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I was walking home from the cafe where I worked when these kids came up to me and asked me for some money. I said no, I haven’t got any. I was thinking, you can’t give beggars money, right, or so I’d been told, it just encourages them – basically I was trying to justify being a dick – and I walked on, half-believing I’d helped them see they had to do something to get the cash, some half-arsed theory anyway, until suddenly they started shouting fuck you, or something like that, and then throwing stones.

Then I remembered I had cake. I looked down at the plastic bag I was carrying in my left hand – carrot cake we hadn’t sold in the cafe – and I thought I could go back and give them that, but then what about my theory? And, really, I wanted it. And they asked for money, not food. Maybe that was why I said I had no money and forgot about the cake. Or maybe I wanted to give it to my girlfriend as a surprise and then eat most of it myself.

In any case, I began to feel a little bit guilty or ashamed. Or not exactly guilty, but confused about whether I believed what I thought I believed – beggars shouldn’t be encouraged – or was using it as an excuse and the kids knew that.

So I ran off as the stones fell around me, until eventually I got out of range and came to an underpass where I knew there was a beggar – he was there every day, blankets around his legs, dog sitting sad-eyed beside him. I always thought he used the dog to get sympathy, so I never gave him anything. I thought he was being cynical – another one of my theories or excuses – but this time, feeling confused, or guilty, or believing I had to make up for something I wasn’t sure I had to make up for, I stopped beside him and decided to offer him the carrot cake. I thought it would be better giving him food than money. He probably had a drug habit too, though I had nothing to base that on, and I remembered a friend telling me once that he always gave beggars, or the homeless – that was the word he used – food so he wasn’t feeding their habit. He even said to them if you want money for drugs, tell me, don’t say it’s for a bus when it clearly isn’t.

I said: I haven’t got any money – an obvious lie and probably obvious to him – but do you want this cake?

He didn’t hesitate: what would I want cake for?

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2 thoughts on “Carrot Cake

  1. Yeah, I’ve given people food before when they asked for money, usually (with exceptions) I can tell they’re going to throw it away as soon as I’m out of sight. The honest ones just say no thank you. Then you can go home and enjoy it!

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