“I was like you, once,” said Thomas, leaning back a little.
“Old man, you were never like me,” answered Richie. Turning around and watching the door.
“I once knew the mean streets,” said Thomas.
“Just give me your wallet, old man,” whispered Richie. He brandished the knife.
“You can have my wallet, but you will be hear me out first, boy,” answered Thomas, coughing.
“Why won’t you just give me your wallet?” asked the knife wheeling boy.
“I am dying and it doesn’t matter anymore,” answered Thomas.
“What, I haven’t cut you yet. Yet!” he said, once again wheeling the knife round and turning to see if anyone was coming.
“I am sick, I don’t have long, I haven’t told anyone but you.”
“I still want you wallet.”
“You know when I was your age I robbed a deli, you know the one, over on fourth.”
“Yeah, what about it.”
“I was arrested and charged.”
The younger man spun around as if the police were already there.
“I went to court,” Thomas said, stopping to cough.
Richie could see the spotted hanky. “You got the lung cancer.”
“Yes, I do,” answered the old man.
“So what happened,” asked boy.
“I was arrested and charged and if it wasn’t for this one man, I would have been sent to the big house.”
“Yes, him too, but it was the Judge who sentenced me to learn three songs. If I didn’t learn them by Christmas, he was going to throw the book at me.”
“Let me get this straight old man you were sentenced to learn three songs. What three songs?”
The old man nodded and touched his fingers on the keyboard. The old organ seemed to come alive, as he began singing Amazing Grace.
“Stop, Stop. You had to learn Christian songs, Oh I would have rather went to prison.”
“You say that now, but you aren’t the one that was heading to prison.”
“Yeah, who taught you, to use the piano?”
“I learned how to play the organ from the man that sat here in this very spot for thirty years playing for the congregation of this church. He taught me how to play my first song and I played it for this congregation on Christmas Eve.”
“When was that?” asked boy. He had put the knife away and sat down next to the old man.
“43 years ago,” answered Thomas.
“What are you 70 years old?”
“I am 58 and won’t see 59,” Thomas said grimly.
“So why did you really come into this church tonight,” asked Thomas
“The door was unlocked.”
“Why did you stay all these years?”
“Because I found a home here and a place in life.”
“Can you teach me?”
“Maybe, but, it will cost you?”
“How much, would you want?”
“Oh, work a broom and mob, once or twice a week around the church.”
“Big church,” whispered the boy.
“Big job teachin’ a punk like you how to play.”
“Okay, but, no wash, on wax off stuff,” Richie laughed.
“What?” asked the old man?
There it began, Richie would show up after dark each night learning and sweeping. He even started coming on Sundays to listen to the old man play. He snuck in like a thief and disappeared before anyone noticed him at the end of service. He avoided the congregation and only Thomas saw him for who he really was.
“You need to let people know who you are, not who you were.”
“Why, I am just thief.”
“I never saw you as a thief.”
“Old man, I mean, Thomas, I tried to rob you that first night and almost stabbed you.”
“Yeah, but you didn’t.”
“But you didn’t know that.”
“I knew it”
Spring, summer, and fall went by and they practiced. Richie dust moped the church each night finding peace as if he were a Zen Master in his Garden.
The Sunday service fell on Christmas that year and the church was full of people. Richie came in late and stood in the back. The service went on and it came to the music part of the sermon. But everyone looked over at the empty bench.
“I am sorry; to inform you that Thomas Foremont has passed from this earth. He battled for his life for the last year and never seemed to give up. He never missed a day in church and always had his faith. Let us have a few moments of silence.”
The congregation bowed their heads and Richie fell to his to his knees. He felt something for someone other than himself for the first time. Through tears soaked eyes the headed for the door; ignoring the calling in his heart.
Later on, “Thank you, for coming, we all feel the loss. I had only known Thomas for the last few years but we…” He stopped as he saw the young man enter the center aisle.
From the back of the church came a new voice, a man’s voice breaking into song. “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me….” Richie continued to sing as he walked to the Organ and began to play.
Dedicated to Pastor Garrent Pitts (of Florida) and my Uncle Pastor Clif Farnworth (Passed on, 1999)
The above short story is to be considered copyrighted. I am the author and kept all rights to the above story. Unlike most of the material on my blog it a fabrication of Fiction. I wasn’t told the story. It is not meant to be about anyone in particular and should be considered a product of my imagination. The author doesn’t not smoke or drink in excess. He has also held the same job for 20 years. So if you like fiction and want to read more of my works of fiction you can go to http://lettersfromtheverse.blogspot.com read the posts from the beginning and you should be able to figure out the storyline. You can also catch me on Facebook, under the name, Letters from the Verse.