When you have nothing but the sack slung over your back, beggars can’t be choosers. But does lack or a downturn in circumstances really negate choice? Who says, “Beggars can’t be choosers”?
Writers explored the proverb and its potential for stories. Pack a little sack, fling it over your shoulder, and come with us on a literary adventure.
The following is based on the April 11, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “beggars can’t be choosers.”
PART I (10-minute read)
Beggars Can’t be Choosers? by Sally Cronin
The memo announced the chairman would be evaluating managers for a senior position. Everyone set out to impress
Outside, tucked into a doorway, an old man huddled, a dog by his side. Most staff ignored him. But every day one particular individual would place several coins into his hand, smile and pat the dog before entering the building.
On Friday an elegant man stood in front of the eager staff and announced the manager who would be promoted. Delighted a young woman stepped forward and looked into his familiar face…
He smiled warmly ‘Who says beggars can’t be choosers’.
Beggar That by calmkate
The lady in the welfare office is banging on again,
why do you move so often you need to get a life plan!
The recipient once more belittled tries to explain
it’s difficult to live more than 40% below the poverty line
in a supposed developed country.
But the highly paid worker has heard this song far too long,
got several pay rises due to the hardship of listening to the whiners.
Dole has not changed for 25 years
and how much has daily cost of life risen?
Landlords prefer those with jobs and income
Beggars can’t be choosers!
That’s the Way It Is by Susan Zutautas
What’s for dinner Mom?
You won’t like my answer, but we are having roasted chicken, broccoli, rice, and a Caesar salad.
Oh great, chicken again. I hate chicken and you know that.
Chicken is what’s on sale this week, and you know that we don’t have a lot of money right now. It’s funny how you will eat Popeye’s chicken and Wild Wing but you give me a hard time every time I make it.
I don’t know why; I just don’t like homemade chicken. Never have.
You know what I always tell you, dear, beggars can’t be choosers.
Discerning by Abijit
“Tock, tock, tock, tock,” repeated knocks on my window pane brought my focus back from the e-mails I was checking on my phone, as I waited at the long traffic signal under an overpass. “Give me some money,” a young girl with a baby pleaded, “I have not eaten all day.” Her face forced me to look for some change money. Not finding anything lower than a ten rupee, I handed over an one rupee coin from the dashboard. “Beggars can’t be choosers,” went the adage till the girl disproved it saying, “what do you get for a rupee?”
Brother Francis By Violet Lentz
“Alms for the poor!” Brother Francis cried out from the corner of High Street on which he’d become a fixture. Scarcely noticed, his pleas mingled with the street sounds. His robes became part of the scenery.
He often returned to the monastery penniless, and was reprimanded by the Abbot, as the tenants of the order stated they must subsist on the kindness of strangers alone.
But Brother Francis was not chided by the Abbots rebuke. He knew, it wasn’t the pennies, but the feeling of comfortable acceptance he experienced every day on his corner, that gave his vows meaning.
Boundaries by Liz Husebye Hartmann
Holly sighed, dropping her sweaty forehead into her palm. It was the same words, the same argument that wasn’t an argument. She tugged her bangs and tried one more time.
“You can’t keep doing this.”
“Why’s it such a big deal to you?” Rita crossed her arms over her chest, and leaned back.
“I see the future,” Holly whispered. “It’s not sustainable the way things are.”
“Beggars can’t be choosers, Dear,” Rita hissed.
“I’m not begging,” Holly picked up her baby. “We’re leaving.”
“I’m calling Toby!”
Toby was the Ex-boyfriend, not the father.
So Rita wasn’t Gramma.
Beggars Can’t Be Choosers by Anita Dawes
Years ago when I wore second- hand clothes
Worn out shoes
Sleeping in a room with no heat
Blankets as thin as rice paper
I made my way long ago,
I am happy
Some I know are still searching
Most days, he sits at the corner of Waitrose
Playing his clarinet
I hear the coins drop into his open case
At his feet as I pass
Today, I would give him a choice
Between a sandwich and coffee or a two- pound scratch card
I walked home eating the sandwich
Without waiting. I hoped he made the right choice.
Evie’s Choice by Margaret G. Hanna
“Evie, why don’t you leave? He’s no good for you!”
“I have to stay, Mom. I don’t have any choice.”
“Yes, you do. You can leave.”
“Leave? Him? No way. He’ll find me, just like all the other times.”
“Evie, there are safe houses. They’ll protect you.”
“There’s no such thing as a safe house, not from him.”
Mona clasped her daughter’s hand. “Leave him. Now! I beg you!”
Evie yanked her hand away, stood up. “No, I can’t. Good-bye.”
She stormed out the door, slamming it behind her.
That was the last time Mona saw her daughter — alive.
No Choice by Michele Jones
Dane stared at the tracks. Ahead could be anything, but he couldn’t go back, Zell had made that very clear. He had no choice if he wanted the money. And he did. He had to move forward.
The path looked clear, but noise echoed from the tunnel ahead. Inside, the key to his freedom. If only he didn’t need the money. Sweat rolled down his brow and his heart pounded. He sucked in a deep breath and moved on.
If only he’d listened to Amy. He’d have a choice.
A loud growl echoed from the cave.
God help me.
Juma by Saifun Hassam
Juma was sixty years old when the small railroad station closed. He had earned a living transporting goods for the farmers and businesses in nearby hill townships. Now he was reduced to working odd jobs, begging for food and money. In a nearby forest, he made his home in a small cave among banana and mahogany trees. Beggars can’t be choosers. One day, as he puttered around a junkyard, he found planks of wood, even a hammer. He scrounged for nails and wire from the local hardware store. He would build himself a splendid hut among the banana trees.
Beggars Can’t Be Choosers by Floridaborne
Sharing a hotel room with four high school girls on a trip to NYC, I’d never been anyplace quite as opulent.
I still felt the pain of an unsatisfying breakfast, when a waitress yelled out, “This is New York! We don’t serve grits!”
I was the tiny one, the poor outcast wanting to be accepted, always put down. Girls were swapping clothes, but I was told, “Beggars can’t be choosers.”
That day, I learned from a waitress that I might be poor, but not defenseless. I honed a mighty verbal sword, wielding it toward anyone who dared cross me.
Choice Metaphorical Beggary by Bill Engleson
I began writing this elegy rather niggardly,
And by that I mean I was gracelessly leaning
To thoughts quite obscure, wrought somewhat haggardly,
Thoughts gaunt, sickly, words with barely a meaning.
What ho, scripting peasant, why are you so buggered,
With slapdash terms, such sloppy old bruisers,
Ungainly lexes that daub you a sluggard,
A slouched writing beggar snubbed by the choosers?
He had me there by the byzantine tail.
I’d wended my way to the edge of the page.
Ninety-nine words with no wind in their sail,
Fresh bottled wine with no time to age.
Flaking Off the Walls by Papershots
A gust of warm wind rushed in with the man from the foyer. The chandeliers rattled; dust whirled down onto the carpeted floors.
“Lily and Becky?” he asked.
“My sister couldn’t…”
“Yes, it’s you and your sister. The gig’s outside the castle. 6am to 8pm.”
In the abandoned megaphone-shaped auditorium, ghosts of opera-goers gazed at their own paint flaking off the walls. Mr. Reynolds excused himself with his best beggars-can’t-be-choosers look; rushed backstage echoing orders. Now a car horn reached Lily’s ears from outside. Becky, of course, double-parked! By the entrée des artistes – the Irony of it.
Aftermath by Joanne Fisher
“Beggars can’t be choosers!” Ashalla said as she tried on a pair of boots she had taken from the soldier’s camp. They almost fit.
With their leader dead, the army had become fragmented and disorganised. It wasn’t hard to pick them off in smaller groups.
“Now all we need is to find the person who sent them. The one they call The Baron.” said Aalen as she washed herself in the river and Vilja hungrily crunched on a joint he had found.
“Not an easy man to get to, but I’m sure we can find a way.” Ashalla replied.
Beggars Can’t Be Choosers by Roberta Eaton
“I’m not eating it,” he said. I could have cried. My entire day had been spend foraging for fruit and now he was rejecting it.
“Why won’t you eat it?” I asked. He pointed towards a large, brownish bump on the skin of the apple, “It’s damaged and it might make me sick.”
All the fruit looks like this. Since the war, nothing is perfect. Thomas may be right about the dangers of eating the food but there is nothing else and beggars can’t be choosers. Next time, I’m going to peel the apple before offering it to him.
A Choice by Ruchira Khana
“Come on! you can do it, Nate!” Mom urged her teen as he sat all heartbroken with a droopy head.
“Beggars can’t be choosers. I shall take what’s offered,” he shouted back at her.
There was silence.
With moist eyes, but a stern voice she said, “That’s untrue! Cause even beggars get an opportunity
to choose. But they choose to take the easy route!” The son looked at her with a frown as she
continued, “What do you choose to do about your low grades? Accept defeat or get your concepts
right and take the retest?”
“Choice is yours!”
Chosen People by D. Avery
When John Williams comes to Kahnawake I feel an old fear of being taken by force from people I love. My family, and even Governor Vaudreuil, agree; it is my choice. I am no longer a child, I am a Catholic woman of the Bear Clan, Marguerite Kanenstenhawi, no longer John Williams’ daughter Eunice. I no longer understand the English words he speaks, but I remember his contempt for the Jesuits and the Kanienkehaka people. Should I return to New England I would truly be captive. He pleads but I choose to remain with the family who chose me.
Equally Nice by The Dark Netizen
I walked around the shop.
With every step I took, I was met with a pair of adorable eyes. There were more beauties in the pet-shop than I could buy. I walked up to an Alsatian. It looked majestic just like its price tag. I shook my head and turned to the shop attendant. I told him my budget. He nodded understandingly. He showed me a white Pomeranian, not as good-looking as the Alsatian, but it would have to do. Beggars can’t be choosers, after all.
Besides, I bet both of them would taste equally nice in a stew…
Kid Friendly by Sascha Darlington
After Daddy died, my mom, who was fifty-two at the time and out of the workforce for six children and thirty years, tried to make ends meet. It was a different time when kid friendly meals comprised: “You sit at the table until you’ve finished every pea on your plate.” Tough love, but we were a healthy bunch.
When you’re a kid, you don’t comprehend adults nor why your four brothers, so much older than you, rarely visit or why visits end in bitterness.
You just hear your mother say, “Beggars can’t be choosers” and choke down every mushroom.
Grape Juuuice by Kelley Farrell
“Uggghh.” Janey’s fingers left long claw marks in the hot sand around her.
As the sun beat down on her bare legs the scent of burning flesh tickled her nose.
“Ugghh … grape … juice …” In all of her five years she had never been so thirsty.
“Janey!” A mirage of her older sister appeared; just like the movies. “Mom said to sit up. You’re taking up too much room in the sandbox.”
Hana dropped a bottle of water into the sand beside her younger sister. Janey flopped onto her back, “Grape juuuice.”
“Beggars can’t be choosers, Janey.”
Santa’s Surprise by Kerry E.B. Black
We were poor. We didn’t indulge much. Basics filled bellies. Hand-me-down clothes drew derisive attention from their classmates. I scrimped and did without while trying to shield them.
Holidays stressed me most of all. I supplement their experience with hand-crafted traditions, but I couldn’t fulfill their wish lists. Failure pressed and drained maternal enthusiasm.
One afternoon, I answered a knock. Nobody greeted me. A package on the stoop read “from Santa.” Inside, gifts for the kids burst with cheer. I spirited the box into my bedroom and dissolved into tears. Gratefulness battled embarrassment, yet for my kids, I’d swallow pride.
Cheerful Choices by calmkate
those trying to survive well below the poverty line
do have basic choices
public housing seldom available some return home
or share with strangers and all the unknown
many choose a life of crime
to cover their bills
people who would never consider such risks
or sell their body then their soul, become homeless
but we can choose our attitude
embrace our inner wealth
serve others by volunteering
spread cheer and good will to all we meet
don’t let long term poverty poison your soul or defeat
sure it severely inhibits life choices
Reflect wisely and turn that around!
PART II (10-minute read)
Maggie’s Sulking by Di @ pensitivity101
I always get treats. Always, always, always!
Now I get some pongy stuff they call ‘breakfast’ and they’ve pinched my food bowl!
My big brown eyes usually work to get some titbits off plates, but I never pinch. No sir. Don’t want my nose tapped thank you.
Got to keep the sniffer in tip top condition.
It’s not fair. No biscuits either, not even in my dinner!
And they’ve told the postman I’m not to have any!
I’m hungry. My heart is set on chicken.
Guess I’ll have to eat the pongy stuff.
Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers.
No Beggin’ Dogs at the Table by tracey
I couldn’t catch the rabbit no matter how fast I ran. Darn, I was hungry. My twitching paws woke me up and I looked at the clock but I had never learned to tell people time. My stomach gurgled. I yawned and stretched and then trotted through the house sniffing for small child. Ah, he was at the kitchen table. He smelt of peanut butter and yogurt. I licked his foot but found nothing tasty there. I was impatient but settled on the floor under his feet where food was sure to be dropped. I hoped it was bacon.
The Chosen by Allison Maruska
I skulk on the edge of the wasteland, my movements quick to avoid detection. Once a bounty, this place is now barren. My stomach remembers, just as my heart remembers the once-constant presence of The Chosen.
The Other is near. I don’t want to approach, but beggars can’t be choosers. Securing sustenance is worth a little indignation.
Softly, I creep up. With expert dexterity, I jump.
The Other has me. She squeezes, barraging me with unholy shrieks. “Aw! Does Mr. Snooglepoof want some din din?”
I purr a little to appease her.
The things I do for a meal.
Choosey Little Beggar by Ann Edall-Robson
Hanna had drawn the short straw, meaning the night shift. The calf needed to be fed every three hours using a big plastic bottle. If she couldn’t get the orphan heifer to suck, she would have to call for help. She didn’t want to give Tal the satisfaction.
Squatting next to the animal, she lifted the calf’s head, hoping she’d take the bottle.
“C’mon you little beggar, quit being so choosey.”
“What’s the matter, can’t get her to ear?” Tal’s smirky voice sliced through the darkness.
Sounds of sucking made Hanna smile.
“Us girls gotta stick together.” She whispered.
Safer To Eat At Home by Susan Sleggs
Eight year old Becky came home from school to see her mother had liver and onions ready to prepare for supper. She sought permission to go play with best friend Arlene and bolted out the door. Together the two girls hatched a plan then went to Arlene’s mother to ask if Becky could eat dinner with them. They were triumphant until they sat down to lima beans and fried Spam. Arlene’s mother, seeing Becky’s face said, “Beggars can’t be choosers. Eat up.”
Later, outside, Becky said, “Lima beans are yuckier than liver. Do you think they called each other?”
Beggars Can’t Be Choosers by Frank Hubeny
“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Ryan pontificated.
“We’re all beggars. We all depend on a handout, on something going right once in a great while.”
“Not all of us. Some of us can choose.”
“You know you’re a beggar just like I am.”
“Nope. I can choose.”
“What can you choose?”
“I can choose to sit right here.”
That’s when they saw Hawkins, a policeman, approach.
“I wonder what he wants?”
“You know what he wants.”
Hawkins stopped. “OK, guys, it’s 10 o’clock. Time for both of you to go to the shelter.”
“I get top bunk.”
“No, you don’t.”
If Wishes Were Horses...by Nancy Brady
Julie was one of the smallest kids in her class, and she was always picked last for every team. Despite that, she loved playing volleyball.
The school started an intramural league for the students; the team members would be picked for each volleyball team. First, however, Coach Coffman would decide who would be the captains of the teams. The captains then selected their players.
Julie asked the coach if she could be a captain. Wringing her hands, she implored him, saying, “Please, please, can I be a captain?”
To which, Coach Coffman said, “Absolutely not. Beggars can’t be choosers.”
In The Beginning, There Was Distraction by Chelsea Owens
Phan clutched her halo, rubbing already-tarnished finish. And sighed. If only she hadn’t been so diverted this morning, with the clouds. Then there’d been flowers. Then path swirls -which led right to the end of the lengthy queue…
“Next!” the angel matriarch called.
Phan floated forward. At a scowl, she hastily replaced her halo and hoped it aligned itself. It didn’t.
“Late again, Phanuelle.”
“There’s only one assignment left; a newer one.”
Phan peered beyond the matriarch at the mostly harmless-looking blue and green sphere to which she must go. Oh, well. Perhaps it would have flowers, too.
A Man with a Golden Voice by Miriam Hurdle
A man saw a homeless person begging. The beggar’s voice sounded familiar, but he had to move on with the traffic.
The next day he saw the beggar again.
“Are you Ted Williams, the man with a golden voice?”
“Hop in… Why are you on the street?”
“I was fired in 1994 for drugs and booze.”
“You’ll clean up and come to the radio station to see my boss.”
For the first time after 20 years, the beggar had numerous job offers. He worked in the radio show again.
“Beggars can’t be choosers” didn’t apply to him.
The Missing Car by Anurag Bakhshi
He gulped, and said, “Well, you see, I was getting really late for a date….”
I stared piercingly at him, and asked, “So?”
He stammered, “So, I drove at breakneck speed to meet her at the Theater, but…”
“But?” I growled menacingly.
“But,” he wiped his brow, “she was already inside. I hunted desperately for a parking space, but…beggars can’t be choosers….and so…”
I sagged even further into the chair as I completed his sentence for him, “And so, you left my Batmobile on the road, doors open, and engine running! Thanks Alfred, that will be all!”
Reena and Jay Do Beans On Toast by Ritu Bhathal
It had been a long trek.
Those last three mile had really dragged but finally Reena and Jay arrived back at the campsite.
Kicking off her trainers, she sighed. What she wouldn’t give for a pedicure, long soak in a tub and a chilled glass of Prosecco…
“Reens, can you remember how this works?” Jay was fiddling with camping stove, so they could prepare the feast that was Beans on Toast.
He rummaged around in the food bags, found some cans of lager and tossed one over to her.
Not even chilled. Reena sighed again. Beggars can’t be choosers.
Smart Beggars (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Danni overheard the receptionist say. She had stopped by the division office to resupply the fire-camp. Her grimy skin felt foul as her temper. Danni would set that uppity woman straight.
When Mavis hung up, Danni asked, “Who’s that?”
“Oh, hi, Danni. You look a fright.”
“I’m taking back the new supplies.”
“The ones that didn’t arrive?”
Danni slumped. “What will we do,” she mumbled.
Mavis answered brightly, “Beggars can’t be choosers, but Daddy raised no fool. I just sweet-talked old Jeb at DNR to find a roundabout way for us. Beggars can be smart.”
Who Says by Reena Saxena
He asked for help.
His father was a renowned doctor, so a drugstore was set up for him. He could not garner any new customers other than his father’s patients. The money was not enough to raise his children, so his father supported them as long as he lived.
His real face was exposed after the parents passed away. His brothers found to their dismay, that every valuable from a silver coin to diamond jewellery had been stolen. The parents’ bank account had been drained out to pay for the grandson’s foreign education.
Who says beggars can’t be choosers?
Imaginary Characters by M J Mallon
Brick fitted in the space well. It was narrow, like a cupboard to slot in, a place to be noticed. Brooke Trout sauntered past him. When she saw Brick her eyes opened wide. He smirked at her bemused expression. She didn’t notice but he followed her up the escalator. When she exited out of the toilet he was there angling for her.
‘Beggars can’t be choosers,’ she wasn’t much of a catch but she had a sense of humour. He valued that.
Brick smiled, ‘Babe join me? We can disappear together…
Tables Turned by Anne Goodwin
She hammers on the door, pleading, begging. It’s too late. She’s made her choice.
I’m not without pity, but her desperation soothes me, cancels the pain from when I was the one in need. From when I begged and Liesel chose.
She gave me two options, both impossible. If she left, I’d lose everything; if she stayed on her terms, how could our love stand the strain?
When she’s calm, I’ll go down to the cellar, take her some food and some clean underwear. I’m no cook, but she’ll relish whatever I give her. Beggars don’t get to choose.
Harsh Reality by Rupali Banerjee
One morning, as I was taking my car out of the Garage, I heard a pleasant sound of flute been played. I could find no one in close vicinity. Mesmerized at the sound, I drove down the valley. The music of the flute was like a beautifully cascaded flowing river. After driving some distance, I found an old man playing the flute and begging alms. A crowd had gathered around. When suddenly he started coughing, the crowd dispersed. Panicked, he again picked up the flute and somehow managed to play. “Beggars cant be choosers“, I thought sympathetically.
Restoration of Hope by TN Kerr
He didn’t hold a sign or jingle a cup with a few coins.
He wasn’t selling apples or matches, or singing street music.
He sat with his eyes closed in the chill evening air; had his blanket pulled tight.
So, he didn’t see her approaching from across the road.
“Hey,” she said to catch his attention.
When he looked up at her he was startled.
She was well dressed, but looked stern, the way his teachers had done.
He took the white paper bag that she proffered.
“It’s warm,” he said.
She simply nodded, turned around and walked away.
Breaking Old Stereotypical Molds by JulesPaige
Being the younger in a hard working family means hand me downs.
Maybe there’d be one new outfit a year, shoes when needed, things like that.
Cheap proteins; buckets of peanut butter, making due with leftovers.
there are choices, yes;
some allow us to reach stars
others for handouts
life throws all curve balls; cannot
beggars be choosers for love
To remember to give when we are comfortable can be key
To stretch outside of that comfort zone to help another, would, could you?
Without expecting some reward, remembering to give of the self.
Who says beggars can’t choose?
Hat Trick by D. Avery
“Pal, ya ain’t noticin’ my new hat.”
“It’s a beautiful day, Kid. Good day ta ride.”
“Yep. An’ ya still ain’t said nuthin’ ‘bout my hat.”
“I see ya’ve got a new hat settin’ on yer head.”
“Cain’tcha tell me what ya think of it?”
“Why? You went an’ bought it. You must like it.”
“Come on, Pal. Do ya like my hat?”
“No, Kid, no. I do not like yer hat.”
“Jeez, Pal, ya gotta like this hat.”
“No, Kid, I don’t. Ya begged me ta respond, ya don’t git ta choose my response. Now go Kid, go.”