22 - Clarence Odsbody

Submitted by Ken Watts on Thu, 01/04/2007 - 11:48
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The truth is, the fight with William shook me up.

After I was sure he wasn't going to follow me, I took refuge in the kitchen. He had joined his guests, so the table was no place for me.

Nick gave me something to eat, while he was serving the others.

I sat there alone, going over it all, again and again. Why couldn't it turn out right for once? It wasn't as though I were doing it for me. I never got a penny. Did Albert Schweitzer have this kind of problem?

Nick had a little television on the counter. He'd been watching an old movie—It's a Wonderful Life. You know the one. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) jumps into a river to save Clarence Odsbody—his guardian angel. Only Clarence has really jumped in so that George will save him, instead of committing suicide.

While they're drying off, George asks him where his wings are, and Clarence says he needs George's help to earn them.

"Sure," George says. "Sure. How?"

And Clarence—Odsbody—the angel, says "By letting me help you."

* * * * *

Yeah.

* * * * *

I slipped out of the house.

The wind had picked up, and it was a lot cooler than it had been. I was wondering whether to take the streets home or walk the beach back. I thought of just heading for the bus station: leaving right then, instead of the next day. I had all my money on me—I could stop by, pay off Kels.

I noticed him before he stepped forward; just a figure, standing silent, in the dark, waiting. Maybe I gave some sign that I had seen him. Anyway, he stepped into the light, and then stopped again, as though he were offering himself for my inspection.

It was a homeless kid.

He was maybe twenty years old, if that. He had a few days growth on his face, and some rags wrapped around his hands. But mostly it was his eyes. They just looked tired. Unbelievably, excruciatingly tired.

The wind whipped between us, tearing at the palm branches over our heads.

Finally I spoke.

"Do you need something?"

A trace of a smile crossed his lips. He still had a sense of humor.

"A dollar? I haven't eaten in a week."

"A week?"

I was just making conversation. I had already reached for my pocket. But he looked embarrassed.

"Well, not since breakfast."

I began to peel off some bills.

"You have a place to stay tonight?"

He leaned back a little, and a cautious tone came into his voice.

"Why?"

Something broke inside me. I can't explain it, except to say that what I did next was completely and utterly selfish.

I took my entire money roll, and shoved it at the kid.

"Here. Get yourself a bed tonight. It'll do wonders for your perspective."

He took it, but he was still eyeing me, suspicious.

"Are you sure?"