Storytelling

Sandusky

My wife and I went out to dinner on a Saturday night. It was back in November, but we had an unusually cold November this year. We were downtown, which has more of a nightlife these days. After dinner, we walked down the block to a nightclub for a drink.

As we neared the nightclub, a man yelled “Sandusky”. I heard him distinctly, but I didn’t think he was talking to us, but the word hit me because I spend a bit of time in or near Sandusky, Ohio. I assumed he was talking on a cell phone.

He yelled “Sandusky” again. He was just a few feet away, now.

“Are you talking to me?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “Do you know where Sandusky is?”

I pointed South. “That a-way.”

“Have you ever been to Cedar Point? Do you know the artists there? I’ll draw your picture, just like they do.”

This stopped us momentarily, and he flapped paper in our face and showed us a pen. “I’ll draw your picture, and then you can pay me whatever you think is fair.”

I muttered something in my confusion, so he kept talking:

“I just got out of jail, and I don’t have a place to stay, and I don’t have any money. I need $24.50 to stay at the hotel by the highway, so I’m trying to draw pictures to raise cash. I don’t have any family nearby that I can call.”

My wife was all too eager to be drawn into this conversation. “Did you try the city mission?” she asked. “It’s just down the road.”

“They’re full. They aren’t taking any more tonight.”

“So where are you going to stay?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” the guy said. “I’m going to keep moving. Everything will be closing soon, so I won’t be able to get warm.”

He was drawing us as he spoke. He had a blue, ballpoint pen, and some scrap paper. He made a rough, outline sketch of us. It was not masterful by any means, but it reminded me of us.

“So if you’d give me $20, I’d really appreciate it,” he said. I took out my wallet. “$10 would be cool, too,” he added. He was cold and shivering. While he drew the picture, his hand shook, and now his teeth chattered a bit as he spoke.

I offered him three dollars. He took it, but was visibly disappointed. He left quietly, without thanking us, but I don’t blame him. I was disappointed too. I should have given more. It was not a great picture, but it was a reasonable likeness.