A Test Of Humanity

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'WALK', the traffic signal blinked. Harvey made way across the road amidst a large group of pedestrians. He still hadn't found a prospect. He observed everyone whom he was to pass from a distance. Any chance of a coat bulging a little more than it should and he had found his customer. The city was his hunting ground. Especially near the big malls. He found an unsuspecting shopper every once in a while to keep at bay his hunger for a few months. He certainly was talented. He had an uncanny knack of getting the right person. But he could not pull it off three months back with the old man. That guy had been too alert. He did not even get a chance to make a run for it. Caught red handed and sent to prison for three months for petty theft, it had just been two days since he started sleeping in his own bed. A relief from the stench of the prison cell.

He noticed the eyes following him. But he kept his cool. He was way too experienced. Harvey knew how to avoid the questioning eyes of the uniformed men he came across. But still, he couldn't pull the last one off.

It was not long before Harvey found his customer. The man was coming out of the Frazer, a favorite shopping arena of the high middle class. He stopped at the steps leading down to the road as if unable to arrive at where he should go next. A middle aged man. He sported a two day long beard. He was very tall. At least a good two inches taller than Harvey who stood at 6 feet. The man seemed disturbed, deep in thought. He wore a brown hat and a long brown coat. Harvey's eyes changed focus from his face to his bulging coat pocket. 'That should last a month or two.'

Harvey made his way through the thick rush of shoppers and college students. The man in the brown coat also started moving; towards Harvey. The distance between them was reducing. Harvey could smell the money.

It was in front of the Coffee shop that Michael bumped into the black man. His hat fell off onto the pavement.

'Oh! I am so sorry ', the black man expressed his apology as he picked up Michael's Hat, brushed it and handed it back to him. Michael had far more things to worry about. He gave a quick nod and carried on towards the end of the street.

If one looked at Harvey now, he could see the gleam in his eyes of a job well done. The look of a salesman who sold his product after months of disappointments. Harvey was happy but not without fear. He feared he might not get away this time too. He forced a look down the road to see if the man in brown coat had noticed. He hadn't. He was walking to the end of the street with no idea whatsoever as to what happened. It didn't take much time for Harvey to find a deserted place in the alley between the coffee shop and the Frazer.

He opened the bag, hands shivering in anticipation and excitement. The bag was heavier than he thought.

It revealed two bundles of crispy green notes. He let out a silent whistle, looking at the treasure in his hands.

He took out the cash and was about to discard the bag when a note fell out of it. Out of curiosity he picked it put and read it. It was a medical prescription for a Mrs. Scholes. It contained many things in illegible handwriting, obviously from a doctor at the city hospital. A pang of guilt came over him.

What if, the man in the brown coat was looking around for Drug stores? There were a couple of them in the Frazer. What if all these drugs cost a lot of money ? What if he couldn't buy the medicines in time?

It was a test of humanity . Harvey was certainly not going to put a poor woman's life at risk because of his selfishness. He looked down the street. He found the man in the brown coat without much difficulty. He was walking in the direction of the Officer. Had he found out? Harvey decided to leave the bag there and disappear, should the man talk to the Officer. But he didn't approach the cop instead he took a sharp right into the supermarket at the end of the street. He wasn't still aware.

'Mr.Scholes ', Harvey called. The man in the brown coat was standing at the counter.
Harvey went near him and called again. This time he turned. He recognized the bag that Harvey was holding.
'It fell off when we bumped into each other.', Harvey told.
'Thank you so much. Any other person wouldn't have given it back, seeing the amount of money in it.
Thank you so much Mr....'
'Harvey, that's the name'
'Thank you so much Harvey'
'Not a problem. Be more careful in the future.', Harvey called out and left the supermarket.
Harvey was on the street now. The same place where he started. But this time he was a much more happy man. Time to find another customer.

Michael looked out of the supermarket window. It was time to leave now. He couldn't believe he had lost that money. Anyway now he had it back. He came out of the shop and took a road which led him away from the rush of the city. Another Two miles of brisk walking brought Michael to a Shabby old apartment building. He knocked on the door of Apartment D6. The door was opened by a young guy who looked like he was high up on booze and drugs.
'Mike you are back. How was the day? Any luck ?'.
'Loads of luck Joey, Loads...'
Michael threw the bag to Joey who had found a place on the couch as he walked to the bar to fix a drink. Joey eyes nearly came out of their sockets when he saw the money.
'Where did you pull this shit off?'
'Some guy in the Frazer. And would you believe I lost the money and got it back all because of Officer Smith.'
'Smith? How did that sleazy cop help you!!!?', Joey asked bewildered

' In the Frazer , i thought I had been caught, so i was moving quickly until some dumb Black guy bumped into me. I thought I had made it when i Saw Officer Smith standing at the end of the street. There was no way he would see me and not guess something was going on'.
'So i went into Mason's till he left. It was then the black guy came in and returned the bag saying I had dropped it. I waited till Officer Smith left and here I am, a rich guy.'

'But I don't understand one thing. The black guy kept calling me Mr. Scholes. I wouldn't have known he was calling me unless I saw that bag in his hand.'

'No wonder he called you Mr.Scholes, take a look at this,' Joey exclaimed and pushed the medical prescription to Mike.
'Well, that explains it, I think.'
Mike sipped the brandy and cherished the sensation it brought on his body. He was beaming at his success.

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  1. I know... a good example of test of humanity..Harvey passed the test..thats enough... what say?

  2. nice one. crisp as a dosa!
    good going. you are getting better

  3. Both of them will go to bed in peace ...

    Fine writing .. reminded me of the O.Henry stories I ve read.. :)

  4. @ manja: he sure did man...
    @ Sailor: thanks man... fr coming and reading my blog again...

    @Indu: Yes they will.. Amen!!
    BTW I am a great fan of O henry's.... :)

  5. Wish I could write like this man.. As the sailor pointed out, this is very neat. Good read. Makes me wonder about my own humanity :o

  6. spellbound... am very very impressed... please write more of fiction.. you write it real nice!

    i think the title could have been different after the twist in the last 2 paras with Mike being the criminal. Could have been Test Of humanity??? with one passing and one failing :)

    Of course now the word humanity itself is debatable with people not behaving like human beings

  7. @Maverrick: Thanks for the compliment man but i dont deserve as much

    @Priya: Thanks a lot :) . Ya thats what I meant, one of them passing the test and one failing.