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Sorrowful Joe

Copyright 2002 by Mary Louise Quijano TXu001050459

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Sorrowful Joe

If he wasn't so ugly I might have pitied him, but who could be expected to feel other than utter revulsion toward such an atrocity of nature as he? My initial reaction had been thus, deeply instinctual, and no amount of intellectual or moral argument seemed able to dispel this gut reaction, not until it was too late.

The first time I laid eyes upon the man I nearly dropped my ladle into the cauldron of hot pea soup I was serving, he was that ugly. He shuffled up along the great wooden serving table, blue plastic bowl in hand, just another of the endless line of homeless derelicts that brought their hunger to the 53rd Street Mission each day. His head was bent over so far that his face was almost fully hidden between the overhanging brim of a shapeless felt hat and the turned up collar of a stained khaki overcoat. I looked up in greeting with my toothpaste-ad smile, but when the face beneath peered out from its cover and attempted shyly to return my grin, my expression transformed of its own accord into a grimace of horror, a small inadvertent shriek escaping my constricted throat. For beneath the undistinguished blue eyes, shrouded by thick long eyebrow hairs, was a hideous leer, a splitting and rending and tearing of facial structure from upper lip to bridge of nose, exposing a haphazard array of bent and broken fragments of rotting teeth askew in a mass of pulverized red flesh barely recognizable as gums. Within the ugly black cavern of mouth was a tongue that looked loose and uncontained as it writhed about the orifice like a wet pink snake, as the man attempted to thank me.

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