Katy Keim, finalist #3


In my own novel The Boy with a Torn Hat the central character is a mediocre artist who cannot understand why his paintings fail, until the wisdom of a street busker sets him straight:  the song is always more important than the singer.

And so I truly appreciate Katy Keim’s ability to include herself in the life of her story without having to be its heroine, where what she observes outweighs her part as a participant. Ironically, what she portrays in her finalist entry is not what she witnesses on the street, but what is in her heart: the capacity to feel for others.  Get out the hankies…

Anything Helps

By Katy Keim


It had been a long day. My family was in Washington DC and it was getting late. We were out for a walk.

Homeless people dressed in atrociously torn clothing lined the sorry streets, begging for anything people would give.

I suddenly felt lucky to have led such a privileged life. I wanted to help them. I had some coins in my pocket… maybe…?

A starved young boy, no older than eight years old, and his dog slouched against a brick wall. The dog shrunk farther into its owner’s lap, who had a baseball old cap draped over his eyes. He was holding a sign in his grubby little hands that read “Anything helps.”

Pity lurched in my gut. As I pulled out my spare change- four quarters-, a crowd of foot traffic suddenly swept me away. I tried to fight them, but I was losing sight of my family. I turned around when the traffic cleared. The boy and his dog were still there. The need to help them gnawed at me.

Everything instantly froze when I saw the grubbiest, sad-looking homeless man sitting across from the boy reach to the jar by his knee, containing only pennies and a few bills. I watched, stunned, as the old man turned the cup upside down in his palm, emptying its contents. As the homeless man dropped the money into the boy’s open hand, the dog suddenly sat up. It nudged its owner awake, who saw the money in his hand and dropped the sign. He embraced the man in an enormous hug, tears streaming down his cheeks. Gratitude welled in  my heart.

I never thought that a man with so little could have so much kindness.

I was wrong.


8 thoughts on “Katy Keim, finalist #3

  1. Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

    Katy, it can be really aggravating when an older person remarks on the maturity in the writing of a younger one, so don’t mind me saying it. And I’ll further say in the entire scope and context of this contest–

    –the kids are alright.

    If you develop just a wee tiny bit of ruthlessness towards the creeping in of a few extra adjectives and adverbs that need the door closed firmly in their eager faces, the pure truth of your writing won’t have anything in its way.

  2. Katy says:

    Thank you so much for your feedback/constructive criticism, Sarah. I will do my best to take it into account when I write again.

  3. Amy Marrs says:

    I’m not a writer, but a reader. Katy, your piece touched me and you depicted the emotions of the boy and even the dog, quite beautifully. It left me wanting to know more. I wanted to read more about what you did next and how this interaction has impacted your life today and going forward. You are quite talented and I wish you the best. Thank you for sharing this piece of yourself with us, to see it through your eyes and feel it with your heart.

  4. Jon Tobias says:

    I imagine that hardship helps people to be more compassionate. It must be hard to see someone struggle through something you have struggled through yourself and not want to help.

  5. Laura says:

    I like how you paint a picture with a few key scenes, so we can see it in our minds. You touch the readers’ emotions, and we all need the positive ending nowadays!

  6. grant laurence says:

    Excellent job, Katy – you write with great maturity! This story serves to support my experience of those with the least being willing to share and give the most.

    Thank you

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