Serial blogging, stories to tell. Short stories and micro-fiction!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Leon part three

By Jesse Edwardson

The wind bit deeply.  It was the coldest Christmas Eve in years. 

Leon made the five-block journey to the Fifty Second Street Shelter.  No room for him here either.  The lady he met just inside the door sincerely felt bad for turning him out.  Leon felt no resentment toward her.  He understood quite well that space was limited and the children come first.

He left the shelter and headed toward his favorite alley.  Having a favorite alley seemed odd at first, but this alley was behind an appliance store and Leon knew that he could find a good cardboard box to sleep in tonight.  This alley was also quiet and far from where the gangbangers hang out.

“Oh lord, it sure is cold this evening,”  Leon spoke out loud to himself.  He pulled his stocking cap down a little tighter over his ears.  He didn’t have any gloves, but he had a good coat and he kept his hands deep in the pockets.

On his way to the alley, Leon passed a liquor store.  Leon didn’t drink often, he never had, but he thought that a little something sounded good.  He turned around on the sidewalk and stepped into the warm store.

Just inside the door Leon stopped to shake off the chill and remove his cap.

“Good evening,”  said an old Asian woman behind the counter.

“Good evening ma’am,”  replied Leon.

The old woman eyed Leon suspiciously.  She figured that he was just some bum trying to stay warm and planned to loiter in her store without buying something.  Or worse still, that he may be planning to hold her up.  Either way she had her hand under the counter, ready to grab her pistol.

Leon walked down one of the two aisles running the length of the store.  He looked at some bottles of wine and could not believe some of the prices.  One bottle cost more money than Leon had seen in the past six months.

“Hoo, Lawdy!”  he said under his breath.  He reached the end of the aisle and found something he could afford.  It would cost him nearly half of the money he was carrying, but tonight was special.  It was Christmas Eve.  He took the bottle to the counter and set it down.

The old woman had relaxed a little but kept her hand near the gun while she rang up Leon’s purchase.

“Three, forty-nine,” she said without any enthusiasm.

“And worth every penny,”  Leon replied with a chuckle while handing her four one dollar bills.  The old woman didn’t even crack the smallest of grins.

Leon took his change and put it into his pocket.  He pulled his cap back onto his head, slipped the bottle under his arm, and buttoned up his coat.

“Well, Merry Christmas,”  he said as he turned toward the door.  The old woman made no reply.  Leon stepped back out into the biting wind and the old woman resumed reading her tabloid.

After a couple of blocks, Leon reached the alley.  He tried to keep a box hidden behind a dumpster so that he would have one when he needed it.  The box he hid was gone.  He looked inside the dumpsters for another box and couldn’t find one anywhere.

“I guess I’ll just have to hunker down between these two dumpsters for the night,”  he said to himself.  He threw a bag of garbage down and against the wall so that he had something soft to lean on.  Leon then sat down between the dumpsters and tried to bundle himself up the best he could.  It was going to be a long night.

Leon pulled his wallet from his pocket and opened the pictures that he carried there.  He sat staring at the photos of his wife and daughter.  A tear leaked from his eye and froze to his cheek.

“I miss you two so much,”  he said with a choked voice.  His finger traced the face of Lisa.  It was her first grade school picture.  He could remember all the fuss she and Vivian went through that morning trying to get her hair just right.  The dress was the easiest part of getting ready that morning.  It was her favorite dress, she always felt so pretty when she wore it.

“Oh baby-girl, you are so beautiful,” he spoke to the picture.  “You were so proud of that dress.”  Another tear froze to his cheek.

He set his wallet down in his lap with the pictures still open and pulled the bottle of wine from his coat and twisted off the cap.

“Merry Christmas, my lovely ladies!” he toasted and put the bottle to his lips.  He drank deeply and when he tipped the bottle back down he took a long shuddering breath. 

He looked out into the alley and noticed just how quiet the night was.  He wiped the frozen tears from his face and felt just how alone he was.  Alone and lonely.  Leon was not the kind of man who ever felt sorry for himself, but every once in a while he would realize just how sad his life was.

He looked down at the pictures in his wallet again.  He allowed one or two more tears to fall before he returned the wallet to his pocket.

He sat there between the dumpsters sipping his wine and celebrating Christmas, and freezing.  The air was so cold that his wine began to slush up.

“Just as well,”  he said, setting the bottle down.  He pulled his knees up to his chest and leaned against the bag of garbage.  Trying the best he could to get comfortable, Leon Robinson settled in for the night.

Some time in the middle of the night, without a watch he had no way to know what time it was, Leon heard a voice.

“Daddy… Daddy.  Wake up,”  the voice gently cooed.

It’s a voice that Leon thought he recognized, but that couldn’t be right.  Leon opened his eyes and saw the face of Lisa, his baby girl, just poking in between the dumpsters.

“Lisa?”  Leon said in disbelief.  “Is this a dream?”

“No Daddy, it’s no dream.  I’ve come for you.”  Lisa smiled.

“But you can’t be here baby girl.  You’re supposed to be in heaven,”  Leon said while tears began to roll freely down his cheeks.

“I was, and Daddy it’s so beautiful there.  Come on, stand up,”  she said as she took her father’s hand and helped him to his feet.

Leon stood up and realized that he was no longer cold.  The tears stayed wet on his face and his daughter Lisa, was holding his hand.  He could feel warmth and life in her small hand.

Lisa gently pulled her daddy’s hand and led him along the alley toward the street.

“Oh baby girl, where are you taking me?”  Leon asked.

Lisa turned her smiling face up to her father and said, “To see mama.”

Leon stared at her, amazed by what she said.  He then looked up toward the street and watched it disappear in a great flood of light.  In the light he could see a lone figure waiting.  He knew who that was at once.

“Merry Christmas Daddy,”  Lisa said as she led her father into the light.  Leon entered Heaven while holding his daughter’s hand.

1 comment:

Arthur W Edwardson III said...

Very good story Jess. Leon was very believable despite my initial thought of, 'What does a white boy from Wis know about a black man in the city?'
It didn't really matter. We can all relate to fear, loneliness, joy, and sadness to some degree. Good stuff.