Short story from Robert Ragan

Bag Lunch

Robert Ragan, young white man with a sweater and glasses and pen

Robert Ragan

Do you ever get tired of seeing those bums with signs saying, “Will work for food?”

Benny was fucking sick of it. He knew all about their little schemes. Maybe just maybe they really wanted food. But not a damn one of them really wanted to work for it.

Benny even knew how they thought. Saying you were willing to work looked better to the public than having a sign flat out asking for money.

Standing on a median in the middle of busy traffic they never figured anyone would offer them a job.

Benny had his own small-time remodeling business, so he decided to put this theory to the test

First thing on a bright Monday morning, Richard was on the move. He had made a cool new sign out of pieces of Carl Berry’s cardboard box.

The poor guy lost his only home to heavy winds and rain. With a black marker, Richard wrote, ‘Will work for food’. The homeless injured veteran angle never worked for Richard. Probably because he wasn’t an injured veteran.

Things were slow that morning but around evening time business would start booming. Lots of fancy cars passed by. These more fortunate people were busy either talking or sending texts. It was best not to bother them in the morning.

Normally Richard would be asleep in the park around this time. Only last night he never went to sleep. Instead, he got drunk and partied all night with a couple of whores by the train tracks.

That morning, he needed one more beer to calm his nerves and put him to sleep for the day. He would of went to the Dollar Pad and stole a bottle of wine but the employees there were now watching him.

Damn, he could end up standing there all day looking like an idiot for nothing.

The last thing he expected was for a work truck to stop alongside him and slow up traffic during a green light. God bless this guy, he wanted to give Richard some money really bad!

With cars blowing their horns he said, “Get in, I’ve got work for you!”

Now, Richard hated working, but sometimes you had to do what you had to do. “So what are we doing today, boss?” Richard asked. Turning on his turn signal and switching lanes Benny says, “We’ll be putting up sheetrock and doing a little painting. Have you ever done that before?” “Can’t say that I have, boss,” says Richard.

Up ahead, the law along with an ambulance and firetruck are at the scene of a bad car accident. “I bet someone got killed in that accident,” said Richard. The whole roof of that car was smashed in.

Benny didn’t care to make small talk, he just wondered if this guy would do anything. It didn’t look good when Richard fell asleep in the work truck.

He woke up when they pulled up to the house. “So, how much are you gonna pay me for doing this,” asked Richard. Benny, putting on his tool belt, says, “Let’s see how you work out first.”

Richard was slow and couldn’t hit a stud if his life depended on it. He couldn’t read a tape measure or make the exact cuts for the sockets.

By lunchtime, Benny told Richard, “I should have left you on the street.” “Well, boss, you can take me right back to that street,” Richard said, “After you pay me for a half a days work.” Filling his cup from the water cooler on the back of the truck.

Benny asked, “What do you think you’ve earned? A bologna sandwich, Moon Pie, and a Pepsi. I’ll give you my bag lunch.”

Confused Richard says, “What in the Hell are you talking about? I need cash money.”

Shaking his head, Benny says, “I should sue you for false advertisement.” “False advertisement? Richard says, “What are you talking about?”

Benny says, “Your sign says, ‘Will work for food dumb dumb’. I know you didn’t think anyone would offer you a job.”

It was a long ride back. The whole time Richard was like, “ appreciate the bag lunch but I at least need three bucks for a 40. Benny refused saying, “You weren’t worth two dollars. You should shut up before I take my bag lunch back.”

Richard sinks down in his seat, “You’re a cold heartless bastard.”

Tired with no hope left for that day, Richard says, “Just drop me off at the park. I live there on a bench.” Showing no sympathy Benny says, “I’d hate to be you.”

When Richard got dropped off, he wondered around harassing people who were walking their dogs. He said, “I’ve got a nice bag lunch for three dollars. The Pepsi and Moon Pie are probably close to three bucks plus you get a bologna sandwich too.”

Richard tells everyone, “You know you can’t beat it.”

They all look at him like he’s crazy. A young mother with red hair, walking her child on a leash says, “Didn’t I see you holding a sign this morning that said, ‘Will work for food?’” An old man passing by says, “Yeah, maybe you should just keep it.”


Robert Ragan from Lillington NC lives his life for art and writing. He has stories and poetry online at Vext Magazine, Outlaw Poetry, The Dope Fiend Daily, The Rye Whiskey Review, Drinkers Only, Under The Bleachers, and Cajun Mutt Press. Alien Budha Press has published his short story collection “Mannequin Legs and Other Tales”