The Magic of Mike
The woman stood over the stove stirring a pot of hot soup. She prepared it to ward off the bitter Minnesota cold, a cover-every-inch-of-your-skin cold, the kind that bites you and never lets go, the kind that makes auto engines demand heaters or they refuse to start. Icicles hung from her window ledge and blocked the top part of her view.
Out of the corner of her eye she glimpsed movement. She leaned forward to spot a man shuffling behind a shopping cart on the other side of the frozen road. "What's he doing out there?" she asked herself, baffled. "Perhaps he has no home to hide in," she cringed. In an instant she leapt into action, pulled a plastic bag from the drawer next to the sink and began sweeping groceries into it, including the loaf of banana bread she baked that afternoon, still warm from the oven. She grabbed her overcoat. Armed with provisions, she headed out the front door.
"Excuse me," she called. He turned. She waved. "Can you come over here?" she continued. The man wheeled his cart and stepped off the sidewalk.
As he approached her house, the man dragged away a scarf that blocked his nose and chin. He revealed a clean face with a slight smile and gentle eyes. "Can I?" she stammered. "Can I give you this food?" She paused. "I thought you might be hungry," she added. The man's smile widened. "Why," he replied, with surprising eloquence, "that's very kind of you. I hadn't eaten today." He placed the gift in his cart and moved on. She watched for a moment before retreating out of the cold.
The next evening after work, the woman discovered a neatly folded note under her doormat. She stepped inside, opened it and began to read. Thank you so much for your kindness. I often miss meals on colder nights and the shelters are not safe for me. I appreciate everything and the banana bread was delicious-the best I ever tasted. Many blessings, Mike
Throughout the year, the woman ran across Mike in different parts of the city. He greeted her warmly and embraced her kindness with dignity, an almost noble quality that made her happy to give. She often thought about him-where did he come from, how did he end up on the street. Mostly she cared for his heart.
In the fall, as they always did, she and her husband went to Florida on business, then returned on Christmas Eve for the holiday season. As they drove home from the airport, she threw a question into the air. "I wonder what happened to Mike?" she asked. "Probably went South for the winter," her husband joked, with no meanness intended. "Shut up," she half-laughed as she smacked him on the arm.
A few moments later, they turned the corner and across the way, at a bus stop, stood a man with a shopping cart. "That's Mike," she exclaimed. "Stop the car." "Don't be silly," her husband retorted. "It's just some other homeless guy." "Stop this instant," she barked. "Pull the car over."
She jumped out and took a stride forward. "Mike," she cried in a loud voice. "Is that you?" The man looked up, pulled down a familiar scarf and grinned. She walked to him. He stepped around his cart. "Merry Christmas," he said simply with a special twinkle in his eye. "It's warm here at the bus stop." "Stay right here, Mike," the woman ordered. "I'll be right back. Don't you move."
She slammed the car door shut and told her husband to drive. "We're getting warm garments," she stated in a tone that allowed no debate. At the house she went straight to her husband's closet, found sweaters and wool socks and a down jacket. She added the blanket from the end of their bed.
Mike waited patiently at the bus stop. She approached him with her arms loaded as her husband kept the car idling. At the last instant a feeling flooded through her. She couldn't give him the clothes. She stood in inner turmoil, paralyzed and unsure, conflicted inside-then she declared: "Mike, it's Christmas. I'm taking you home. Park your cart over there and let's go." Overwhelmed, Mike followed.
That night, they shared dinner, told stories and laughed and laughed. They learned of Mike's background, his broken childhood, a horrid tale he expressed with sorrow and acceptance, of his choice to reject society in favor of a life he understood no matter how hard. She struggled with all of it.
Over breakfast, she issued a bold pronouncement. "Mike, I've decided you can stay with us?as long as you want." She beamed with delight. "We can help you." With as much kindness as he could muster, Mike refused. He insisted that they drop him at the airport. He made no excuses, offered no explanation other than his need to be where he belonged. She couldn't go with them. She couldn't bear to say goodbye. She stayed home alone.
When her husband returned, she met him in the entry hall. "Well?" she demanded. "I dropped him off at his Gulf Stream IV and he took off," he joked again without malice, only a desire to make her feel better in a moment when he didn't quite know how he felt himself. She tried to smile, smacked his arm and turned away. A lone tear strayed down her cheek?a tear she shed for Mike?
That's A View From The Ridge...
About The Author
Author Ridgely Goldsborough invites you to subscribe to The Daily Column, a heart-felt collection of stories that inspire hope and courage. Please do so at www.aviewfromtheridge.com.
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