This short story belongs with a planned series of posts around the theme "What it might look like". But I will let it speak for itself. What does it say to you? Could you imagine "What it might look like" in some other sense? If you think you could, email me - I'd love some other contributions!
The man lay across the doorway, his head lolling at an awkward angle. He could have been sleeping off a heavy night. It was a common enough sight in this part of town, but he gave a restless groan, and his head lifted slightly, revealing a shockingly battered eye and cheekbone. As he settled back into his appearance of sleep, a trickle of bloody mucus escaped surreptitiously from the side of his mouth, tiny telltale of something far more serious.
As traffic oozed slowly down South Dowling Street, few commuters even glanced towards the stricken man. Amongst those who did, was a well-known church pastor. Gliding by in his gleaming black BMW, he shook his head sorrowfully and passed comment to the sleek-suited councilman seated beside him. “There are so many lost souls in this part of town. We need a place for them to come. A worship centre in this part of town will bring light and hope to people who really need it. We’re talking about so much more than just a building approval, here.”
The councilman nodded absently. “Well I’ll be interested to see what you’ve already got going in your rented premises,” he said.
The sun gleamed off the tinted windows of the car, as it purred by.
Presently, came the hurrying footsteps of a young woman. She was late for a meeting. The same meeting, in fact, the Pastor and the councilman were heading to. As a member of the praise and worship team, she was deeply committed to the congregation and its vision for this city. It was so much more than just “religious observance” to her. She had a deep desire to make a difference. If only others could see and feel the love of the Saviour, the way she saw and felt it!
Despite her hurry (for she was running late, and the meeting with the councilman was an important one), she stopped when she saw the man. Her eyes welled with compassionate tears. She was torn between her commitment to the meeting, and the desire to help the man. Another lost soul. How she wanted to be able to show a better way. But she was meant to be somewhere else, doing God’s work there. She prayed silently for the man, and resolved to spend the day fasting for change in the city. It was with a wrench of spirit that she continued on by.
Again, the man groaned. As the morning sun shifted onto his face, some flies settled on the corner of his mouth. Minutes passed, then more footsteps. They clicked to a halt at the doorway where the man lay.
“Shit. Not another one.” The speaker crouched down, and saw that the man was, indeed, breathing. Then, noticing the tiny trail of blood, she bent to examine the man’s face. Pushing his hair aside, she sucked in a sharp breath at the sight of the bloodied and swollen eye socket, at last revealed. “Oh, Fuck!!” She almost spat the words. “Fuck, fuck, fuck!!!!” Scrabbling in her purse, she grabbed for her mobile, and with shaking fingers dialed 000.
Police and ambulance were quick to arrive. The appearance of the shaken witness provoked little more than a quickly raised eyebrow from the young constable, who questioned her briefly. She had nothing to add, other than what was apparent. It looked like a mugging; the man’s wallet was missing, and there was no ID to be found.
“Look, Fellas,” she said, turning to the Ambulance officers, “I want to travel with him. Make sure he’s okay.”
They looked quizzical. “Are you a friend or relative?”
“Of course not, but can you see anyone else lining up for the job?”
“Sorry, love, if you’re not connected to him we can’t take you.”
“Well then, tell me where you’re taking him – I'll stick my head in and check on him.”
The paramedics exchanged glances. Then the driver shrugged. “I suppose that can’t hurt. Over to St. Vincent’s.”
True to her word, she turned up at the Emergency department an hour or so later. The receptionist was brusque. No. There was no possibility of visiting the patient. He had been taken to intensive care. Visiting was limited to “family only”. In any case, the man was not conscious and had no need for company. If she wanted to help, she could arrange something with the social worker, who could be found in his office just up the corridor.
“Bloody beaurocrats”. She turned on clicking heels and marched indignantly up the corridor. The receptionist allowed her mouth to twitch, just a little, at the sight of the retreating visitor, before returning attention to her computer screen.
It was some days later, that the patient finally regained consciousness. The social worker, sitting beside the bed, was helping him to piece together what had happened.
“By the way, the person who called the Ambulance left something for you,” he said. “She also insisted on paying for your Television and laundry service.” Detaching an envelope from his clipboard, he handed it to the patient. “I’ve been holding onto this for you.”
The dazed and bandaged patient opened the envelope. Inside, was a wad of notes, a brief letter, and a business card.
“Here,” Said the social worker. “I’ll read it for you if you like.” Unfolding the letter, he began.
“Listen, kiddo, I realise you don’t know me, but I’d like to help in any way I can. The money's for whatever you need. Anything else I can do, just give me a shout – happy to help. Too much shit goes on, and we all need a break sometimes.
I move around quite a lot with my show, but you can contact me using the number on the card. Cheers, Gloria.”
Turning over the business card, he commented “It seems you have an unusual patron! – Gloria Estiffana – Les Girls Travelling All-Male Cabaret. – Well, help is help. She seems quite the good Samaritan!"