Prayers, wishes...everything has two sides...
To some, it may well have appeared to be snow, but he knew better. Certainly, it collected on his shoulders as he left the city behind. Indeed, it lay white and glinting on the top of the large umbrella. When a breeze swirled around him, some even found its way, cold and ice-like down between his collar and his neck, almost burning him in its intensity. But no. It was not snow.
Even the man, dressed in a most correct business suit, was not quite what he seemed. It might have been a serviceable leather briefcase he carried on his solitary way out of town, but that wasn’t the case (if one might be allowed a small pun) either.
Gabe let the city behind him fade away in the distance. It faded as well from his mind as had many, many towns before it and as would the many more yet to follow. It was too heavy a burden to carry so much on his shoulders.
Thoughts swirled in his mind every bit as much as the material swirling down from the heavens above. Do people not realize how much their dreams and wishes weigh? Do they not feel the oppressive weight of the ‘shoulda coulda wouldas’ they tossed about like so much confetti? He pondered on the selfish and the desperate dreams that filled the sleeping times, the hungry times, the cold and weary times of the people behind him. When had the world changed so much? Or had it actually changed at all in the many millennia he had walked? Absolutely he had changed. When he once wore tunics or long, dusty robes, he now wore business suits or leather jackets, even, occasionally, evening gowns. He might be viewed as a business man, a diva or a small ill-kemp child. He, himself, could change, depending upon the situation, surrounding or moment. Still, he thought, it just seemed more burdensome than it once had. The joy had somehow been, what? he mulled, perhaps lost was the word. He nodded to himself as the ash of broken dreams continued to fall upon him. Yes, lost seemed apropos. It simply didn’t seem to matter anymore. It was never enough. Someone always wanted more. He shrugged and continued walking away from that what was into another tomorrow.
Behind him, in a dark alleyway in the city, a small boy awakened as he became aware of the cold touches caressing his dirty face. His eyes lit up as he realized it was snowing. At least, he thought it was snowing. He wasn’t cold though and realized he was actually quite warm. Looking down, Danny saw he was wearing a warm woolen coat. It wasn’t new, but it was deep blue and had big buttons. He had gloves on his hands and, wiggling his toes, he saw he was wearing boots! His ma had a blanket wrapped around her and his baby sister.
“Ma, Ma! Wake up. Look!”
His mother opened her eyes and brushed a weary hand over her face. “What? Where? Danny, where did these things come from?”
“I don’t know, Ma,” he replied. “I wished them, but I never thought they’d show up!”
“You wished them?”
“Maybe you should have wished for money then!”
“Ma… you can’t wish for stuff like that! It’s not right.”
“Not right,” his mother said, curling the blanket higher around the baby. “And why not?”
“Because it just isn’t. Oh Ma, I feel so warm! And Sissy’s sleeping! It feeling like something magical is going to happen!”
“You keep on believing that, boy. I quit believing in magic a long, long time ago.”
“Maybe, you should start again, Ma,” he ventured cautiously.
“Maybe I should,” she smiled.
Neither of them noticed that the snow seemed to glow for a moment.
Across town, Frederick Wentworth got into his shiny new Mercedes and turned the key. To his dismay, nothing happened. The car simply did not crank over. He tried again and still nothing. “That’s what I get for thinking wishes could come true,” he grumbled to himself. “Shoulda known if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.”
A knock on his window startled him. Not being able to hear the man on the other side of the glass, he cracked his door partway open.
“Need some help, Mister?” The man was bundled into a ratty brown jacket that had been patched numerous times. “I ain’t gonna hurt you, Mister” he said noting the look on the man’s face. “I just know some about engines. Used to work on these babies, I did. Wanna pop the hood and let me take a look?”
Frederick shook his head, but then reached under the dash to pull the lever. “Guess it couldn’t hurt,” he said. “Doesn’t run now, anyway.”
The man ducked his bare, rusty colored head under the hood. “Ah, here we go, Mister! Your whatchamacallit isn’t attached to your thingamajig. Gimmie a second here and … try it now, Mister.”
The man in the five-hundred-dollar suit tried the key again and was rewarded with the soft growling purr of the engine. “Well, I’ll be! Thank you.” Frederick smiled at the man who was obviously down on his luck.
“Battery cable was loose, is all. Sure enough is a pretty car. You have a good night now,” he said and started to walk away.
“Wait!” Frederick got out of the car and stood there, tired, but happy in the pale silvered light of the streetlamp. He put his hand in his pocket and fingered off a twenty was outermost on his money clip. “Here,” he said, offering the twenty to the man.
“I didn’t help you for money, mister. You needed some help, I helped. It is what one does, after all.”
“Not in my world, they don’t,” said Frederick, still offering the twenty. Then, thinking about it, took the money clip out of his pocket and added another bill to what he had in his hand. “Here,” he said, offering it again. “I insist! Please.”
“Well, if you are sure. We can use it, no doubt about that. Lost my job a few weeks ago.”
Frederick reached inside his overcoat to the breast pocket and removed a business card, handing it to the man. “Go to the address on the card and tell the man there I sent you and said to give you a job.”
“Thank you, Mister. I’ll go tomorrow!” The ruddy-haired man stuck both the cash and the card in his pocket and hurried off as Frederick got back into his now nicely warmed car.
He shook his head. “Now why on earth did I do that?” he wondered to the night. He shrugged and drove off for home. The crystals falling on his windshield seemed to glow for a second. The man noticed it but figured it was a reflection from the street lamp overhead.
A few blocks away, Stevie Maddox took another punch to the face. The two men holding him grinned maliciously. “How do you like it?” asked the third man, winding up and punching Stevie in the stomach. “Does it feel good? Shall I hit you again, you low life piece of scum?”
“N-n-no. Who are you?”
“I’m the brother of the woman who for some stupid reason loves you. Does it make you feel like a big man to wale on my sister? Feel big now?”
Stevie shook his head.
“I’d think twice if I were you before you ever hit her again. She works two jobs to keep a roof over your lousy head and you get mad because she spent the money she earned on food? What is the matter with you?”
“Just wanted to go get a beer,” he mumbled. “I work hard too,” he complained. “Just wanted to get a beer with the guys.”
“So you hit her?” The man drew back to punch him again, but paused as Stevie cringed back. “Tell you what, you jerk. I don’t know what on earth she sees in you, but she insists you are a good man. I don’t see it, no matter how hard I look. You ever hit sis again and I’ll find you. You hear me?”
“Now go home and tell her you are sorry. Get your act together, man. My sister is good people and she don’t deserve no guff from the likes of you. You hear me?” Stevie nodded again as the men gave him one last shake before releasing him. They watched as Stevie stumbled home.
The falling flakes sparkled overhead as Stevie let himself in his front door to see his wife, eyes reddened from crying open her arms. As the door closed behind him, he was apologizing and realized he meant every word of it.
The man trudged over the last bridge leading away from town. He paused for a moment and realized he felt a bit better. The night sky sparkled as stardust swirled and glittered about him like fine gold and silver glitter. He listened to the sounds in the night. He heard words of acceptance, echoes of a man telling of his adventure to his wife as he handed her a hundred and twenty dollars, exactly the amount of the overdue rent, a soft giggle of a mother snuggling her children.
“I guess, it does matter,” he shouted into the waning night. “It really does!” His load immeasurably lighter, he faded into the early morning light. Behind him, the new day dawned, sunlight glittering off the slowly melting, fulfilled wishes washing the bruised dreams of others with a soothing balm.