Meditations on a Shrinking World by Randal Houle

“I’m not buying.” I wave off the dealer, an urgent skeletal black man. It’s not enough to keep walking, he matches my pace and quizzes me. “Are you a cop, ar’you a narc?” I look him in the eye – not a stare down. Respect the dealer, and they’ll respect you. “I’m cool, I’m cool.” I don’t break stride as I say this.

Urban Meditation #1 –

“There are two kinds of people in the urban jungle: those that move with purpose, and those that rot in place.”

“Could you spare a dollar?” the homeless man holds his hand not far from his heart. His head sags a little. My heart goes out to him. I open my wallet, pull a one-dollar bill, and give it to him. His hand stays in place. Without so much as a thank you he says, “I see a five-dollar bill in there. That would help even more.” After another five and a couple twenties, I walk away.

Urban Meditation #2 –

“Be rich at home, and poor abroad.”

Sunday morning, I walk to the store for breakfast supplies. A man yells on the other side of the street. I decide to ignore it. Half a block ahead, also on the other side, another man yells back. The first pulls a pistol and fires. Blood sprays the changing leaves. The murderer runs away. I maintain my pace.

Urban Meditation #3 –

“Don’t get involved.”


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Filed under Randal Houle

22 responses to “Meditations on a Shrinking World by Randal Houle

  1. You’ve captured the range of the city here, Randal. The character’s move through it is a transition or conversion of its own. Nicely done.

  2. Al McDermid

    Great take on the theme, and lessons every urban transplant needs to learn. Thankfully, I haven’t had to learn #3 directly.

    • Randal Houle

      Yes, we need a special wisdom when we enter a new environment, don’t we? I would say the same for City “folks” expatriating to the country. Whole different set of skills involved.
      In the end, it’s all about getting along, right?

  3. Len Kuntz

    very visual piece. and killer ending, no pun intended. loved that end.

  4. I found this effectively disturbing. I’m hoping that is your intent. Our cities are in such decay and everyone seems so apathetic about the conditions. This story is like having a bucket of freezing cold water poured over one’s head. Not certain if “Don’t get involved.” is the end of this story?

  5. indeed disturbing, yet full of truth. solid write.

  6. Kim Hutchinson

    Wonderfully honest and compelling story. Great take on the theme.

  7. You captured my walk to work in Baltimore. So much disturbing stuff, and every moment a chance to decide — stop, hand out the change, talk to the person, keep walking. Haunting. Peace…

    • Randal Houle

      Yes, I suppose we could all take/away something from this. Life is full of such choices. We can choose to engage or retreat. Civilization, I suppose, resides somewhere in between. Probably favoring engagement. Cheers!

  8. Love the “Survival Guide” feel of this story!

  9. Kelly Grotke

    I liked how you gave body and depth to the meditations – I suppose we’ve all encountered lists of advice, precepts, it’s hard not to in a sound-bite world. So I wanted more, just for the satisfaction of breaking up that easy abstraction of so many millions of multiple living, breathing ancounters in a city every day

    • Randal Houle

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m glad the meditations worked for you, and yes, certainly not a complete Wiki-urbanlife.

  10. grey johnson

    From my tiny rural town perspective, you just showed me why I should stayput. I thought this was nightmarishly well written.

    • Randal Houle

      Thank you, grey. Don’t stay on my account (no pun intended). Hook the horses up and buggy in for some fun and while you’re there, sell some wheat at the Mercantile. j/k Thanks for reading.

  11. Pingback: Week # 30 – Urban convert | 52|250 A Year of Flash

  12. Pingback: Flash Favorites! | Wink/Nudge

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