IF THIS WAS AN OLD PREACHER STORY
The old man sat on the steps of the Dorr Street Clinic and hoped they’d take his plasma and give him fifty bucks. If this was an old preacher story he’d be homeless, but he had a home in the back room of his daughter’s girlfriend’s house three streets back. He waited all afternoon for the nurse to come outside and call his name, but she never did. If this was an old preacher story, he’d fall asleep on the sidewalk and none of us would know his name, but the nurse knew his name and it was Clarence. Around five o’clock the security guard came over and gave him six bucks to get some cheap whisky from the liquor store next to the pizza shop. If this was an old preacher story, somebody would have given him a dime and not cared that it wasn’t enough to get some cheap whisky from the liquor store next to the pizza shop. After he got the whisky, he drank some of it and started walking home. If this was an old preacher story, a little child would run out in front of a speeding city garbage truck on Dorr Street, and if this was an old preacher story, the old man would run like we’d never seen him run before, throw his body in front of the dump truck, and push the child to the safety of the median in the split second before the dump truck crushed his head and body and all the bystanders gathered around to marvel at his sacrifice. But the old man was just walking home. It was getting dark, and he forgot to get some bread for his daughter and her girlfriend. He hoped they would leave him alone for not getting the bread. If this was an old preacher story, all the people of the city would gather for a grand memorial at Maplewood Cemetery, and an old preacher would deliver the news of the homeless man’s sacrifice, and remind the gathered how we can’t judge a man by his outward appearance. Something would stir in the heart of a small boy in the crowd, and he would begin to believe that the purpose of his life was to help those less fortunate. He would grow up to build a homeless shelter downtown, found a job training program, a rehabilitation center, a halfway house. But nobody died, no one was saved, no one bothered the old man on his walk home. When he reached the house, nobody asked about the bread. He went back to his drafty room, turned on the television, and drank some of his whisky. If this was an old preacher story, this could be your life, if you didn’t renew your mind. The consequences of sin haunt you even in the here and now. But there was a cop show on the television. A car chase, a sting operation, the bad guys got it in the end. The old man watched with pleasure, and he drank the whisky, and that brought him some pleasure. He went out into the living room and sat for a few minutes with his daughter and her girlfriend, and that brought him some pleasure. Sometimes he scratched up a dollar and bought a lottery ticket and hoped to win his millions, but if he did, he thought, this is what he’d do with it. Watch cop shows on television, drink his whisky, sit for awhile with his daughter and her girlfriend.
The Union Jack