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Rated: E · Short Story · Philosophy · #2221511
A unique encounter with a poor man at the mall.
“When life gives you marshmallows, roast them.” said the bearded man in the Food Court.

I had just sat down with my slice of pizza and my pink lemonade and had given him a friendly nod.  I was surprised when he spoke to me like that--people at this mall are generally not friendly.

“Oh, I see,” I responded.  “Is that like, when someone gives you a lemon, make lemonade?”

This unusual looking fellow (who looked like he just stepped out of the Grapes of Wrath), turned to me with a yellow-toothed grin and replied, “You got it!”

I took a bite of my pepperoni pizza.  I tried not to judge this poor chap.  He was dressed as if it was winter and a howling blizzard was in effect--he wore dark gray stocking cap, a heavy, black coat, and black boots up to his knees.  It was August, it was 90 degrees, and the air-conditioning in the Court was on full.

I did not want to get intellectually cozy with this man.  Still, I could not resist.  So I did answer:

“But lemons are tart, whereas marshmallows are sweet.”

“Yes,” said the bearded man.  “But they can be sticky, and life can be sticky.”

I began to be impressed, and it hit me like a half ton of dirty laundry that it is so true one cannot judge a tome by its jacket.  This fellow was an odd book, indeed, yet what was underneath was fascinating.  All of a sudden I had a warm, fuzzy feeling, which does not happen very often at the Food Court.

So I went on:

“Ah, yet the marshmallow will remain sweet, even when eaten.”

“Normally, that is the case,” rejoined the bearded man.  “But, when roasted, the chemical composition changes--the sugars are metabolized to a much more complex molecular state to which...”

He kept on speaking but I was doing some deep thinking.  This man threw me for fifty loops--I never expected this.  It was as if night had been turned inside out, and I was bathed in resplendent light.

When he came up for air, I asked him his name, and he told me it was George.  My admiration grew, and I flat out told him I was impressed.  Any judgments I had were stowed, any prejudicial misgivings were stifled.  I took a deep breath and readied myself to inquire further of this fascinating fellow--his background, his education, and so forth.  He must of anticipated that, though, because he cut in front of me with:

“I am, therefore I think.”

I sat back, eyed him and nodded.  Ah, yes, I thought; René Descartes.  He was thinking of the actual quote, “I think, therefore I am,” but it didn’t matter.  What mattered was that he did, indeed, think.  The order of words were insignificant.

Never had I heard those words spoken better.  I am not a rich man; far from it.  Yet that day I became a rich man having heard his words, and having had this encounter with this fellow. 

Sometimes riches are measured in simple interactions, in the common ground that is shared, if only for a little while.

533 Words
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