A SHORT STORY
BY RUSSELL UNDERWOOD
This here's the last thing I said to her before she left, and the last thing she said to me. I'm writing it down to have it on record, just in case there's ever any confusion. A deal's a deal, after all.
I said to her, "You'll come for me, won't you? You won't forget."
"I won't forget you," she said, and hugged me. "I never will."
Not long after that, on the sixth night of November, the blind man went to sleep on a bench under the great oak in Speaker's Corner and laid his burden down.
From my box in the cardboard city, I could see him lying there. I watched him for a long time. And finally, sometime past three, I saw the small ghostly form of an elegant and beautiful girl. I barely recognized her from the dirty scruff she'd been when I met her only a month or so before. This night, she wore a purple brocade robe and her green hair was braided with ribbons of purple and gold. She stood by the bench under the old oak and smiled as she extended her hand.
And it was as if the blind man stepped out of his body. When he stood, he looked as ghostly as her. I could see through them both to the maple trees at the edge of the park. He took her hand and hesitated for just a moment before turning back to look at me. To look at me. I swear that he gave me a wink.
And then they were both just gone.
Seven years later, I still wonder about where the blind man went. I think of him, living in some great palace in Elfame, and I hate the jealous feeling that comes over me.
I don't begrudge the blind man his deliverance. Not really. It's just that I'm old now myself, and dying, and I guess I wish for what he got. I wish it for all of us -- for Meg and Bosch and even the sisters, all of us who spent our lives here in the park with no home, no family but each other.
I like to believe there's a home for each of us somewhere -- a true home where we all are loved and cared for and belong. Maybe not everyone gets a home like that. But I still got hope in my heart, and I'll keep looking. I'll keep looking till I die.
Russell Underwood recently returned to Columbia after a stint in Atlanta. He writes and edits medical newsletters for money.
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