So, this week I have been a little remiss on participating in my own daily challenges, so I am making up for that today with this short piece. Hope you enjoy it.
Stories from a Cafe
The two brothers met twice a year in the same little café in South Florida since they found their vocation nearly thirty years ago. It was a private, inside joke they shared, because even though they were twins, they had not been raised together. Like the movie Parent Trap, the twins were separated when their parents divorced, except they knew of each other and got together once a year until each of the parents had remarried and just didn’t want to lug uncooperative people across the Atlantic Ocean. Yet, despite being raised completely differently and having different experiences, both chose to enter the clergy.
Adam started his new life as a priest but ten years ago became bishop of the local diocese. John was very happy as vicar for a small community in the English countryside. Together they felt like they watched over the Northern hemisphere flock and often quip that they should have been triplets so one could have watched over the Southern hemisphere.
Neither could leave their flock for too long, and so they only stayed in Florida for two days, but those two days were filled with stories, laughter, memories, and friendship. This visit was no exception, and both had great stories to share with each other and whoever wanted to listen in on their conversation, which oddly enough happens quite often.
“You’ll never believe what happened just last month,” Adam said, sipping his iced tea.
“Oh, do tell,” John said, dabbing orange marmalade on a slice of toast.
“Well, remember me telling you about that vacant lot just behind the graveyard?”
“That was the focus of a city council meeting and when they called for public commentary, a young man stood up holding a bunch of poster boards and asked to make a short presentation.”
“Young people sure like to get involved nowadays, don’t they?”
“You know, they do. Just the other day a little girl walked up to me crying because there were workmen trimming the trees and removing dead limbs before winter. She was just beside herself thinking we were taking away the bird’s home because they would have nowhere to lay their eggs next year. She demanded I tell the workmen to put the limb back on the tree. It took everything I had to not laugh out loud, but after she started marching around the churchyard shouting, “Save The Eggs! Save The Birds! Put The Limb Back!” it was just too much and I had to go inside as to not embarrass myself and make her feel worse.”
John was chuckling, and other café patrons were giggling quietly as to not give away they were listening to every word. The server brought out another round of drinks and their breakfast orders.
“So, go back to your story. What did the young man want to present?”
“Oh,” Adam chuckled. “Well, he got up there and gave a whole presentation on the benefits of microhouses and how they have helped provide a solution to homelessness in cities like Seattle and other places. He proposed putting a dozen of those little houses on the lot.”
“I’ve seen those,” John said. “I don’t know if I could live in anything that small. Although, a tiny house on a large lot would leave quite a bit of room for a garden.”
Adam laughed. “You didn’t hear the best part, or worst part, depending on how you look at it. The young man claimed he had microhouses built and could move them into place in a matter of days if the council would cover the cost of moving them, which he said would be five thousand dollars.”
“That’s an awful lot of money isn’t it?”
“I don’t think so,” Adam said, “at least not these days, but anyway, after a little filibuster the city council agreed and cut him a check that night so that he could start the process in the morning. Well, you’ll never believe what happened next.”
“Well, I’m still listening. Learn how to tell a story properly.”
“In the morning there were twelve microhouses sitting on the lot just as he said there would be. Only thing was, they really were microhouses. The silly things were six inches high, and four inches wide! The young man cashed the check and skipped town just after nine in the morning.”
Everyone in the café was laughing. John was shaking his head. “Kids these days.”
“You’ll never believe my ‘kid’s these days’ story,” John said.
“I’m all ears.” Adam said, eating a slice of bacon.
“It all started about three months ago when a new family moved into the parish. They were a young couple, a little quiet and stand offish, but that’s to be expected. Their little girl, though, was quite precocious and lonely. They lived close by and she began walking over every day to say hi or see what we were doing. Then she started bringing over her dolls in a little red wagon to introduce them and let them see what we were doing.”
“What were you doing?”
“Oh, nothing much, we installed a new sprinkler system so that Mrs. Franklin doesn’t have to water by hand anymore.”
“That’s nice of you guys. Those systems can get expensive.”
“They can that, but I have a few workmen in the parish and someone offered us a really good discount.”
“Those are always nice.” They both chuckled.
“Anyways, she started bringing her dolls and we would all stop to say hi to each one of them every morning. It was getting a little ridiculous, but it reached a new height when she brought over her dolls, a kettle, and a very questionable looking box of crackers. Little Angela invited all of us to join her dolls for a tea party.”
Adam shook his head picturing all those grown men and women sitting in the dirt having a tea party with dolls.
“No one had the heart to say no, so there we were, sitting in the dirt waiting while she placed all twenty-six of her dolls in their proper tea party order. She set the kettle down and liquid splashed out. We all looked at each other in horror. She actually had some form of liquid in it. We thought it was going to be a pretend tea party, but oh no, not with Angela. Nope. She opened the box of crackers and they were green. Green crackers.”
Half the customers in the café put their forks and spoons down looking at their food grimacing.
“She handed each of us two crackers with the biggest grin on her face. No one had the heart to make a sound or facial expression other than a smile. I felt something move in my hand and I’m pretty sure the crackers were not just green and moldy. I’m sure they had maggots in them as well. We were all saved when her parents came out looking for her because they needed to go shopping. They were absolutely horrified. I do feel bad though. After that they never came to church and, in fact, they moved two weeks later.”
“I’ve seen some pretty nasty things in my time, but maggots still make me squirm.” Adam said. “Did I ever tell you about the vagabond that lived in an old abandoned house just down from the church?”
John thought for a moment, then shivered. “You mean the one that came to church every day for Mass covered in maggots that would drop off, leaving a wriggling path on the floor?”
“Yeah, that’s the guy,” Adam said. “You’ll never believe what happened to him.”
“I probably would never be right, so I’m not going to try.”
Adam chuckled, pushing his empty plate to the center of the table for the server to pick up. “You can just never tell what a person is really like based on how they look. Turns out he was a very smart man, but things had happened in his life and living on the streets was his life now, so he just learned how to accept it.”
“It’s really depressing how fast a person’s life can go from being wonderful to horrible, isn’t it?”
“It is, and his story was really sad. His wife had been a florist at a very popular shop, but one day as she was starting to make an arrangement for a customer, a young man with a gun came into the shop to rob it. He wasn’t the brightest of people because he came in at ten in the morning on a Monday when the weekend deposit had already been made and few customers shop that early for flowers. He became flustered and angry. Ended up shooting her and the customer. The customer lived but the vagabond’s wife died”
“Oh no! Did they at least catch the young man?”
“No, they didn’t. It’s still unsolved. He took it really hard and lost everything after that.”
“Well, he’d been living on the streets for close to ten years before I met him. Anyways, one day after leaving Mass, he walked past the stamp shop and noticed someone had dropped a stamp, so he went in to tell the owner and return it to the store. The store owner hollered at him about being in the store and kicked him out. The guy went in again, trying to explain about the stamp, but this time the store owner phoned the police, so he left with the stamp. He said he walked around holding the stamp, then really looked at it under the lights by the library and couldn’t believe his eyes. It was not just any stamp someone had dropped. It was a famous, very expensive stamp. He decided he couldn’t so to the auction house looking like a tramp, so he came back to the church, and asked me to hold the stamp for him. I said I would of course.”
“Of course, you would. Any of us would.”
“True. Apparently, he went back to the homeless shelter, took a shower, got some fresh clothes from the Salvation Army, and a free haircut from Betty’s School of Beauty. I almost didn’t recognize him when he came in asking for his stamp back.”
“Then what happened?”
“I didn’t hear anything for a while, and I never saw him at Mass again after that, until almost two months later. I get a letter in the post addressed to the church with a donation for one million dollars in it. He had sold the stamp at the auction and moved to an island in the Caribbean. He wanted to thank me and give back to the church that had not sent him away like he was gum stuck to the bottom of our shoes. He’s also found a new friend down there that makes him very happy.”
“Oh, I’m so glad that it was a happy ending.”
The café gave a unified sigh and ahh, forgetting they were not supposed to be listening in to their stories. The twins left the café and enjoyed some sightseeing before John had to leave for England in the morning.
Rather than flying home this time, John wanted a bit of an adventure and signed up for a trip across the Atlantic on an old sailing ship. His first impression of the ship was that he stepped back in time and was sailing to the new world. It was quite thrilling to imagine being on the Mayflower. That was until the third day of the voyage when they hit rough seas. All the ups and downs, and tos and fros, left him quite sea sick. On the fourth day, they hit near hurricane force winds that caused anything not bolted on deck to get tossed from the ship. That lasted three days and finally a rescue ship arrived and used modern forms of power to get them all to England by the end of the day. Back on dry land he swore never to seek sailing adventures again, but discovered a new interest in Treasure Island, Robinson Caruso, and Moby Dick.