This next entry is more of a story sketch than a complete idea. I wrote it during a lecture in one of my Roman and Greek History classes - apparently Caesar Augustus couldn't hold my attention that day - and never got around to doing more with it. I was reading one of Dickens' novels around the same time (as you can probably tell by the style and tone of the sketch, and the obvious reference). Maybe one day I'll take it up again; for now, this is it:
"Child what earnestness you have. Shouldn't children be joyful? Shouldn't they run and play? Their minds shouldn't be filled with such gloomy thoughts. Why do you not laugh and play with the other children?"
"What do you mean you cannot? Do you not have legs? Do you not have arms to wave about?"
"Then why do you not play?"
"If you do not give me a satisfactory answer I shall leave you to yourself. Enough of this 'cannot sir' nonsense."
"I'm sorry sir, I cannot."
"Have it your way you mischevious creature. I shall leave you alone. Fare thee well.
"Fare thee well sir." The humble child remained still as the old gentleman quickly strode past. He, the gentleman, had not gained forty paces when he was attracted by a rather rough looking shop-keep. "Beggin' your pardon sir, I don't mean any m'politness, but I thought I would check on you."
"What do you mean? What do mean speaking to me in such a manner?"
"I didn't want you to come to any harm."
"Well sir, I caught sight o' you down the lane there and I began to wurry."
"Why would you ever worry about me, my good man?"
"Well... um...ex'use me for askin' sir, but what was you doin' on that corner there?"
"I was conversing with a street urchin."
"Were you now."
"Of course I was! At least a dozen people must have witnessed it."
"Excuse'n me sir, but did anyone else speak with you?"
"Did you 'appen to notice anyone actin' strangely, sir?"
"No. I wasn't paying much attention, I must confess."
"Do you know what this urchin looked like sir, what 'e was wearin'?"
"Of course I do! Why do you ask me these ridiculous questions!? What does it matter to you?!"
"Pray sir, just one more. Do you see this urchin now sir?"
"No. He must be long gone by now." With a sudden thought, the gentleman checked his pockets. Being satisfied as to his wallet's location and safety he returned his attention to the shop-keep. "Why? Is the boy a trouble maker? He must be in this street often."
"Did 'e give 'is name sir?"
"Yes, Dick, or Oliver, one of the two. No..um..ah yes, it was Micheal. I remember that now. Why do you ask? Sir, you must tell me."
"Well, beggin' your pardon sir, but there was no one else on that corner with you."
"Of course there was, as I have already explained. Michael, the boy...the urchin."
"No sir." At that moment the gentleman felt someone firmly grab his arm. He looked about to notice two men encompassing him. "What are you doing?! Get your hands off me!"
" Come sir, you'll be missing tea if we don't hurry. They'll be serving those nice cucumber sandwiches that you love. You don't want to miss that do you?" gently said the one who had a hold of him.
"What do you mean?! Who are you?! Unhand me!"
The same man answered, "Now come sir, let's not have a scene like last time."
"Last time? No! Let me go! I don't know you! Leave me be!" The other men, seeming to sense the need for it, grabbed hold of his other arm and the three men began to lead the gentleman away. "Wait! What's happening? Do you know me?! Where are we going? Are we going home?"
"Why, yes sir. " answered the same man as before, "Come along now. That's a nice gentleman." Looking to the shop-keep, "Sorry for the inconvenience sir. You must excuse this man" nodding toward the gentleman now being led away by the other attendant, "He keeps wandering off. Hard to keep taps on him. Did he say anything to you?"
"Just 'hat he was talkin' to a little boy there. But I never saw 'im, the boy I mean. It didn't seem right, a gentleman to be actin' so, so I stopped 'im to ask 'im about it."
"Was his name Michael?"
"Why yes! 'ow did ya know?"
"He often sees Michael. Sometimes as a paper boy, sometimes as a flower boy, but always on the street. What was Michael this time?"
"A street urchin."
"Well, that's a new one. But I guess it stands to reason."
"Does it now? Why?"
"Because we were reading him 'Oliver Twist'."
"What's wrong with 'im? The gentleman. What's in 'is 'head?"
"Tragedy. Something horrible happened, though no one knows exactly what, and the poor soul couldn't bear it. His brain...he became quite unwell."
"But sir, why a boy? Why this Michael?"
"That I cannot tell you. He seems to have been some dear relation. I can only guess at that. What I've heard said is a boy was killed on the street outside the gentleman's home. A falling piano I seem to remember. That's why he walks the streets I suppose."
"Well! I've 'erd nothin' so strange in my entire life!"
"Yes, well thank you for watching him and keeping him safe." The man turned to join the others. As he came closer he could hear the gentleman continue in his reverie, "Oh yes, you must play with the other children. That's how you will be happy! Why ever not!? Why can you not? Don't be ridiculous! Let some other errand boy take you missions. Why do you answer me so!?" The shop-keep watched as the attendant reached the gentleman and gently took his free arm. "Yes, yes sir, that's right. Nice cucumber sandwiches." As the peculiar group gained distance the shop-keep strained to hear the last words floating on the breeze. "I cannot sir."