If it were any other day, Chris would not have given the ragged man in rags a first look. As long as he did not see them, he didn’t feel bad. On that crisp, Fall morning he happened to have a $5 bill in his pocket. The sun shone at the perfect angle to reflect off a car caught in slow traffic. The gridlocked cars were unusual that late in the morning, but there was an accident several intersections ahead.
A stray glare from a mirror hit his eyes; he looked away from the street and locked eyes with a homeless man. Eager to look somewhere else, Chris glanced down at the square of cardboard in his hands. Big black letters read:
“I do miracles. $5” Chris changed direction and walked to the stranger seated in a well-worn camping chair. He appreciated a sense of humor and the poor man needed a sense of humor to show a sign like that. Chris decided it would be worth the $5 if he got a laugh.
“Morning,” Chris waved awkwardly. The man nodded and returned a faint smile, but did not speak. “Miracles, huh? You a prophet or something?” The man shook his head; his long, stringy, brown hair wiggled with the motion.
“No, I’m a god,” he grinned. Despite wearing strips of cloth held together by dirt, and crusty skin, the man’s teeth gleamed like polished white marble. The man’s confidence and the unexpected answer made Chris laugh. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the $5 bill and handed it over. He didn’t think the comment was hilarious, but it made him smile, and it would end the interaction quickly.
“Good luck to you,” Chris said and turned to keep moving forward.
“Hey, what about your miracle?” the man called out.
“Keep it,” Chris called over his shoulder, but he kept walking. When he turned forward again he saw the homeless man standing a few paces in front of him. Chris stopped walking and looked backward. The spot he bought his miracle was now vacant. He looked ahead at the smiling stranger.
“It doesn’t work that way,” the man said. “You paid, now you get a miracle.”
“Okay,” Chris shrugged. “Give me a million dollars,” he held his hand out toward the man expectantly. The bum shook his head.
“It’s a miracle, not a wish.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Miracles are needed, wishes are wanted,” he said. He stepped forward and looked Chris up and down. “What do you need?” He asked in a quiet tone; Chris assumed the man was talking to himself while appraising him.
“Uh, I need to go,” Chris said. He was starting to feel uncomfortable with the situation. He turned to step around the man.
“YES!” The stranger grinned with a wild look in his eyes. “You need to go! I hardly ever meet someone that already knows what they need.”
“Good luck!” Chris said and tried to walk past the man. He put a dirty hand on Chris’ shoulder and stopped him.
“Wait, where’re you going?”
“I need to go!” Chris repeated. He readied himself to dash forward.
“Not that way,” the stranger squeezed Chris shoulder enough to guide turn him around. “This way,” he pointed at a black hole in the air.
“No.” Chris tried to stand his ground, but the stranger was surprisingly strong.
“Trust me, you need this,” the stranger said. He gave Chris a hard shove forward. Chris stumbled into the black hole and disappeared.