A Gift

by

The first time I saw her, she was sitting and talking with a homeless man who looked just like Jesus. They were outside Trilliman’s, an upscale bakery and sandwich place at the shopping center. Two small wrought iron tables with chairs were set up there for patrons to enjoy intimate talks over specialty coffees. It was hot that day. She and Jesus, in their layered clothing, had usurped the space and were sipping orange sport drinks purchased from a vending machine. A policeman ran them away from the establishment. Homeless people were not welcome.   I decided that day the woman must be an angel. She was by Jesus’ side and her frizzy white hair haloed her head. After that, no matter where I saw her wandering the streets with her grocery carts and shopping bags, or which homeless people she was with, I thought of her as the angel, a disciple of Jesus.

As I stepped from the door at work the week before Christmas, rain surprised me. It wasn’t forecasted. I covered my head with my purse and ran to the car. As the defroster blew warm air, it took the chill off.  I fished around in my pocket for the shopping list I’d scribbled at lunchtime. Sighing at all the gift buying I still had to do, I put the car in gear and resigned myself to fighting crowds before going home.

My youngest son had to have the latest style of sneakers. The ones he wore still fit, but according to his assessment, they were vintage. No one wore those kind anymore. The shoe store in the shopping center displayed the latest rage in sneakers in their weekly ad flier in the newspaper that morning. If I didn’t hurry, they’d all be gone and I’d be browsing ebay and bidding way past the true purchase price, with the addition of  express shipping to have them before the holiday. That gift was number one on my list.

The oldest boy had recently bought a used truck and was ‘pimping’ his ride. He talked non-stop about fender flares, grill guards, camouflage seat covers, fog lights, bed liners, and lift kits. I had lots of items to choose from and several automotive stores to visit.

My husband, the hardest man to buy for because he has everything, had mentioned sometime in the spring that he needed one of those battery rechargers and rechargeable batteries. The boys used his flashlight and left it on, killing the alkaline batteries. “Children,” he’d muttered. “They don’t appreciate the value of a dollar.”  The specialty store with the charger and batteries he needed was way over on the other side of town. Traffic was always horrific this time of year. I’d not get home until late. I was glad I’d put a beef roast in the crock pot to cook early that morning.  

I took my place in the line of cars at the traffic light leading to the main thoroughfare. In the distance, I spotted the angel.  It had been several months since I’d seen her last. She stood on the corner of Pine Street and Garrison Road. I recognized her immediately. She has a presence that makes you remember no matter how long it’s been. She seems to understand her direction without maps or a GPS, goes about her business with an unstated purpose; and I never see the troubles of this world reflected in her eyes. 

The rain came down hard enough to use my windshield wipers, and the angel didn’t have an umbrella or a hat. A bright yellow terrycloth headband spanned the area between her forehead and hair line. The ends of her hair drooped and dripped with the water which ran and soaked her Green Bay Packers windbreaker. The jacket was tucked into a pair of olive green army fatigues which were cinched at the waist with the sparkle of a silver sequined belt. Her pants legs disappeared into the tops of knee length black rubber boots sporting bright multi-colored polka-dots, the kind preppy college girls can’t wait for rainy days to wear. Mud from the North River Trail caked her boots. The angel had appeared street-side from the path in the woods where a small group of homeless people on this side of town congregate to commune and sleep at night.  

She was standing there at the intersection when the crosswalk sign changed offering her a safe passage. She didn’t take it. She stood there, holding her electric blue tote bag close to her chest. She peered into the car waiting for the light to change at the end of Pine, then she pecked on the passenger window with her index finger. She reached inside her bag, pulled something out and handed it to the person inside the car. She waved as the light turned green and the car pulled away from the curb. She stepped back and waited. The cars coming down Garrison got their green light and surged forward toward their destinations.

The first car sped past the angel close to the curb and through a puddle. A wave of rainwater crashed up onto the sidewalk and over the angel’s feet. The caked mud slid off onto the sidewalk, and she looked down at the colorful polka dots on her shiny wet boots. She smiled.

My light turned green after a minute, but the yellow one caught me before I could pull out into traffic. Cursing my fate under my breath, I sat staring at the now red light. I was first in line, but waiting again. I noticed movement to my right. The angel had come over close to my car. She pecked on my passenger door glass.

I pressed the button to lower the automatic window. It slid down halfway.  The angel reached into her tote and pulled out a plastic covered candy cane. She handed it to me.

“Merry Christmas,” she said.

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2 Responses to “A Gift”

  1. Stephanie Says:

    I love ur stories so much!!!!!!

  2. train-whistle Says:

    Thanks Steph. Your reading and commments mean a lot to me.

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