I’d picked up Cliff (his review still stinging fresh in my mind) and had pulled up to an intersection near Columbus Park when I spotted the bum on the corner. Here it is! I thought. My chance to show Cliff I really am a nice guy. He was droning on about the day’s laundry list, but I didn’t hear a word he said.

My eyes were on the bum.

He had a fog-gray beard tickling his belt buckle, so thick, it looked like an apartment complex for bed bugs. He was clad in a set of mangy army fatigues, hems tattered, a faded American flag stitched to his shoulder. His lower right leg, or what was left of it, anyway, hung roped off below his knee, an over-stuffed backpack on the sidewalk next to it.

When he spotted me looking at him, his mouth split wide into a checkerboard of missing teeth. Wolfish. I almost sped off, but he gave me a friendly enough wave, tossed aside his battered sign (SPENT ALL MY $ ON CARDBOARD-N-MARKER), and crutched his way over to my window. I lowered it hesitantly and was hit with a cloud of nicotine and B.O.

“Spare a few bucks there, cap’m?” he asked, leaning in and leering first at me then at Cliff who hissed out an, Ack, Brad, what are you doing? quiet enough that only I could hear it.  

“Sure can,” I replied in suitably concerned voice, ignoring Cliff and digging a twenty from my billfold.

The man’s eyes brightened, and he snapped it from my fingers with frightening speed...and paused. A strange look rolled over his sun-damaged face. Before I could pull it back, he grabbed my wrist and cried, “It’s you!” his paper-thin voice pitching high. “It’s really you! Right here in the bloody damn flesh!”

My door was jerked open and I was flung out onto the sidewalk and, before I knew it, the bum was on top of me, horrifyingly strong as he leaned over and yanked something out of his backpack. It was some sort of...power tool. Some sort eyes widened. Jesus, no, was all I could think when I spotted the saw blade glinting cheerily in the sun.