Start Your Morning with some Fresh Fiction

BLIND BEGGAR

William J. White

As soon as Charlie entered the hospital room he saw his father facing away from his mother’s bed. She was still sleeping, and in the same position as she had been when he had come by that morning on his way to school. Her breathing was still labored.

“Dad”?

His father, drawing his hands across his eyes, turned to Charlie. He shook his head slowly. “No change, son. That accident…” He clenched his fists; moving over to the bed to look down at the small women lying there. “Charlie, she’s really messed up inside….”

Charlie sat on the edge of his mother’s bed, and pushing the hair away from her eyes, said, “What did the doctor say? She is going to be alright, isn’t she?” Taking her hand in his, he leaned over and kissed her forehead. Still holding her hand, he looked up at the slender gray-headed man on the other side of the bed. “Dad, she is going to get better… that’s my mom….”

His father turned away from him, and Charlie saw that his shoulders were shaking; and a sound like a sob hidden behind a forced cough, was muffled by his shirt sleeve. Charlie, gently returning his mother’s hand to the bed, felt his chin beginning to quiver. He stood, and speaking hoarsely, said to his father’s back: “Dad…I…I’ll be back later.” He lurched into the hallway, and finding a short alcove in which to hide, cried like he had not cried in years.

Once out of the building, he began to run; not stopping until he could run no longer, and while leaning against a store-front window, and watching the busy traffic stream by,he noticed the deplorable condition of the buildings across the street, and recognized that area as being the hang-out for street gangs. He also noticed something else. Something that did not fit; an elderly black man sitting on a wooden box, and leaning against a light pole. Across his knees he was holding a white walking-stick in one hand, and in the other, a large metal cup–which he would raise and shake every few minutes. He was also wearing dark glasses…. “Boy, oh boy,” Charlie said aloud. “That old fellow is asking for it.”

He quickly made his way across the busy street, dodging swiftly-moving cars all the way, and paying no heed to the horns blasting at him. “Sheesh!” He said to himself, and then to the old man.”Say, Mister….” At the sound of Charlie’s voice, the beggar turned to him.

“Why hello there young fellow. I’m sorry, but this corner is taken.” Charlie heard the sounds of coins rattling in the cup, as the old man shook it at him. He also heard the sound of a friendly laugh emanating from behind the whiskered face, as the cup was held out to him. “One who possesses the least but gives the most, Charlie, is destined for the softest seat in Heaven.

Would you like to try for that seat in Heaven, Charlie?” His laughter grew louder, as he took the cane from his knees and gave it a series of hard taps on the sidewalk. His joviality became even stronger as he rapped the cup lightly with his cane. “Hear that, Charlie? I bet the angels are waiting for the sound of your contribution.”

“How’d you know my name?” Charlie asked, while fishing in his pockets.

“You look like a Charlie, Charlie…. And you don’t have to be stingy….”

“But you are blind….”

“Only in the daytime, Charlie. Only in the daytime. At night, I can see the dark, and the blackness, and the nothingness…but I do have to squint.” Again, the old man went into a laughing spree. “And Charlie,” he said, smiling. “You can call me Mr. Leo….”

“Mr. Leo, sir….”

“No!, No! Charlie. Not Leo sir.” His laughter faded down to a soft chuckle which blended into a wide grin that caused his dark glasses to jiggle. Moving the cup closer to Charlie, he said, “I may be rather good looking , as ‘I’ve been told, but my name is just plain old Mr. Leo.”

Charlie resigned himself to just follow along with ‘Mister Leo’. He dropped a five-dollar bill into the cup and then admonished him. “Mr. Leo, I have to tell you; this is a dumb place to carry out your business.”

“That so? How come?’

“Because you have set up shop in a very dangerous neighborhood, that’s why. I’m sure that if you could see the boarded-up store fronts, and the buildings all covered with graffiti, and the over-turned garbage cans, and the street-gangs waiting for darkness.” Charlie paused for a moment, and then continued. “It’s just not safe, Mr. Leo. They don’t give money away in this neighborhood, sir. They take it! Maybe even your blood, just for the fun of it.” Mr. Leo was shaking his head very slowly. “Now, sir,” Charlie pleaded, ” I would be glad to escort you and your furniture over there, across the street, and settle you down in a nice corner suite.” Charlie grinned a grin that was not seen, and wondered if his newly found friend’s cool attitude might be contagious.

“Young man,” said Mr. Leo, “this block is my assignment, and so here I must remain.

However, your concern and your charitable nature,” he said, moving the cup around Charlie’s face, “gets you a draw from the ‘well’ of gratitude. Reach in and pick a card…but only one.”

” No thank you, sir. I’ll pass…I don’t need one.”

The old man’s face grew rigid, and his free hand reached out, fumbling against Charlie’s chest, over to his arm, and finally working it’s way down to his wrist; which he held in a grip

surprisingly strong for a man his apparent age. “Yes you do, Charlie. Believe me, you do!” He moved the cup over to Charlie’s hand, and pushing the boy’s fingers inside, he said, “Humor me. But take only one. We must not be greedy.”

Reluctantly, Charlie fingered inside; feeling a little change, and the bill that he had deposited earlier, and only one small stiff-paper ticket. His fingers probed for another, but found none. “There is only one…”

Mr. Leo smacked his lips. “Did I not tell you to take only one? How many do you want? And don’t look at it now, Charlie. Give it time to work– put it in your pocket.” With that said, the old beggar man stood; and offering his hand, remarked. “You are a fine young man, and I

thank you for your kindness.” He picked up his box, inverted it, and dropped in the cup.

“But Mr. Leo–”

” I’ll be fine, Charlie. I fear not, for the Lord is with me.” His hand curled around the cane, and holding it high in the air, and smiling at the young man, said, “My staff does comfort

me, and will protect me from all evil.”

Charlie watched him tapping his way down the sidewalk, and out-of-sight around the corner.

Charlie returned to the hospital. The door to his mother’s room was closed, and as he

placed his hand around the doorknob, he was struck by the urge to leave; not sure he could bear

up to what he knew would have occurred during his absence. He held his head against the cold metal door and said a short, sincere, prayer before entering. Two heads turned to him; one gray

with eyes that were red-circled and damp with tears, and another wearing a white hospital

cap, with eyes that were closed, and a mouth that showed just a little movement as he moved into

the room. The eyes that had been closed, now opened. “Hello…Charlie…” The soft whisper came from his mother’s lips. “How…was…your…day?” Her fingers moved very slowly into a greeting.

As Charlie moved toward the bed his father stood, and reaching out to him, said: “Oh

Charlie. Look at her. She has come back to us….”

Charlie sat on the edge of his mother’s bed, kissed his fingers, and touched them to her

cheek. Her weak smile widened, and tears began to fall from Charlie’s eyes. He didn’t care; he would just wipe them away, and as he reached into his pocket for a handkerchief, the card fell to the floor. His father, bending down, retrieved it. “Charlie? Where did this come from?” He read it aloud : “The one that you lost, will be found…”

Charlie sat on the edge of his mother’s bed, kissed his fingers, and touched them to her

cheek. Her weak smile widened, and tears began to fall from Charlie’s eyes. He didn’t care; he would

just wipe them away, and as he reached into his pocket for a handkerchief, the card fell to the floor.. His father, bending down, retrieved it. “Charlie? Where did this come from?” He read it aloud : “The one that you lost, will be found…”

      William J. White  was born and raised in Cincinnati, graduated from high school there, and joined the Navy for four years. He has been writing for several years, and has had eight out of ten stories published. White loves his piano, writing, and of course, above all, his wife of sixty years.

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