The pale white fellow in the gray Somebody Somebodini three-piece suit sat on the corner of Third and Pine with his knees bunched up near his chin, hovering over his pad of paper with a black rolling-ball pen and a scowl. On the ground, next to the Venti Iced-Something Somthingino spill, sat his sign and a near-empty baseball cap. The sign read, "Will Write For Food."

I said, "You don't look poor."

He said, "I'm not. I work in the bank over there. I make 70,000 a year."

I stood between him and the final sunshine of the calendar year, not understanding. Before I could ask, he said

"You want something? Story, Haiku, dirty limerick?"

Before I answered, he tore off the page he'd been working on and started anew. "What are you writing?" I asked.

"Your future," he said, not looking up, furious with his focus.

"What is it?"

"Shut up! Let me write!"

I stood there for a couple minutes as he matched his frantic pace line for line. I waited a couple more minutes through a period of what appeared to be deep consideration. I wondered how much longer it was going to take. I wondered how much longer I should wait.

Twenty minutes, I told myself. Absolutely the most. After all, I've got a bus to catch at 4:12.

It must have seemed like I was waiting for something important, because soon the pale white fellow had a second observer.

"What's going on?"

"He's writing my future."


"I don't know."

In silence, we waited. An old married couple joined us. Then a father and his three kids. All quiet. All in awe.

Twenty minutes came and went, but now I couldn't leave. The build-up was too much. Everyone wanted to know what the strange wealthy pale white fellow thought my future was going to be. The pile grew. Bike cops started blocking the mass from piling into the street.

Pages smoked. As soon as he finished scribbling one, he'd slap it face down on the ground and continue with the next blank one under it. Finally, approaching an hour, he stopped. The crowd murmured like a courtroom gallery on sentencing day.

He collected the future, straightened the pages, carefully connected it all together with the stapler he brought out of his leather brief case, and handed it up to me.

It was untitled.

My head was spinning through all the attention I was getting, but I managed to comprehend most of what I read. Before I could finish the first page, someone in the back of the crowd yelled, "Read it out loud!" Others corroborated his sentiment, but I ignored them as best I could.

Ten minutes passed and I was only half finished, but I didn't want to read anymore. I was too afraid. "This isn't my future," I said curtly, dropping the future on his lap.

"What'd it say What'd it say What'd it say?" bellowed the gaggle.

"It's not my future," I said; then realizing we were about ten deep on all sides of the horseshoe, I said louder, "It's not my future."

The same yahoo from before yelled out, "Who cares! What was it about?"

I didn't want to talk about it. I just wanted to leave. I tried to push my way through the mob, but they weren't giving. I pushed harder and as I did, the pale white fellow brought out a torch lighter and lit the future ablaze. The crowd gasped. One or two dove on top of the future to try to save it, but they were too late.

I suppose if I would have kept reading, I would have been right at the part of the future where I dropped the story on the pale white fellow's lap. Had I read on, I might've witnessed the fire. And the subsequent outburst of rage from the crowd. I might've anticipated seeing the pale white limbs being torn from the fellow's body. And I might've prevented my own skull-crushing-on-concrete demise.

But, I just couldn't read it anymore. That wasn't my future.