This is my favorite time of the year for living in a desert city. The snow birds have retreated to leave more room for the natives. The mornings are still cool enough for a walk to work. I dropped a pair of heels into my bag, tightened the laces on my sneakers, and began the nine block journey to the office. I love my job, the people and challenges. Although in this economy, I have serious doubts about how long it will last. The gloom gets thicker each day.

I had not noticed the man before. I caught myself in the lie before finishing the thought. I had seen him, but chose to act as if I hadn’t. The truth was he has been sitting on the same spot of the sidewalk along my path to work for more than two weeks. His tooth challenged grin caused me to shift my eyes and stare intensely at the furniture in a window across the street until I’d passed.

“Hope or fear, hope or fear, you choose”, he said as his thumb repeatedly flipped a gold token into the air, catching it and slapping it down on the back of his other hand. “Two side of the same coin, you choose”.

Like some silly pop song, the words stuck in my mind. Throughout the day as my immediate attention relaxed, the words played in a repeating loop, hope or fear, hope or fear, two sides of the same coin, you choose.

I got a lift home from a coworker. The afternoons are already too warm for extended walks. The words ran on into the night and through my dreams. The next morning I still heard them as I approached his block. But then everything around me became quieter. The sounds of motors, air brakes, heels clacking concrete, crosswalk signals, and beeping of backing trucks became muffled except for the phrases playing within my head; hope or fear, hope or fear, two sides of the same coin, you choose.

Today there was no person sitting on the sidewalk. Where the man had been, I saw a bunch of marigolds. I recognized them as coming from the landscaping down the block. Beside the flowers there was a coin shining as if it had just emerged from a mint. I stepped closer to read the impression through the sun’s glare. There was no ornamentation just the word hope stamped on its surface. I picked it up and turned it over to see the other side. There again was the word hope.

I felt a light tap on my left shoulder and turned to face the gleaming green eyes and grin of the man. “Keep it”, he said. “Once you make your choice that is all there is.”

The street sounds returned as if an unseen hand turned up the volume. Without further comment the man walked away.

Loudly I said, “Wait, who the hell are you?”

He replied, “They call me Cassidy Ma’am… Hope Along Cassidy.”

Before I could say anything else he was around the corner.

Available as a free short-short fiction ebook at: Smashwoords