A Winter Song

December 15, 2011
In a year like most any other, on a winters day like most any other. In a city like most any other on a street like most any other, stood a man like most any other. He was, frankly, an old man, in his late seventies, maybe early eighties. Sitting underneath the bakery window in front of him was a bum. Let us go back to a few hours before, to better understand our friend and the situation was in.

That morning he had woken up, fixed himself some coffee and a doughnut for breakfast, and read the morning paper. Nothing unusual about this activity right? Except for the fact that he did not care a wink about what was in the paper. Because almost all of it had to do with other people, and he didn’t care about anyone but himself. This would be the reason he was unmarried, the reason he had no friends, and the reason for all of his misery. His fate should have been sealed at this point...a knock on the door! The old man didn’t even bother getting up. As always he simply yelled “Go away!” This was a visitor who obviously had been told what to expect because he simply knocked even harder. The old man finally got up and walked over to the door. He opened it, and stared into the face of a young man who seemed to be simply brimming with energy.

Suddenly, he was thrown back in time to when he was a boy. He saw his best, and only, friend he had ever had. In just a few seconds he relived their entire friendship, all up until the day his friend had died. They were only in Third grade at the time. It had been a fun afternoon up at the lake, they were preparing to head back home. Before they did, they decided to take one more dive from the tree. Together they climbed up the tree and soared into the water. He came up first, laughing joyfully and waited for Jimmy to come back up...but he didn’t. He called to his dad, who was packing up the truck, but he didn’t seem to hear. He called to his dad again, louder, this time with panic in his voice.

This time his dad looked over to him, worry in his eyes. “ Jimmy’s not coming up!” he yelled. HIs dad ran then with a speed he had never seen his dad run with before. Jumping in, his dad began his search, and it wasn’t long before Jimmy was out of the water. His dad tried CPR but it was too late. Looking at the body of his dead best friend, he now saw why he had not come up. On the top of his friends head was the worst gash he had ever seen. “He must have cut his head open on a rock.” His dad said. It was at that moment that the boy had stopped caring.

“Hello sir!” said the young man, snapping him out of his trance. “I’m from the church just down the road, this time of year we always go around and collect donations. You see, we have a program we run that helps the homeless, and winter is obviously the time of year when they need the most help. If you could help in any way, whether it be by donating money, your time, maybe even just an old coat you don’t use any more it would help tremendously.” For a moment the old man saw a flicker of Jimmy in those eyes. “No!” he yelled, and slammed the door on the young man’s nose. This brought a high pitched yelp from the other side of the door. “That’ll teach them to send people here.”

He walked back to his chair, and resumed sipping his coffee, which was cold, and reading his paper, which had been torn in his frustration. An hour passed by, and there was another knock on the door, lighter this time, and with a different rhythm to it. He figured anyone who would knock on his door after all these years probably knew what to expect. He skipped his normal “Go away” and just went straight to the door, opening it ferociously. “Hello sir.” Said a small, kindly looking, woman, probably in her late thirties. Just as before, he was thrown into a vision of something. In this one, he could see the young man he had turned away an hour ago. He was standing with an ice pack on his nose, in the church lobby, talking to a man who looked like he must be the pastor of the church. “What did I tell you Pastor? The man’s the meanest old grouch that ever walked the planet!” “Michael calm down” Paster told him. “He barely even batted an eye, it had no affect on him, just as heartless as ever.” “We just have to have faith that it might have made some small bit of difference.” “Fat chance” Michael replied. “Sir?” the woman said, jolting him to reality. This time he didn’t even give her a chance to go on. He said “Will you people stop bothering me!” slamming the door again.

He went back to his paper for a bit, but then his stomach growled. It must be time for lunch...he had forgotten to get bread from the bakery! He put on his coat, went into the garage, got in to his car, and headed off to the bakery down the block. This is where we found him way back at the beginning of our story. As he looked under the bakery window at the bum, he experienced that same pull from reality again.” This time he saw an old man lying dead on the sidewalk. He saw a week, two weeks pass and no one so much as taking notice of the dead body as it decomposed. “Good riddance” he thought, but then he looked closer at the face, and saw...It was his. Now this was the pivotal point, the point that this old man’s whole life had lead up to. Our Hero has a choice to make.

“Please sir” the bum said reaching out his barely gloved hand. The old man once again saw JImmy in those pained eyes, and he glimpsed this man’s suffering. He turned away, disgusted, forgetting about the bread, and walked back down the sidewalk toward his car. Without warning, and without sound, the old man fell to the pavement. He could feel the life draining out of him, as his heart slowly stilled itself. Then the bum was standing over him, and before his very eyes the bum shifted and changed into a well dressed man. He wore a black suit and one of those old fashioned bowl hats. His mustache was singed, and his eyes glowed with fire. “Well Scrooge” he said “I’ll see you on the flip side” and walked away.

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