Aphelion Issue 281, Volume 27
March 2023
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Extra Ticket

by Denny E. Marshall

Every working day Jack would see the old street beggar on the way to get coffee from the Coffee-For-Fee shop before heading to the office. He would always be on the same corner, either begging for change, or holding up a sign that said, The End Is Near.

His clothes were dirty, worn, with rips and small holes in them, his shoes in the same condition. The man himself had a grandfatherly appearance, with white hair, blue eyes, a wrinkled face, and a slight bend in his walk.

At first, Jack did not pay attention to him, but over time he would stop and give the man a couple of dollars and a friendly word. Others would make fun of the man, and this bothered Jack. If you don’t have anything good to say, why not say nothing? We have all have been down on our luck before, at least Jack had, and knew what the feeling was like. After stopping by a few times, he found out that the old man’s name was Hank.

As the weeks pass, Jack started to notice small changes in Hank. He was still begging for money and holding up his The End Is Near sign, but his clothes seemed less worn, and his appearance more youthful.

As time passed, Jack noticed that Hank’s clothes and shoes were even newer, and he had lost some of the wrinkles in his face. There seemed to be more zip in his step. He did not look like an old man anymore. Jack could swear he was getting younger, not older. Hank’s routine did not change though, still asking for change, and holding up the sign. Jack gave him a five once in a while.

The changes in Hank gradually continued, so one day Jack decided to stop and ask him about it.
“Looks like things are looking up for you Hank, why do you still stand out here and beg and hold up that The End Is Near sign? Your appearance has really changed.” Jack inquired. Hank replied
“Next Friday” Then he adds, “Don’t have to wear the uniform anymore.”
Jack was puzzled, “Friday? Uniform?”
“Yes next Friday is the last time I will be standing on this corner.” Hank answered.
“What happens on Friday?” Jack asked curiously.
“That’s when I receive my final payment.” Hank responded.
“Payment?” Jack said.
Hank continued, “Yes I will board the ship on Friday afternoon and the world will be destroyed Friday night. They told me I do not have to wear the beggar’s uniform anymore. I held up that The End Is Near sign for four years, and one of my payments is a slot aboard the spaceship. They did not want to destroy the planet without giving everyone ample warning, so they hired about two hundred of us to get the word out. Not my fault if no one listens! The pay is good and the health plan amazing.”

Jack was about to dismiss the story. Then he looked up at Hank and noticed that he was not an old man anymore. There were no wrinkles in his face, his teeth were even and white, and his body was now straight. There was something about his aura and being in his presence this close that made Jack believe the story.
Jack asked him, “Any extra tickets available?”

“You know, I have been standing on this corner for four years, and you are the first person to ask. Only one ticket per person.” Hank pulled an envelope out of his pocket, removed a ticket and handed it to Jack.
“It pays to be nice to everyone.” Hank remarked, with a smile and a wink.


2017 Denny E. Marshall

Denny E. Marshall has had art, poetry, and fiction published. One recent credit is fiction at Stinkwaves Fall 2017. See more at www.dennymarshall.com.

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