AN INNER-CITY STREET AT DAWN. THE DOORS OF SEVERAL TERRACED HOUSES, BESIDE EACH OF WHICH IS A SMALL PLAQUE BEARING A BROOM ICON. THE SWEEPER, GREY-BEARDED AND WEARING A SHABBY LONG COAT, IS LEANING ON A LONG WOODEN BROOM WITH NO BRISTLES. THE APPRENTICE, A YOUNG WOMAN IN JEANS AND A JACKET OVER A GEEK-BRANDED T-SHIRT, IS RECITING A LITANY, PROMPTED BY THE SWEEPER.
APPRENTICE: At the birth of the day, I am there, sweeping away the glowing embers of dreams, freeing my patients from the malignancy. I bring them hope. I am the Sweeper of Dreams.
APPRENTICE: Who taught you the litany?
SWEEPER: Nobody knew him.
APPRENTICE: Right now nobody knows you.
SWEEPER: A sweeper lives in the shadows.
APPRENTICE: I don't. My blog gets 1,000 hits every week.
SWEEPER: Your what?
APPRENTICE: Number 15 have bought the sign. (GESTURES TO THE SIGN BY THE FIRST DOOR)
SWEEPER: They've had it 40 years. I will sweep them, watch closely. (RECITING) At the birth of the day, I am there.
THE SWEEPER MAKES A PRECISE SERIES OF SWEEPING MOTIONS WITH HIS BROOM, FIRST ON THE DOOR-MAT, AND THEN THE DOOR ITSELF, TOUCHING NEITHER. THE APPRENTICE SURREPTITIOUSLY PHOTOGRAPHS HIM WITH HER PHONE. FINISHED, HE MAKES A NOTE IN A DOG-EARED NOTEBOOK.
APPRENTICE: Are you family proud of you?
SWEEPER: The street is my family, this broom my wife, the years our children. Enough questions, I have a job to do.
APPRENTICE: Tell me why you sweep.
SWEEPER: To free people from malignancy. When you have it, nothing goes right. Your health, your friends, your job, your money.
APPRENTICE: Like bad luck?
SWEEPER: Luck is superstitious nonsense. The malignancy is real, looking for a way in, every night. Enough questions! Take this (HE OFFERS HER THE BROOM, RELUCTANTLY), make yourself useful.
APPRENTICE: (RECITING) I sweep away the glowing embers of dreams.
THE APPRENTICE SWEEPS THE SECOND DOOR INEXPERTLY, ADDING PARODIC FLOURISHES OF HER OWN. SHE PHOTOGRAPHS THE BROOM AND THE DOOR WHILE THE SWEEPER MAKES ANOTHER NOTE IN HIS NOTEBOOK.
APPRENTICE: What do you write down?
SWEEPER: How my patients are. Sometimes they get the malignancy too; that's when they most want my help.
APPRENTICE: Why do so many people pay you if sweeping won't prevent malignancy?
SWEEPER: I make them feel better.
APPRENTICE: Do you know about regression to the mean?
SWEEPER: Enough questions! I know about people. They want my help, they need my help.
APPRENTICE: I know about people too. If they believe you're sweeping they'll feel better, even if you do nothing.
SWEEPER: Don't you care about people? Why are you even here?
APPRENTICE: Of course I care, but people are amazing enough without your rain dance.
SWEEPER: It's raining.
APPRENTICE: It must be wonderful to be certain like you. So warm, so soft, so comfortable. I will never feel it. There are no certainties, only science. That's what my blog is about. Sweeping has been proven a hollow sham. I wanted to see it for real, here on the street, and tell people what it's really like.
SWEEPER: Damn you all, poking your noses in! This is my life's work, I've helped thousands of people, and you insult me like this. Keep your proof! If you had an open mind maybe you'd have learned something.
APPRENTICE: I have, and I have. Enough questions.
THE APPRENTICE HANDS BACK THE BROOM, TAKES ONE LAST PHOTO OF THE SWEEPER, AND LEAVES. HE DISMISSES HER WITH A WAVE, AND SETS ABOUT SWEEPING THE THIRD DOOR.
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