Connections

Thank you for the Christmas letters you sent. I’m packing them up carefully for another year. There’s one more that my buddy Fred wrote for his blog, BCNUTS.COM He said I could re-gift it to you.

The Christmas Sandwich

The first major snowfall of the season was expected within the next twelve hours and the temperature would soon be dropping into the single digits. It was getting dark and I had just finished my last in a long line of errands … buying a box of religious cards for Mom.  Even with her failing eyesight, she never misses an occasion and, of course, Christmas is extra special.  My marching orders were clear:  They had to say both Christmas and God or Jesus in the text and must have an angel, the wise men, or the Holy Family pictured on the face. I had met all criteria for the cards but, as luck would have it, not for my lunch; I had missed that altogether.  No wonder my stomach was snarling at me in some foreign tongue!

Fortunately, right next to the card store was one of those cookie-cutter submarine sandwich shops … you know, the one where the guy on TV ate nothing but subs for six months and became an individual instead of a group? It was either that or the Italian sausage place with grease-frosted plate glass windows; I opted for cold cuts.  There were only a few customers scattered about the shop and a rather purposeful-looking Black gentleman standing a few feet back from the counter, carefully considering the menu just above the pictures of tomatoes, cucumbers and bread on the wall.  He was probably in his fifties, wore a well-chewed mustache, navy knit cap and a respectably soiled brown winter jacket.

I excused myself as I crossed in front of him but he never broke his concentration.  “Turkey, Black Forest Ham and Swiss on Italian,” I told the sandwich wench.  The bread was probably a holdover from my fleeting thoughts of the sausage place.  She added some ‘fixin’s’, chips and soda … then asked if I wanted anything else.  She had to ask twice because by now, I was as focused upon the man memorizing the menu, as he was upon his sandwich selection.  It didn’t look like this was an everyday thing for him.

A few minutes after I sat down, he finally made his choice, smiled quietly and settled-in two booths in front of me.  After taking a few bites, his gaze became riveted upon the television mounted a few feet away.  He was nearly unblinking during the news … but when the weather came on, it seemed to create a conflict between eating and watching the parade of maps and snowfall predictions flashing across the screen.

When my distant dining companion was finished, he carefully crumpled and tossed his trash, refilled his cup and produced a previously unseen [by me] shopping cart from behind a half-wall near the soda machine.  It was full, I guessed, of pretty much everything the man owned.  As he reached the door he stopped, turned around, removed his cap and placed it respectfully over his heart.  Speaking through a broad, toothy smile, in a clear voice he said, “I want to wish everyone the Lord’s blessing and a very Merry Christmas.  Thank you.”  With that, he replaced his cap, pressed his cart through the door and was gone.

As I headed for the car I could feel the air had grown colder, with that damp chill that bites your bones just before a snowstorm.  Suddenly I noticed a figure wearing a well-chewed mustache, navy knit cap and a respectably soiled brown winter jacket, sifting through the contents of his wire suitcase under a parking lot lamp.  I went over to him and asked, “Do you have somewhere to stay tonight?”  He smiled, the quiet smile this time, and replied, ” I have a good spot all picked out.”  I offered him a couple of ‘Abe Lincolns’ together with my own Christmas wish.

Still smiling but this time speaking with a note of pride in his tone he said, “Sir, I’ll accept your kind words and be grateful for them but I never accept money from anyone, unless I’ve worked for it.”  Then, looking at an invisible watch he continued, “And it’s after five o’clock!”  With that he offered a wink, wheeled his cart around and disappeared into the darkness.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

One Response to “Connections”

  1. carole M says:

    Dick, thanks for sharing this wonderful story.