Owen McQueen – Flash Sci-Fi   Leave a comment

rembrandt_a-beggar-leaning-on-a-stick

 

My name is Owen McQueen, and I have the vast fortune to be poor. Dreadfully poor.

You see, it is my fate to have been born with an affliction that renders me useless in most forms of employ. Some call me idiot, insane. My shape is round, my eyes appear half-awake, my speech childlike, at best.

But my mind! Thoughts so rich and rewarding, trapped in a doomed cell from which escape is hopeless. Yet its optimism never eases. Even as I gaze at the mother who pulls her child to her breast as she passes before me, I smile. For my hope is not lost, merely tucked in a safe place, for that time when I dare retrieve it.

I hear the auctioneer speak my name. Folks gather around me, curious. One reaches over the chain to touch my vest as if to examine the fabric’s wear. Another notices several holes in my stockings and frowns. Two men stare at my face. “The devil surely rejected this one,” I hear. To this I laugh, causing the pair to recoil in surprise.

How did I come to be in such a position at this station of my life? For as long as God had placed me upon this Earth, I’ve been the ward of the Overseer. His duties of office require him to auction not only myself, but others who find themselves in this wretched state. Though fault of soul or circumstance, we chosen few are placed in his control.

Every April, paupers such as us are required to report to the Overseer, who then assesses our condition. He makes note of our general health, the condition of what few articles of clothing we possess, and anything else of note, such as lameness. A scribe carefully records these observations, as well as the value of our upkeep. We are then told to clean ourselves as though we were to attend Sunday services. If we present well, two slices of black bread and a slab of cheese are given us as a reward.

“Owen McQueen is a loyal soul, hardworking and docile. His clothing is in good repair. He’ll give you no trouble and the cost of his keep is merely four pounds per year,” said the auctioneer. “Who’ll take him?”

At first, no one answers his call. I show the crowd a hopeful face.

“Certainly someone treasures a bargain. There are none today cheaper,” offers the auctioneer.

“I’ll take him,” says a man with a grey beard. “He’s bound to be of use to an old man.”

The Overseer takes the money from grey-bearded man and I’m given a push towards him. I expect nothing. After 50 years of Aprils, each one spent at auction, my life has never been my own, and as a pauper, it never will.

 

 

 

 

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