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The Scarecrow's Last Stand
Fiction by Tony Cox

Doug St.Claire was a broken man. Blamed, shamed, judged unfairly. Sitting under that maple tree in the park, he thought about his past. He used to work a good paying job. He used to kiss his wife good-bye every morning. He used to take his babies to this very park, in fact.

He remembered the day he came home from the mill to an empty house. Just a note on the table. She ran off with the kids, back to Vermont or god knows where. He tried everything. That 600$ an hour attorney told him that he was fucked. Only charged him for 15 minutes. He looked down at his hands with disgust. Doug St.Claire used to hate the world. Now he only hated himself. He came to this park to torture himself. The merry-go-round over there. The swing set. His girl's kindergarten school was right over there, not even 100 yards. Sometimes, he'd wake up under this maple tree and forget about his sorry reality, just for a second.

The park was big, and Doug stayed back, on the fringes of it, out of respect for the families who still came here. Nobody wants a drunk homeless guy sitting right next to their kids while they play on the merry-go-round. He hated the other bums. They had no respect. There was no dignity in asking people for money. They even asked HIM for spare change.

Most crazed bums don't start out that way. The booze and homelessness take their toll. Doug noticed that he'd been talking to himself lately. Getting the shakes. Maybe if the winter don't get me, the D.T.'s will, he said out loud. He remembered a poem he got in the mail from his religious uncle a week after he died, written on his deathbed.

Death so refreshing,

I'd take your hand,

But my feet are leaden and I cannot move,

My suffering must continue

Until all sin has been washed away

Ha. My drinking must continue until all sanity has been washed away, thought the crazed bum.

Sitting under the maple tree. Drinking. Watching people. Not the worst way to go.

(They say that when a man becomes a father, he becomes a father to all children, in some ways.)

Look at this sketchy fucker.....Something about this guy don't seem right. He's well dressed, alone at a park, and looking all around like he's guilty of something. "If this homo starts cruising my park, he's getting a bottle to the dome just like all his other butt buddies....", says the not so crazed bum.

The suspicious stranger in the sport coat began walking towards the kindergarten, instantly raising Doug's hackles. It was almost 1:30, and the kids will be out soon. Without thinking, he rose from under his tree and followed, 15-20 paces behind. This guy ain't no parent, he thought. Just then, the man ahead looked back nervously, and dropped his gun. He bent down to pick it up, obviously in a hurry, and kept scurrying. He didn't even notice Mr. St.Claire.

In a quick burst of violence, Doug closed the gap and swung the bottle at the man's head, barely missing, hitting only his shoulder. The man turned around in surprise and was hit again, this time in the jaw with the big green bottle. Doug was screaming now, swinging the bottle again and again, but it was smooth and slippery, hard to get a good grip on, and the man in the sport coat fumbled for his gun. The man's eyes were the last sight Doug St.Claire ever saw.

Of course, the media went nuts. Everybody loves a hero. Soon it was everywhere. People marched, and held candle light vigils. Politicians made speeches. The headlines were endless.

"Attempted Hate Crime Against Muslim Ends With One Dead"

"How Did Homeless Man Get Unregistered Machine Pistol?"

"Local Faith Leaders Organize Rally Against Hate"

"Police Adding Additional Patrols Around Area Mosques As Precaution"

"Hero Victim Says He Has Compassion For His Attacker"

All the little children at the school even made cards for their hero.

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