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Dirty Fingers
by David He

Mr. Brown was a teacher in a high school in town. Every morning after breakfast he would walk to work. One morning, however, he got up late, so he had to hurry to school without breakfast. On his way, he bought two Chinese cakes and carried them in a plastic bag. Half way to school, an old beggar stopped him. He reached out his hand. Though he didn’t say a word, Mr. Brown understood him. Obviously, he was asking for the cakes. Mr. Brown hesitated for a minute, and then handed them to him. Gratefully the old beggar nodded his thanks. Suddenly realizing something, he took out one of the cakes and handed it to Mr. Brown. Seeing the dirty, bony fingers, Mr. Brown immediately felt sick. He rejected it but the old beggar insisted that Mr. Brown should take it or he wouldn't feel right. In the end Mr. Brown felt he had to accept it. A few paces further on, Mr. Brown turned around and, when he saw that the old beggar was out of sight, he threw the cake into a nearby dustbin. Then he headed towards school.

The next morning, Mr. Brown walked to school as usual. As he was crossing the road, a motorbike raced by him. His jacket got caught on the back seat. He fell down hard on the ground and was knocked out. The biker escaped, paying him no attention. There were one or two passers-by, but none stopped to administer first aid. As he recovered consciousness he became aware of the old beggar approaching him. He knelt down to see how Mr. Brown was. To his surprise he saw that Mr. Brown’s teeth were clenched and that he was not breathing. The old beggar had no choice but to try to pry open his mouth with his fingers. Then he tried to start him breathing by giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. By and by, Mr. Brown began to moan. The beggar waited beside him until his eyes opened. Then he called a taxi and sent him to hospital.

In the hospital, the beggar waited while the doctors saw to Mr. Brown's injuries. Before long Mr. Brown started to speak. The doctor told him that it was the old man who had saved his life. Mr. Brown turned to the old beggar and thanked him. The old beggar replied calmly, “Please don’t thank me. Thank my dirty fingers.”