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Wake Up Call
As we stand in the lobby of our hotel waiting to check in, an unclaimed cell phone rings on a nearby table. After the third ring, I decide to answer it. Little do I know how much it will change my life. Forever.
“Hello?” I say, curious. I notice it’s not an iPhone 5, just some lame flip phone that has to be at least a century old.
“Jane Wilson?” asks a husky male voice.
I stare at the phone. How does this creep know my name? I wonder.
“Who wants to know?” I ask, doing my best to seem indifferent, which isn’t that much of a stretch.
“6th Street East, downtown, now.” There is a hard, commanding edge to the voice.
“Listen, I don’t take orders from anyone, especially-” I stop as static reaches my ears. The nerve! I think, slipping the phone into my heavy winter coat pocket. Who does this guy think he is? Nevertheless, my curiosity is aroused.
“Mom!” I shout across the lobby, not caring however many angry glares I get. After all, it is my hotel. My dad owns it, which means I can kick them out anytime I want.
I flip my dark brown hair impatiently over my shoulder. “Mom! I’m going!” I turn around, not even waiting for a reply. My Coach heels make a loud click-clicking noise on the polished marble floor of the lobby as I exit the hotel. Instead of taking our limo-which would take way too long- I turn right down the far street, walk a couple blocks, then a left, another left, then a right with all the practiced ease of someone who has lived in the city for their whole life.
6th Street East, I think triumphantly to myself. Ugh. My feet ache in these heels. I have never been to this part of town. Never wanted to. Never needed to. It’s the run down part. You know, where all the crime happens? I’ve never even taken a second glance at it. But now, I’m all eyes. And the sight I see makes me all choked up inside. Run down, sagging tenants and town houses line the cracked streets. Chain-link fences surround the houses, and gates hang ajar like screaming mouths. A couple young children run through the street, tossing a football, their bare feet clapping on the ground. Their thin, gaunt frames clothed only in ratty looking T-shirts shiver in the cold. An old woman with a walker trudges down the street, a sign saying: “NEED FOOD. HAVE NO PLACE TO CALL HOME. GOD BLESS” taped to the front.
I can’t look anymore. I turn. I run. I don’t look back. As I round the second left, I pause for breath, bile rising in my throat. The chill of the winter morning snakes down the collar of my coat, turning my blood to ice. The phone rings in my pocket. I answer.
“You saw it, didn’t you, Jane?” the voice says.
I nod, hands trembling around the phone, but it’s not from cold. “I know,” the voice says. “But I showed you this because I know you can help them.”
“Who are you?” I manage to choke out. The line goes dead. I stand there for a moment, buffeted by the other people passing me in the street. Finally, I take a breath and make up my mind.
I turn and run into the closest shop I can find, grabbing everything I can off the shelves and flashing my MasterCard at the cashier. Then I hurriedly place an order at Papa John’s, giving them my credit card number and telling them I need twenty large pizzas and fifteen orders of cinnamon sticks. I give them the address. Without a moment’s hesitation to think of what I might be getting myself into (or how much trouble I could get into) I turn and run down the street. When I arrive back at 6th Street East, it’s getting dark. But strangely, I am not afraid. The delivery truck with the pizza is there. I wave them over, gratefully accepting the boxes and telling them to set it on the sidewalk next to my other purchases. I hold my head high and shout down the street, “Food! Clothing! Toys! Free of charge!”
Then, I hastily scribble a note and leave it on top of the pizzas as I see people begin to swarm out of the tenants. I grab a coat and pair of shoes off the pile and turn the corner, the sound of children screaming with glee and puzzled questions asked by the adults like music against my ears.
As I begin to walk back to the hotel, I see an old woman, slowly making her way down the street, a cardboard sign pasted to her walker. I rush over to her. She looks up at me through her grimy glasses and holds out a hand, the other pointing to the side on the front of her walker. I place the jacket around her withered shoulders and the warm shoes on her wrinkled feet. I hand her a hundred dollar bill and take the necklace from around my neck, the silver cross on a sturdy silver chain, and close her hand over it.
“God bless,” I say with a teary smile, turning quickly and walking down the street. I think of all the things I have and then I smile.
Sometimes, you might oversleep, but God will always make sure to give you a wake up call.