcomed him from under the evergreen door wreath, my wife left on an errand with our baby. I gave him panna cotta, and he watched the Stars on Entertainment Hollywood.
At eight o’clock sharp, he insisted on rearranging our silver and put it all in the refrigerator’s vegetable bin. With the utensil drawer empty, he demanded vinegar to clean the toilets.
I knew I must ask him to leave, and I did. But he refused. He stood very near me and breathed heavy and wet and said, she’ll know. We argued until my wife pulled up outside when he scuttled for the door trailing odors of ammonia and milk gone bad.
At the curb, my wife unloaded a Christmas package, and having left the baby in his car seat on the ground, passed the homeless man on her way into the house. They brushed shoulders.
He walked bow legged to the sidewalk, picked up the car seat by its handle, and ran for the street. Three other homeless in an old Dart roared up and slung open a back door. He piled in with our child.
I ran out in front of the Dodge. I bent over its hood with my feet on the ground, gouged my hands into its steel, and wrestler style, slung it over my head backwards; it landed behind me, upside down and crushed.
While my hands bled, and the baby cried, my wife hurried from the house onto the boulevard screaming at me, berating me for endangering our child and turning out the homeless.