There was a different guy by the side of the 205 ramp yesterday, and this one was doing a kind of dance with his sign. He swept it out front, twirled it, pulled it back behind his head and then, dodge-parry-THRUST, shoved it out at the waiting cars.

From the looks of it, he’d torn the sign from an old cardboard box, hastily inscribing this message with colored markers:


I had no intention of trying, but the line moving up to the light was long, so I watched him for awhile. He performed a kind of quasi-moonwalk-bellydance and, you know?  He was pretty good, this beggar. Had to be; if I wasn’t mistaken those were expensive, freshly laundered youth-boutique cargo pants and top. Add his leather jacket and biker boots and that was at least a $600 ensemble, even on sale.

The begging business must be pretty good these days.

His face under the army cap was well-scrubbed and looked about 12. Yet he sported a massive handlebar mustache, drooping down one side and thickly black. It stood at odds with the scraggly goatee under his chin; that, at least, looked desperate for a shot of Miracle-Gro. The hand waving the sign was well-manicured, the sardonic grin on his face didn’t exactly look desperate, and I wondered what this kid was up to.

He capered, he sang, he kept time with his sign. Nobody was throwing quarters, but he didn’t seem to mind.

Ahead of me, the family in the minivan rolled down the window, gestured to the kid and held a bill out the window. He took it politely, thanked them with several bless-yous, and bowed.

I was curious, so when my car reached him I rolled down the passenger window and held up a $1 bill. He reached into my car and said thank you, politely. I was right; if he was 18, it was a scant 18. “What’s your name, and what the heck are you doing?” I asked.

His fingers closed over the bill and he stood still for a moment. Then he grinned. “I’m Markus, with a K, and I’m making money.”

“If the guy who owns this spot finds you, you could get your butt kicked,” I warned, and he shook his head.

“Naaaah. I run fast.” Then he pulled back out of my car–with the money–and gave in to a full-blown belly laugh.

I couldn’t help it; I grinned in response. Then the light turned green and I drove on.