Paltry

Today’s word is one I’ve seen used a lot lately. I don’t use it often enough, so I thought I’d practice with it today.

paltry (adj.) – small or meager; trivial; inferior or petty; mean.

Example: She picked up her paltry wages after the day’s shift, hoping it would be enough to cover the rent that was already late this month.

It had been a paltry trick, letting him take the fall like that. Stepping into the bright sunlight from the shadow of the doorway, Gregor looked on the world with a new vigor. Things were going to be different for him now, he resolved.

He looked left, then right. There was nothing but road for miles. The sun beat down hard on the line of asphalt that stretched through the desert. The horizon even had those visible waves of heat that rippled through the air, like brush strokes left by God. It reminded him of some of the paintings he’d seen pictured in the magazines Sampson kept in the library. It was hot.

He rummaged in his pocket for the cash he’d come in with all those years ago, pulling out a paltry stash of coins, some lint, and a couple of dollar bills that looked like they’d been through the wash. Damn. This new life was already presenting some challenges, and it was only going to get harder from here. Well, no need to get down about things so soon. No one said this was going to be easy.

And with that in mind, he started walking. He wasn’t sure which direction the nearest town would be or what he’d do once he got there, but he was content to take things one step at a time for now – literally.

Gregor started humming to pass the time. He had never been much of a singer but he fancied himself a pretty good hummer, if there was such a thing. The tune of the moment was Folsom Prison Blues, by Johnny Cash. He’d thought it appropriate given the setting he’d just left. It was also pretty quick in tempo, which helped him keep a good walkin’ pace. After about an hour or so, the pep was gone from his step though and he started to wonder why he’d thought it a good idea to try to walk all this way. Sweat dripped from the forehead that was surely red by now. Only a paltry number of cars had passed and there hadn’t been so much as a mile marker to indicate he was actually making progress. It began to feel like it was just him, the dessert, and his songs. He considered trying to hitch, but who would stop to pick up someone like him?

Then, almost as if the Lord had heard this thought, a car passed, slowed, then stopped at the edge of the road. By the time Gregor reached it, the passenger side window was rolled down. He leaned down so the driver could see his cherry face and look of surprise, unsure of what to say.

The driver was a handsome man, in a pretty way. With his slim figure, neatly trimmed hair, clean shave and bright white smile he reminded Gregor of the men who’d served in World War II – back when all men seemed to be trim, dapper, and boyish. The man’s eyes seemed to actually twinkle as he smiled – must’ve been the heat.

“You look like you could use a ride, stranger!” the driver beamed.

Gregor nodded, adding with skepticism, “Just got out, though.” He thumbed over his shoulder in the direction of the prison he’d walked from, “You okay with takin’ an ex-convict?”

He prepared himself for the uneasy look of someone who didn’t want to be rude, but also valued their safety. Instead, he was met with the same unfaltering smile he’d seen before his honesty.

“Sir, I leave the judging up to the Lord… and I’d hate to hear what he’d think of me if I left a brother out in this heat to walk only He knows how far,” he leaned over to open the passenger’s door for Gregor. “Now, where ya headed?”

That was when Gregor met Hargrave – a day he’d not soon forget.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Paltry

  1. “[…]those visible waves of heat that rippled through the air, like brush strokes left by God.” Very cool image, and it fits well with the thoughts of the character. And the ending is great because of the amount of suggestion you leave. Endings such as these are awesome because it forces the reader to think past the end of the story.

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