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

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Leon part two

by Jesse Edwardson

Leon nodded to the man and his wife and said “Hello.”  He also smiled and greeted the children.  The parents were apprehensive and nervous.  It was obvious that they have never spent a holiday in a homeless shelter.  Leon felt sorry for them, he knows how they feel.

Once upon a time, Leon had decent job in a factory.  He, his wife, Vivian, and their daughter, Lisa lived in an old run-down apartment building on the south-side.  Life was pretty good, they didn’t have a lot but they had enough.  Leon worked on the third shift, ten p.m. to six a.m.  He hated working nights.  Their neighborhood could be dangerous at times.

One night, Leon was called into the office by his boss.  A neighbor had called because there had been a fire on Leon’s floor.  The fire department was still putting out the flames and no one was sure about the safety of Vivian and Lisa.  Leon ran home as fast as his feet could take him.

As it turned out, the fire had started in the apartment adjacent to Leon’s.  Some fool had fallen asleep with a cigarette in his hand.  The fire killed him and two other neighbors along with Vivian and Lisa.  Lisa was only six years old.  They both died in their sleep from smoke inhalation.  Leon’s heart was broken.

Vivian was fifteen years younger than Leon and they tried for many years to have children.  They were finally blessed with Lisa one month before Leon’s fiftieth birthday.  She was the apple of his eye.  His pain is still strong, especially on holidays, but it always makes Leon happy when he sees a whole family.  He was thankful for their blessings.

The boy of this family was staring at Leon as he ate his dinner.  Leon pretended not to notice at first but then he caught his eye and smiled and gave him a wink.  The boy blushed and looked away.  Leon laughed.

“What is your name young man?”  Leon asked the boy.

“Michael,”  he answered.

“Well I’m pleased to meet you Michael, I’m Leon.”  Leon put out his hand.  Michael took it and gave Leon a firm handshake.  Just like his grand-dad had taught him to.

“Hello, Mr. Leon.” said Michael.

This made Leon laugh again.  “You can just call me Leon, son.”

“Okay, Leon.”  The boy smiled.  Leon reminded Michael of his grand-dad.

“Why are you here, Leon?”  Michael asked.

“Michael, that is none of your business!”  his father scolded.  “I’m sorry Sir.  He really has better manners than that.”

“That is quite alright.  Children love to know things and asking is the best way to get to know things,”  Leon said to Michael’s father.

“Well Michael, I’m here because I don’t have a house to live in.  Just like most of these people here,”  Leon said as he motioned to the rest of the room.  “I once had a good job and a beautiful wife and daughter, but now all I’ve got is my grandpa’s harmonica and the clothes on my back.  Oh, and my health.  I can’t forget about that,”  Leon spoke with a kind smile on his face.

“Wow,”  said Michael.  “It’s kinda like us.  Dad lost his job and the landlord kicked us out of our apartment.”

“Michael I’m sure Mr.  I’m sorry what is your name?”  Michael’s mother asked.

“Leon Robinson, ma’am.  You can just call me Leon.”

“Thank you Leon,”  she said.  “Michael, I’m sure Leon doesn’t want to hear about us.  Now please drink your cocoa.”

“It’s quite alright ma’am.  I don’t mind.  It’s nice talking to your little man here,”  Leon said.  “I’m very sorry that you were evicted.  Times are tough.”

Michael’s mother looked down at her lap while Leon spoke.  He could see much struggle she was dealing with.

“You know what?”  Leon continued.  “You have found the best shelter in the city.  They’ve got comfy beds upstairs, good food, and a nice little chapel right through that door over there if you’re so inclined.  They take good care of people here.”

Michael’s mom looked up and gave Leon a weak smile.

“Don’t worry honey, we’ll be back on our feet in no time,”  Michael’s father whispered in her ear as he kissed her cheek.  “I’ll go get us some food,”  He said as he took his daughter’s hand and led her to the food line.

“You are a very kind man Mr. Robinson,” she said to Leon.

“Well, thank you ma’am.  You have a very nice family, I’m glad to have met you,”  Leon said sincerely.

“Where is your wife and daughter, Leon?”  Michael piped in.

Leon’s smile faltered a little.  “Well Michael, they are in heaven.”

“Oh,”  Michael said sadly.

“Mr. Robinson, I am so sorry,”  Michael’s mom said, looking quite embarrassed.

“Thank you ma’am,  it was quite some time ago.  And I do miss them something awful.  I’m just thankful that they went together.  That way, my little Lisa had a hand to hold as she entered the Kingdom of God,”  Leon smiled with a tear in his eye.

“Oh my, they went together?”  she asked.

“Yeah, some fool tried to burn our building down and the smoke got to them in their sleep.  So they went to heaven together, mother and daughter.  I’ll see them again someday,”  Leon’s smile returned.

“That is so sad,”  Michael said.

Suddenly an announcement  came across the loud speakers.  “Attention, attention everyone.  I would like to let everyone know that our beds have all been filled.  Those of you with children will be accommodated.  All single adults, we regret to inform you that you will need to find shelter elsewhere for the evening .  Please feel free to try the Fifty Second Street Shelter, five blocks east of here.  They sometimes have spare beds when we do not.  We apologize for this inconvenience.  Merry Christmas to you all and may God bless.  Thank you.”   Click.

“Well, I guess that means me,”  Leon said as he stood up.

“Where are you going Leon?”  Michael asked.

“I’m gonna have to go to that other shelter and find a bed tonight.  There’s no room for me here.”

“But, I don’t want you to go,”  Michael said.

“Don’t worry.  I’ll be alright,”  Leon said to Michael.  He turned to his mom and said,  “It was wonderful meeting you and your family ma’am.  You all have a good night, and don’t worry, you’ll get back on your feet soon.”

“Thank you Leon,” she said.  “And you be safe tonight.  Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas to you too.”

“Merry Christmas Leon,”  Michael said holding out his hand to the old man.

“Merry Christmas Michael,”  he replied as they shook hands.

“I want you to have this,”  Michael said, handing a small toy to Leon.

“Well, what’s this?”  Leon said while turning the toy around in his large hands.

“It’s  one of my army men, I want you to have it,” the boy smiled proudly.

“Well, how nice of you Michael.   Here, I want you to have this,”  Leon handed Michael his harmonica.  “You play that when you feel bad and it will make you feel good again.”

“Wow, a real harmonica!”  Michael said with wonder.

Michael’s mother watched this exchange with tears running freely down her cheeks.

“Thanks Leon!”  Michael said.

“And thank you Michael.”

Michael got up and ran around the long table and gave the old black man a bear hug.  Leon returned the hug gladly.  They both had tears in their eyes.

Leon straightened up when Michael let go of him.  He wiped the tears from his face and buttoned up his coat.  “I plan on coming back here tomorrow for the church service, so maybe I’ll see you then,” he said to Michael and his mom.

“Sure thing,” she said, smiling.

“Ok, good night now,” Leon said as he walked away.

“Good night Leon,” Michael and his mom said at the same time.

Leon walked to the front door of the shelter with a smile on his face.  He pulled the door open and stepped out into the frozen night.

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