A young man sighed as he waited for the train to arrive. It was barely noon and already he was feeling the aches in his joints from a hard day’s work. He rubbed the back of his neck; how many of his boss’s projects did he set in motion today anyway? Ten? Twenty? Maybe more now that he thought of it, the slave driver —
Laughter caught the man’s attention, and he glanced over at a woman with her five year old daughter, both whom had taken a seat near him. The little girl was playing with a small stuffed puppy, making the puppy “talk” to her mother as the woman lovingly played along.
The man couldn’t help but feel a small twitch in his heart; so many years ago did he use to play with his own mother the same way? Of course he couldn’t remember; she was taken from him when he was no older than that girl, and his father had died in a car wreck not long after. He had been taken in by his now boss shortly after.
A small frown crossed his lips. Often the man wondered what could have been if he had never been taken in by the wretch. Would he have gone to an orphanage? Would he have gotten into alcohol or drugs? Died in the streets? Would he have become a successful businessman or a doctor? A teacher? A priest? He almost laughed at the last one; to think of all people he would consider being a holy man if things had turned out differently!
The blaring of a horn in the distance caught the man’s attention; the train had arrived. He glanced back at the woman and the little girl. The five year old had jumped up and ran to the edge of the sidewalk so that she might get a better view of the train. The mother was paying more attention to picking up the bags and didn’t notice how close she was. He stood up, and the sound of metal objects hitting together rung below him. “Excuse me.” The woman looked over at him. He looked down at a deep hole in the sidewalk right below his chair, too small for his large hand to fit in. “I dropped my keys, do you think you or your daughter could get them for me?”
“Sure,” the woman replied. She walked over and took a look at where the keys had fallen. “I see them, but I don’t think my arm is skinny enough to reach — Jasmine, come over here please.” The little five year old bound over to her mother. “Can you get those keys for mommy?”
“’Kay” Jasmine replied, reaching her arm in. It took her a few moments, but finally she got them out.
“Thank you,” he smiled, taking the keys from the little girl.
“You’re welcome,” she replied, before turning to her mother. “Mommy, my arm is stinky and gooey!”
The mother laughed, “I know, you got yucky stuff on it, didn’t you? Let’s go clean up before the train gets here.”
“Sorry, I didn’t realize it was like that in that hole,” he apologized, wiping off his slime-covered keys.
“Don’t worry about it; getting dirty never hurt anyone,” she replied, taking her child out towards the nearest restroom. No sooner had she left, the train arrived. Seeing that he was the only person on the sidewalk, the man shook his head; this was not his train. Since no passengers were getting off at this stop, the train left a few moments later.
As the train rode away, the man turned and left the station. “What an interesting turn of events.” The man turned towards the speaker, discovering a face he knew all too well. Many had a name for that face, but that man knew him by one particular name: “Boss”.
“What’s interesting?” he asked, not making eye contact with the person.
“That train’s going to wreck a bit sooner than planned,” Boss replied, checking his Rolex as he did. “About half a day early if I’m not mistaken.”
“So it will,” the man mused, hailing a cab.
His boss glanced at him, “And the mother and child?”
“The little girl was busy searching for something; she wasn’t close enough to the tracks to fall on them when the train came near.” He shrugged. “Since she didn’t fall on the tracks, there was no reason for the mother to jump after her and get hit as well.”
“I know you saved them.” The man stopped at the tone his boss’s voice held. “You’ve been working for me for twenty years now; you should know we do not help people. If you wanted to grant miracles, you should have asked the other man for help back then.”
The man sighed. Of course he would pull that card. But when you’re five years old and all alone, you look for help wherever you can find it; you don’t stop to think that there’s some sort of higher, invisible being that’s going to help you out if you ask for it. Of course, two could play that card — he turned to his boss and said the only phrase known to strike a hard chord with the demon before him: “God bless you.”
Amanda Clifford writes in California.