A somewhat longer short story, but I hope you find it worth the effort and read. It does have “rough language,” but such language I find necessary to depict the reality of the people involved. Either way, I hope you enjoy it and gain something from it. Merry Christmas everyone.
He awoke to the sound of someone shuffling in the alley.
“Lisa? Lisa, is that you?”
He heard the pattering of four paws scurry away at his voice. He looked up to see the dog turn around and look back at him. He smiled and held out a morsel of his dinner. The dog slowly approached, apprehensive and untrusting of this old man.
“Come here boy, it’s alright.” he said softly. “Come on, that’s it.”
He slowly ran his fingers through the dogs fur as it ate out of his hand. He felt a sore on its back leg, possibly from a fight or a sadistic neighborhood kid. After scrummaging through his belongings, he pulled out the almost empty bottle of hydrogen peroxide, poured some onto a cotton swab, and then slowly and gently put it on the sore. The dog backed up a bit, startled by the coldness of the liquid, but ultimately trusted the man who had given him food. The dog licked the man’s hand as the man worked with his other hand to clean the wound. Satisfied that he had done what he could, the man lay down and the dog scurried away.
As the city came alive, the old man arose from his morning prayers and then walked through the snow to his usual corner. There he sat, cup in hand, holding his sign.
GOD BLESS YOU IF YOU CAN
It was a curious sign, one that caused people to give a double take. Most assumed that he was drunk when he wrote the sign and went on their way. Others, obliged by some sense of decency would drop a dollar or two into his cup. His usual reply of “God bless you” was greeted with a nod, or the occasional offer to pray for the poor old man. He never turned down prayer. Every so often someone would yell at him to get a job or refuse to acknowledge his existence, but through the experience of begging he’d discovered that people were, for the most part, decent.
Around noon, he pulled his lunch from a paper bag he had handy. He walked around the corner to the convenience shop to pick up a soda. He picked out his favorite one, brought it to the counter, and put the money out to pay. The owner grabbed the money and gently pushed it back towards the old man.
“You no pay. Never.” he said in his broken English.
“Mr. Kim, I can’t take it for free.”
“No!” he said emphatically. He shook his head as tears welled up. “You save daughter. You holy man. You no pay.”
The old man lowered his eyes, feeling a sting of hypocrisy in the praise he received. He sheepishly took his soda and walked out, thanking the owner. He walked back to his corner, cleared some of the snow that had accumulated, and sat back down on his mat. He gave a blessing over his food, ate his lunch, drank his soda, and then continued to beg for money. Continue reading