Mr. Smiley was a living Halloween decoration. He’d come by the nickname because no
matter where he was seen, his mouth was always partially open, showing off the yellow and
brown stains that covered his few remaining teeth. The corners of his mouth always curled
upward as if he were laughing at a joke that had just been told. Every time I saw him I thought
of the carved pumpkins that are set out on porches long after Halloween was over. They would start to shrink in and rot just like an old person and their grins were eerily similar. Mr. Smiley could be seen walking the streets around town. His light blue jacket was instantly recognizable. It was a paper thin slicker that couldn’t possibly keep anyone warm on a cold winter’s day. It hung down on him and molded to his frame from his hands resting heavily in the pockets. His hair, mostly hidden by a ball cap, curls out of a small opening in the back in light brown and silvery strands. His pants were dark brown with perfect creases down the middle of each leg, the kind one might normally wear to an important meeting, but for him they might have been the only pair of pants he owned because he wore them everyday as he walked the streets. No matter which way he was headed he walked like he had a specific destination in mind. Occasionally he would stop and bring his hands out of his pockets, hands calloused and scarred from years of hard work, with liver spots that said he hadn’t been a young man for quite some time. With these hands he would reach down to the ground and pick up something that had caught his eye. He would bring it up close to his face and examine it like a jeweler examining a precious stone. If satisfied with it he would place it in his pocket. If not he would toss it over his shoulder and resume his journey. There was something about Mr. Smiley that scared me and it wasn’t his smile. I’d see him as I was on a journey of my own, walking the streets alone, always alone, and I’d look to my side and realize that I too was alone. If he made eye contact it would last no more than a second. He would turn his head quickly away, and although the words never came out of his parted lips, I knew he wanted to be left alone. He’d grown comfortable with the way his life was and he didn’t want anything to disturb it. Maybe he was lonely, but after years passed he no longer thought about it. Behind his grin I saw a grim future for myself and if I didn’t do something about it I too might someday have to walk the streets alone with a nickname given to me because no one dared ask me for my real name. Mr. Smiley wasn’t a Halloween decoration. He was much scarier than that.