Outcast: a short story


Devin Vaudreuil, writer

Sam hated grocery shopping. Dealing with the crowds and the long lines made it so much more stressful. Going at night made life a little easier, when the aisles were empty and people didn’t stare. Wasn’t she a person, like everyone else?

At the age of twenty, Sam had enlisted with the United States Marine Corps, and had been deployed early in 2012. She had gone against her parents’ wishes, and had incurred the wrath of her church elders too, who judiciously upheld the Commandment that said “Thou shalt not kill.” Apparently, the other ones didn’t count; she had been to tailgate parties and heard the words they used, the topics they discussed.

A month into her deployment, an IED had detonated under their vehicle, and she returned to the States with one less leg than when she left. That’s why people stared; stared as if she were another entity entirely, not quite human or a person because after all, didn’t everyone normal have two legs? After a while, she got tired, frustrated, with the stares people gave her. The parents who quickly ushered their child away with an apologetic look if the kid asked too much about her leg, or the looks of pity. She despised those the most.

She checked out with a bag full of groceries and, moving on a crutch and a leg, she left the store. There was a man sitting against the wall outside the store, who hadn’t been there when she went in.

Sam could tell he was homeless by the way his shoes had holes in them, and the clothes he wore had patches on the elbows. He was an older black man with white hair starting to come in on his beard. Sam thought nothing of it and proceeded toward her car.

“Miss, could you spare a loaf of bread?”

Sam turned, now wary of the homeless man now asking for handouts. Firstly, he was black and she wasn’t, she wasn’t a compete human and he was. Why was he talking to her?

It wasn’t what he wore what bothered her most, but his eyes. They stared at her, not with the kind of look most attractive young women got, but with something deeper, more knowing. She felt naked, like every hardened layer of her heart had been silently and gently peeled back, leaving her exposed to the elements.

“Umm. . .” she stumbled. What was she supposed to say? She only had one loaf in her groceries, and it was hard enough to get down to the store. “Do you have any money?” she asked. She could maybe give him money; that would be easy enough.

“Sam, I didn’t ask you for bread because I need it. I asked because you do.”

Now this was puzzling. She had bread; she would know, it cost $3.45.

“Umm, I actually just bought some.”

She knew he must be high on something. But the eyes, they were too clear. Too intense. No, he wasn’t drugged, or crazy.

“The bread I have for you is not made by a baker, or in an oven. The bread I give you will never run out, will fill your hunger for acceptance. I know you, Sam. I have always known you. I have never left you.”

All her memories from church and Sunday school lessons came back. She knew this man, had always wanted to talk to him.