(Part two of this short story can be found here: Girl Outside Part 2)
Edgar and Mandy walked along the bicycle path that hugged the side of Wallace Road, the street lamps illuminating their way through the silence of the evening. Every now and then a car would pass by and interrupt their speechless journey, but for the most part the crickets and occasional dog bark were the only things they heard. The distant sounds of the church extravaganza were a faint song being played far off in the distance, one that Mandy would remember for awhile.
"So," Edgar said, finally breaking the silence, "when you were smashing the dragon wagon with that bat, you yelled 'Desperta Ferro'. Will you tell me what it means?" He continued looking forward as he spoke, inspecting the shrub line along the sidewalk for indications of a pathway.
Mandy replied, "Well, it's kinda corny, but at the same time it's my favorite quote from history. You see, back during the Middle Ages there was a group of Catalan soldiers who were feared and recognized for their efficiency in battle. And before each fight they would hit their iron swords against the rocks creating showers of sparks and they would yell, 'Desperta ferro!' at their enemy, which means, 'Wake up iron!'. I remember reading that story in Mr. Rickson's class and it just stuck with me all this time. Like I said, it's kinda corny. Can I ask you something?"
"Actually it's quite beautiful and such a perfect quote for you to be carrying around in your back pocket. And by all means, ask me anything, Mandy" he said as he looked up at the next street lamp and marveled at the huge cloud of insects hypnotized by its light.
"Why did you destroy your car?" she asked.
"Well it's like this. That was the car I bought for my ex-girlfriend 5 years ago, and since our break-up I have been driving that metallic monster all over this simple town. I tried to disguise its history with an artful dragon across the hood, but to no avail. No matter what, every time I drove that car I was reminded of the heartache that had happened, and finally I simply couldn't take it anymore. I hope you don't mind the walking, but we just happened to have met on the exact same night that I planned on letting go of that machine."
Mandy continued walking in silence for awhile before answering, "I'm glad I was part of that, Edgar. Letting go of the past is is a painful process, something I struggle with everyday. Everyone has their own way of dealing with it, and I can honestly say that yours is the most unique method I have ever witnessed. So, thank you."
Edgar smiled and nodded at her as they kept walking. They passed by several side streets that lead into sleepy neighborhoods full of families turning in for the night. The sound of a bell alerted them from behind as a bicyclist pedaled past them in a hurry. After a few more minutes of walking, Edgar stopped and turned his attention to a small field to their right. They were standing at a narrow pathway that broke through the grass and disappeared down a slope towards the darkness below. He made his way over to the concrete base of a street lamp, sat down and pulled out the brown paper bag that was stuffed into his jacket pocket. Mandy joined him, quietly waiting his next move.
Edgar upended the crinkled bag and dozens of clumped dollar bills fell to the pavement between them. One-by-one he slowly unfolded them and placed them in a neat pile near his crossed legs. "Are you familiar with origami?" he asked her.
"I'm familiar, yes, but I don't know how to make things," she replied.
"No worries, I will teach you right now," Edgar said as he handed her a dollar bill.
And so they sat, side-by-side, Edgar showing Mandy how to fold her dollar bills into intricate little creations beneath the street light. A swan with workable wings, a turtle with a moveable neck, a wearable ring, a green house, a butterfly, a miniature person, etc. They laughed and talked as they folded each dollar bill into new delightful shapes, while the minutes passed by like water. At one point Edgar looked over and asked, "So what happened, Mandy? Why are you homeless? You said you were on TV, what did you mean by that?"
Without looking up from her current origami project she replied, "You'll recall I said I never did drugs before. Well, it was my senior year of high school and my best friend, Laura, well her boyfriend introduced us to a drug called Salvia. It's a psychedelic plant from Mexico which gives you a particularly strong head trip for about five to ten minutes. It was the newest craze that a lot of kids my age were getting into, smoking this stuff and videotaping the experience and what not. Well after doing research and reading that it was completely legal and didn't have any harmful side effects, I decided to try it. We went to a park and I smoked it while sitting just like we are now, but out in the middle of a huge lawn. Laura recorded it on her iPhone so I'd be able to see everything that happened after it was over. Little did I know she uploaded the video to Youtube, and to make a long story short, the media decided to run a segment on this drug and used my footage, along with several others, as evidence to accompany their news story. It was seen by everyone here in town, and all across America. I lost my college scholarship almost immediately and my father, who is the pastor of a mega church here in town, disowned me out of fear of a blemished reputation. So just like that, in a mere blink of an eye, I found my entire world turning its back on me. I had shamed my parents and this community, and have been paying the price ever since."
Edgar finished folding the last dollar bill into a heart shape, collected all the others and put them back into the paper bag. He stood up, brushed the dirt off his pants, and motioned for her to follow. They entered the pathway and walked down through the field, eventually reaching a small park with benches and picnic tables lining the perimeter of an open play area. All told, there were five tables and four benches, each occupied by horizontal silhouettes of sleeping homeless men. Quietly, Edgar approached them one-by-one, reached into the bag and removed an origami dollar. He placed them all around each dormant body until there were no more left in the bag. He turned and looked at Mandy and whispered, "Okay, we can get going now."
Once they were top-side and walking along the street again, she finally spoke, "I've heard about you, Edgar. You are talked about amongst the homeless here in town, and even further out in the surrounding areas. You are known fondly as, The Dollar Dude, and even though I've never awoken to one of your folded creations, I dreamed about you every night. Each time I'd fall asleep on a park bench or behind a garbage bin, I hoped that you had find me there in the night, and that I would awake to one of your gorgeous green swans tucked inside my blanket. You give them hope, Edgar. You give them something to look forward to. You mean more to these destitute souls than you could possibly imagine."
Mandy began crying as Edgar stopped and pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly. They stood there, wrapped in a warm embrace for what seemed like an eternity, until he finally said, "Sometimes people don't get a fair shake in life. Sometimes humans are too quick to shit on other humans. Sometimes family can act like the enemy. And sometimes people are just born into unfortunate circumstance, but even so, it's still no excuse for those of us who can help, to turn our backs on those who can't. Despite all the disdain that I have for our species, I still love them all the same. You included, Mandy. Now, let's go meet your new friends." And at that, Mandy and Edgar started walking again, up the street and headed towards the House Of Muse.