Ender, What Do You Present As?, Bargain
*Plot summary at this link contains spoiler.
2. I'm thinking of using the medical "presents as..." locution when I talk about people I encounter. "She presents as cropped blond hair, a pink thrift-shop blouse with a white lace collar, and the beginning of a pot belly." "He presents as three-day whiskers, microbrewed beer, and flipflops."
3. The guy standing at the highway intersection presents as a cardboard sign saying, "ON THE ROAD -- HUNGRY." He's about sixty, collarbone-length gray beard, dusty broken-in backpack, black baseball cap that, when he takes it off to thank me for for my dollar, reveals a bald head. "How long do you stand out here on a day like this?" I ask. It's ten-thirty in the morning and well into the 90s. He says, "I can only take it for about thirty minutes, then I go inside somewhere, get some water and something to eat. I try to get three meals a day. I go to Wendy's and get one of those dollar burgers." "A double stack! That's the best!" I say from considerable experience. Two dollars for a satisfying lunch if you're on the go and starting to shake from low blood sugar.
In writerly fashion, I imagine inviting him for a meal and paying him for his life story. My stream of consciousness rolls on as I drive away: I'm asking him how well he does in his line of work, and a bystander is asking, "What do you mean line of work?" "He works as hard as me," I say. Bystander: "But he doesn't make anything. He doesn't create wealth, he just takes." As so often happens in my fantasies, I correct an ignoramus' misconception: "He makes you feel good when you give him something. You'll go about your day in a better mood and treat people kinder. It's a bargain at one dollar. He's a teacher."