No Good Deed


He might have been twenty-five, or fifty. His face was so dirty it was impossible to tell.

Mayra first saw him picking through a pile of litter near her dormitory. His purposeful search stopped with the discovery of a half-eaten cheeseburger. Horrified, Mayra watched the burger travel from the grass to the man’s mouth and disappear in two bites.

Her friend Lauren, a social-work major, said, “That’s Big Bill. Shelters don’t take him because he’s usually drunk, but he’s harmless.”

            He’s still a person with dignity, thought Mayra, who tried hard to see the spiritual beauty in everyone. She gave him a ten. He thanked her.

“You’re just enabling him,” Lauren rebuked.

“But someone’s got to help.”

And she did, organizing a benefit concert and convincing the university to hire Bill as a janitor. When Bill stepped into the entrance of his new apartment, reporters were there to capture the moment. Conscious of the spotlight, he examined the secondhand furniture and full pantry with stoic gratitude.

Mayra chose to major in journalism after reading the feature article and deciding she could do better. A year later she won an internship at the local newspaper.

She interviewed Bill and discovered he was homeless again and unemployed. His breath reeked of vodka. She choked back her heartbreak, filed the story, and resolved to forget.

Two days later, she received an email.

            Thank you so much for writing about Bill Arnolds. I’ve been searching for him for years. He’s my son.





“Joe, get rid of that gum! You’re goin’ to church!”

Joe extracted the pink blob and smashed it into the coin slot of the parking meter, then ran to catch up with his mother.

His older sister Maggie scolded him. “That was nasty. God will get you for that.”

During Mass, Father Mayhew opened a birdcage and released two doves. As they escaped toward the open window, one defecated on Joe’s head.

Maggie elbowed him. “I told you. That was God.”

No, Joe thought, that was just a bird. And for that, he felt guiltier than he’d ever felt before.


Anna Zumbro


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