“God Bless You if You Can” – A Short Story


be kind to the poorA 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

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Dark Shadows in the City of God or, What I Saw in Mexico (excerpt)


DSC01482I’ve come across some journal writings of a young man that I know, we’ll simply call him Matthew (or Matt). Born to a successful family, he began a job in the finance field after graduating college. He felt unfulfilled in all that he was doing, so he decided to venter into Mexico. The few times he went in college were typically Spring Break trips, visiting the tourist areas of Mexico. He decided to go last year and visit what he calls “real Mexico,” the part that tourists don’t get to visit. 

His journal entries are interesting. I’m sure some of this is written creatively and even Matt might be a part of the creative fiction, but every good story must mix a bit of fiction and truth, for that is the recipe of art. Thus, I present to you his journal, fragmented though it may be.  Continue reading

The Return Home: A Short Story


Source: NASA

He looked out the canopy of his ship, into the vast expanse before him. A trained soldier, engineered to serve the greater good, he reflected upon his mission. He saw the twinkling of billions upon billions of stars before him, knowing one of them harbored a planet for his people.

“Our planet is dying.” he remembered her saying.

“Aren’t we all dying?” he responded.

She smiled and kissed his hand. She had a way of pulling him away from his gloomy visions.

“We’re all living. Help us continue to do so.” she finally said.

He thought back to the green sunrise he experienced earlier in the year. Their star rising above the horizon, illuminating the lush jungle canopy. In the distance the mountain smoked, threatening more and more to erupt. And then it did. The destruction it wrought was enough to bury the village and cover the distant city of Capeton with soot, providing further proof that the planet was slowly decaying.

In all their years of space exploration, they had harvested planets, never intending to colonize any of them. At first, their laws forbid colonization, as it would inherently impact the ecosystem of any planet they encountered. Then they allowed exploration and the commodification of entire planets. Colonization was forbidden not because it would destroy a planet, but because it would prevent its exploitation. Man’s appetite was insatiable. The sweet irony was that they now needed a habitable planet to escape theirs, and they could not find one.

He was selected along with twenty other soldiers to head out into the darkness of the beyond, to find a planet and return with hope. They endured training, genetic engineering, biological implants, and years away from loved ones. His mission was to head to sector 4591, send out probes, and hope for the best.

He pressed his display and saw a holovid of her pop up, smiling and blowing him a kiss. Tears formed in the corners of his eyes and a lump developed in his throat. He thought of how he missed her and how he might never see her. Six years he’d been on this mission, and in six years the probes had found nothing.

He quietly ate his meal, allowing the hum of the ship to be the only noise made. He had long given up trying to listen to music, as it meant nothing to him any more. He wondered what she endured, if she was afraid, if she cursed him for not being there to protect her. His thoughts began to consume him and forced him to become angry at his situation. He threw his plate at the wall, the leftovers splattering over the ground.

How could he have known his second mission? How could he have known the truth, a truth hidden from everyone? He walked his way to the airlock again, contemplating forcing himself out into space. The death would be painful, but it would be quick. The thought of her somehow knowing, of her looking on at his suicide prevented him from opening the airlock.

He walked past the cryo-tubes, the cold and bitter reminders of what once was. Hundreds of embryos in suspended animation, prepared to develop in artificial wombs and eventually birthed into a new world. Representatives of a society long forgotten. How he hated these tubes, these mockeries of his life. These reminders of just how alone he truly was.

He slipped into bed. He watched the video of his wife once again, crying as he attempted to touch her image, his hand moving through it. He then switched videos, to the last transmission he received 5 months ago. Continue reading