BY VICKEY STAMPS
Neither tall, nor short, his shoulders bowed from the burden of age, wearing a white tee-shirt over a pair of’ ‘common place’ pants, and … she hoped, comfortable shoes, the man walked down the sidewalk in the modest sized town. His thoughts were his own, for his lips were silent upon his face as he put first one foot in front of the other to a destination. He did not walk fast. Where was he going? The woman wondered, watching him from the inside of her moving car. Perhaps it didn’t matter. He was another child of God. For one reason or another, she felt led to say a quiet prayer within her mind, that he would find comfort or whatever other need was on his mind in his life today.
Average to one another in size, soiled clothes and battered back packs seeming heavy on their backs, the young man and woman walked side by side. Their faces and hands looked soiled. She thought to herself that they were in need of a bath, and did they have an odor about them? In each set of hands was clutched a dogs lease. The attached dogs were medium in size and in a type of quiet contented companionship, they trotted alongside the couple. She knew it mattered nothing as to what she thought, not even a little bit. They too were God’s children. She would carry them along with the old man to the throne of the Lord with her prayers and leave them there.
The old man wished they had not considered him too old to drive any longer. They’d taken away his license, and when the children found him driving anyway, they had taken the car and sold it. So it was, that his feet took him to wherever he had to go. His means were small and the money for a taxi, was far too large for what was in his wallet. He and the ‘old mother’ as he had called his wife for many years, managed as best they could. The children had wanted to put them in an assisted living home, but neither had been willing to be a part of such a plan. The kids had been born in the old house, and they’d all shared good times and bad within its walls. They had a small dog that barked as if it were larger then it was. He always left it with her for protection, when his steps took him off on errands. Today it was to get Mildred her heart medicine. She had been out of money for a week already, but today the social security check would be in the bank. He had rolled up the sack, holding the prescription tightly within his hand. He’d stop by the little cemetery that held the older boy, lost to a war they said wasn’t a war at all. He’d talk to him for a few minutes and make his way home.
The old mother had asked him to do that, and she asked so little of him, he would walk that extra half mile to have that conversation. He wished he had something to decorate the plot, inside which his son lay. Maybe the kids would stop by today, but maybe not. Their lives were always so busy. Perhaps tomorrow… yes, he was pretty sure that they’d drop by for a few minutes tomorrow. Funny but he’d felt sad as he had made his way home, but felt now that something, somehow… had lifted the burdens of life from his shoulders. He stood a bit straighter and smiled slightly. He wouldn’t let life beat them up. No! He would not. Maybe he and the old mother could make it the mile to church. They used to go. He knew strength and love lived there. Heaven knew they could use some of that. He’d heard of some special programs that would save he and his sweet wife several dollars on electricity. Maybe he could get a ride with someone to where others helped out with free food. Pride wasn’t always ones best friend. Perhaps he could be a bit more humble. He’d talk to his son about it.
They had family, but, their ideas and values were far different then their own. The parents wouldn’t change their ideas, neither set, nor would the young married couple, change their own, so they had parted ways. They had moved away, seeking something new, sometimes praying for something better. They’d fallen into hard times, played with drugs, having stumbled into the company of those they should have avoided. Neither had an education to boast of, not that a boastful heart was a good thing. They had each been able to survive at minimum wages for a long time. They wanted a family, but knew they had no money for such a luxury as that. How would they pay the bills, buy the clothes for growing kids? How would they feed them?
They had come across a couple sitting outside a large department store, and fallen in love with the two pups left and taken them away with them. Perhaps they could feed dogs that needed little more than a bit of food, love and company. The economy had fallen to pieces, jobs were cut back and his was among them, her own only part time with very few hours. He felt badly. It was his job as a man to provide. They’d become evicted and with no place to live, no phone upon which to be called, they had packed the little they had, rolling it carefully into old backpacks. Leashes upon the pups, now beloved dogs, they moved out onto the streets. They went to missions when they could, and slept where beds were available. Last week they had caught a ride to a beautiful redwood tree filled community, hoping to perhaps find a better life in a smaller town. At least, while they had no place for the homeless there, they could pick up bottles and sell the empties, get two free meals a week, and sleep in the woods. Sometimes they were hungry but they were young and strong. Things would get better, they had to get better.
Ted tucked in the plastic bags around his sweet wife, grateful the nights were still warm and the season of rain still far off. It bothered him more then he dared speak of, that he couldn’t take better care of her. He loved her so much. Maybe they should call home, beg them to let them return. He knew his parents would take him in, but not his wife, and hers would take her but not him. Maybe they could hang on for a while yet. He’d heard of prayer and maybe he’d try talking to the Creator. He’d been blaming him for the fix he and his sweetheart were in. He had to blame someone. He could bear only so much at this point. He would sleep for now. Later into the night, he had woke to hear Misty crying. He’d gathered her close to himself, seeking the reason. She was pregnant. ‘whatever were they going to do?’.
He’d taken the plastic bottles they’d collected. They gave him fifteen dollars. ‘How far would that go?’ he’d wondered. He’d gotten the cheapest bag of dog food he could find, and splurged on a hamburger and coke for Misty. He’d told her he’d already eaten his. Sometimes a man had to lie so as not to cause harm. He hoped the Creator he’d spoken to last night, had understood that sometimes life got in the way of doing the right thing. He’d slept little. He was going to be a father. He’d had the feeling something good was going to happen soon. What it was, he did not understand, nor when it would happen. He fed the dogs, and fashioned a sign upon cardboard that passing drivers could see.
Two dogs for sale.
We are desperate.
Best offer accepted!
The words were penciled in permanent ink upon the surface. They stood upon the corner, crying together sometimes, to know life had come to the point of having to sell the dogs. At least he could get Misty to see a doctor that way. A car pulled up nearly to the corner, and a man approached them.
“Nice looking dogs, Son!”
“Yes, sir. They are. They are good dogs”
“They protect you, do they”
“Yes, Sir, they do and they don’t eat much. You like to buy them?”
“Why you selling them, Son?”
“My Misty, here, is making me a father, and I need to get her to see a doctor. Make sure she’s going to be okay. We got no place to stay. We are short of money. We’ve been trying to get a job, but they take one look at us and say, they’ll let us know if anything becomes available. It’s the same story every time we ask. We aren’t beggars Sir. You give us a good price and we’ll be alright for a while.”
“Well those are mighty fine looking dogs. They look well taken care of. I got some of my own. Looks like they are loved. I’d like to make you a deal. I’m a veterinarian. I am so busy I could use some help. How would you feel about you and your Missus moving into a little apartment in back of my clinic. Misty could help me up front with the clients and their animals, and you could help me out, plus walk and groom the dogs there. It wouldn’t pay a whole lot right away, but you could get by. What do you say to that?” And so it came to be that a future became promising, that the sun might shine upon them a bit brighter, and the breezes come again to kiss their cheeks. There was hope. “Thanks great Creator.” Ted whispered as he, Misty and the dogs climbed into the car, for a home once more…for a new beginning.
The old woman in the car drove on, having trusted the three strangers and the dogs, to the Lord’s care. She would mention her belief at church this day, of praying for strangers, even if she never knew if it helped them or not. It didn’t matter. It had always helped her.
Perhaps, if life had taken a different turn than it had, if she had become a stranger in the need of prayer, alone and perhaps homeless … It might have been her. Had that been the case, she hoped someone would pray for her.