Bitesize Tale for Christmas: Lost Cause

Christmas Tree with Snowflakes

Image copyright Feelart / freedigitalphotos.net

“Is this seat taken?”

My daydreams skid to a sudden halt. A tramp hovers next to me, broadcasting an odour of grime and unwashed clothes. Forcing myself not to shrink back, and suddenly aware of how crowded the cafe has become, I reluctantly shake my head and mutter, “No, it’s fine.”

With a gap-toothed smile, the man pulls out the chair opposite and sits down.

“I don’t suppose you’ve any change? I’d love a hot cuppa,” he says, tilting his head to one side, appraising me with pale blue eyes.

His stare makes me uncomfortable, as though he finds me wanting in some way.

Blushing, I delve into my bag and fumble for my purse. Apart from my credit card – already maxed out – I have precisely £2.22 in change. Wordlessly, I offer him the money.

His face lights up, as though this is the first kindness he’s received in a while. He leans forward to scoop the coins from my palm, his fingers surprisingly gentle, then heads for the counter.

I start to think about what his life might have been like, about the challenges and conflicts which led to his homelessness, to society’s indifference. To his becoming invisible. Given that I’ve just spent over fifty pounds on Christmas gifts, these new questions leave me uncomfortable. I fidget in my seat and fiddle with my coffee cup.

Outside, a string of twinkling fairy lights quivers in the chilly wind. I wonder which dress to wear to the Christmas party tomorrow. The safe black one, with the long sleeves? Or the showy turquoise sheath with the teasing neckline? Then I wonder if he will even have a meal on Christmas Day. He’d probably just be grateful to make it through tonight. Does he have somewhere to sleep? Is there anyone to love him?

The man returns to his seat with a mug of black coffee. He warms his hands on it, and I notice the elegance of his fingers, like a pianist’s. He is clearly a man of contradictions. When I see clean white cuffs peeking from beneath his smart navy suit, I nearly drop my cup in shock. Quickly, I raise my eyes, taking in the silk tie at his throat, the clean-shaven face, his strong, aquiline nose and the brilliance of those aquamarine eyes. His hair is clean, shiny, jet black.

It is the same man – and yet . . . I shake my head, sure that I’m hallucinating. What on earth’s in this coffee I’ve been drinking?

His mouth widens into a smile and, as he leans across the table towards me, I catch a scent of sandalwood and lime.

“Thank you,” he whispers, his words so soft they are little more than a breath. There is a strange and sudden intimacy between us; colour flushes my face.

His smile is gentle, reassuring. “Amazing what you see when your thoughts are of kindness and generosity, isn’t it, Gemma?” Those pale eyes twinkle in the same rhythm as the fairy lights dancing beyond the window.

I don’t know how to answer. Have I gone back in time, to a Christmas past? Is this a visit from his future self? Or has there been some inexplicable transformation in his present? How could I have judged him as being without value, without purpose . . . a lost cause? I don’t understand any of it . . . and I badly want to. Just as I open my mouth to ask how he knows my name, he pulls back his chair.

“No, Gemma,” he says with a wink. “You don’t need to comprehend what’s happened here. Just enjoy your life. Value it . . . and see the best in everyone. Who knows what miracles that will bring? Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas,” I echo as he strides away from the table. Inexplicably, I lose sight of him. Minutes tick by as I watch for the door to the cafe to open, but I never see him leave.

Copyright Joanna Gawn 2013

~*~

If you enjoyed this story please do let us know! If you have friends who like reading, please forward this to them! Thank you for your ongoing support.  🙂

merry xmas snowman
Wishing all our readers
Merry Christmas
and a
Very Happy New Year
~*~
Joanna & Ron
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15 responses to “Bitesize Tale for Christmas: Lost Cause

  1. That was a very good story, Joanna. Thank you. I was, for a moment, self-conscious of my own “gap-toothed smile”, but when I saw that you “maxxed out” your credit card, I could see that this would not be a one-sided affair.
    Very realistic, yet idealistic and fantastic at once. I hope everyone reads your story.

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  2. I remember always thinking that I shouldn’t be so judgmental myself – especially when I was at my worst with it. It’s a sobering thought that you can never really know what’s underneath the people you come across without reaching out in some way. Thanks for the reminder Joanna. And, I hope you have a truly magical and memorable Christmas and New Year too xx

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  3. Marcie Cumberland

    What a wonderful lesson. Even those of us who try to help, may need to actually SEE who it is we are helping sometimes.In doing so we may even help ourselves.

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  4. This is a heart-warming story, Joanna. I loved the mention of his gentle hands. Touch provides such a strong connection between people. My most powerful memory is touching a man’s hand to give him some money on a very cold day and feeling how warm he was. It was surprising, though it shouldn’t have been, and it made me actually look at him. He smiled and I smiled back. I think he gave me more than I gave him that day.
    Merry Christmas! Karen

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    • Touch is a powerful connector, isn’t it, Karen? I love your true story, and its kindness. Thanks for sharing, and Merry Christmas to you and yours. 🙂

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    • I know what you mean, Karen. One evening, I was leaving work, and a co-worker who I hardly knew turned town the collar on my parka. I received such amazing, warm energy from her knuckles as they brushed my neck, I turned and looked at her, afterward. She just continued on her way. I never did find the words to tell her.

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  5. Pingback: Linda’s Writerly Tidbits – December 2013 | The Blog of Linda Parkinson-Hardman

  6. I loved it! You captured the spirit of Christmas in there and a mystical bent to boot 🙂 Merry Christmas to you, Jo xxx

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  7. This was so inspirational and Gemma is a wonderful person. She cared enough to give him her last bit of money and I believe she will be rewarded for it. She could see beyond the unpleasant smell of him and offered all she had. Wonderful tale – you are so very talented! I’m new to Friday Flash Fiction, and am so glad I ran across your story. Thanks! Nan

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    • Aw, Nan, thank you sooo much! Really pleased you enjoyed it. 🙂

      The inspirational fiction ‘side’ is usually explored in our novels and most of our short stories. Friday Fictioneers, on the other hand, often gives us the opportunity to explore our dark side. 😛

      We’re passionate about writing, and it’s wonderful to be able to have such a variety in form, structure and content. Thanks again for reading and taking time to write such a lovely comment. x

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