Fixing the Broken Man
It was not easy working for Mr. Sprinkles. He demanded a tidy shop. Every day when Mr. Sprinkles walked in, he would randomly walk down an isle of the bookstore, checking for dust. If his white gloves discovered some, that meant a dock in pay. During Arnold’s first week, he owed Mr. Sprinkles $50. He soon caught on quickly because he needed that $50. A person can only tolerate so much peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! By the 13th day, he could no longer stomach the sandwiches. After all, he was eating them twice a day for two weeks! Mr. Sprinkles found the whole charade humorous. He would purposely relish his gourmet lunch right in from of Arnold. He found great joy watching the young man suffer.
“Arnold, if you did your job as you were supposed to, then you wouldn’t be eating those blasted sandwiches 24/7,” stated Mr. Sprinkles, chuckling.
Arnold looked down. He didn’t dare make a comment to Mr. Sprinkles. If he did, Mr. Sprinkles would make him pay handsomely! Perhaps repaint his entire house for free, or pick up litter on the city streets as far as the eye can see. Even though Mr. Sprinkles was very strict, he took in Arnold when his father died of cirrhosis of the liver. His father basically drank himself to death. Arnold slept in the basement of the shop on a military cot. It wasn’t the most attractive living condition, but at least he had a sink, toilet, and shower. Some people in this country didn’t have it so lucky!
- What Can You Possibly Give the Man Who Has Everything?
Taylor Roadhouse believed that money could buy it all. It would take the kind act of a stranger, the love of a dying child, and a reminder from a gifted autistic child that love connects us all.
“Arnie, get me a brewsky out of the fridge,” shouted his father over the blaring TV.
“Papa, haven’t you had enough for today?” inquired Arnold. “I am concerned about your health. You drink too much!”
“If you really care about me, you will give me the damn beer and shut your trap!” Arnold’s father slammed his fist on the coffee table to illustrate that he wasn’t in the mood for games or lectures.
“Yes sir!” Arnold ran to the fridge and plopped the bottle of beer on the coffee table.
“Now get the hell away from me you useless boy!” Arnold’s father picked up his beer and gave it a good kiss. “Come to Papa you gorgeous thing!”
As Arnold was dusting the countertop, two young girls around 5 and 8 years of age approached the counter. “Hi, may I help you?” inquired Arnold.
“Yes, I am looking for children books for my mom,” replied the older girl. The younger girl didn’t say a word. She smiled. Her eyes had this special quality that was indescribable. It was beyond words. Arnold, believe it or not, could feel love radiating out from them. Arnold returned the smile.
“Sure, I will gladly show you where they are.” Arnold gestured to the books on his left side. “All the books on this side of this aisle are children’s books. Let me know if there is anything you two need help with.”
The older girl looked at Arnold puzzled. “Uh, okay. Thanks.”
Arnold returned to his cleaning chores. As he began dusting the shelves behind the cash register, he noticed the little girl in the corner of his eye. “May I help you young lady?” asked Arnold. The little girl handed Arnold a drawing. It was a picture of a young boy that looked very much like him when he was a small child. Right next to the boy was some type of angel that placed its hand on the little boy’s heart. Below the drawing were the words: “Love Heals.”
“Is this for me?” asked Arnold. The little girl nodded her head. “Thank you! That is so kind of you!” The little girl smiled and returned to her sister. Arnold didn’t know what to make of this drawing. He placed it in the drawer and returned to his work.
Arnold’s father had enough of his son’s foolishness! Arnold committed the ultimate crime: He poured all of his father’s alcohol down the drain! All 32 beers! After a 15 minute beating, he threw Arnold in the pantry and locked the door. As punishment, Arnold would serve a week sentence in the pantry. He would only be allowed to consume bread and water.
“Papa! Please!” cried Arnold. “I was only trying to help. I love you.”
“If you loved me, you wouldn’t have poured out my precious beer,” replied his father. “You need to think about what you’ve done!” The father slammed the door and walked away in anger.
“Mr. Sprinkles,” stated Arnold, “I put away all the new books that arrived today and finished all my cleaning chores. May I take a break?”
“You may, but you better not be fooling me, Arnold,” replied Mr. Sprinkles. “Remember the consequences if you are lying!”
“I assure you, sir, that everything is done.”
“Okay. You have 15 minutes. No more; no less. Then back to work. Is that clear?”
“Yes sir! Clear as day.”
As Arnold made his way to the fantasy section of the bookshop--his favorite section by the way-- he noticed the two girls that came in a couple of days ago. Arnold waved at them and smiled. “More children’s books?” inquired Arnold, winking at the two girls. The older girl nodded her head. The younger girl smiled. Again, Arnold could feel love radiating from the young girl’s eyes. Arnold informed the two that he would be outside taking his break. If they needed any help, Mr. Sprinkles was at the front counter. The older girl said “Thanks” but was puzzled why the clerk kept referring to her as “them” or “two.” Arnold felt a presence in front of him and looked up from his cell phone. Seated right in front of him was the younger girl! She slid another drawing to Arnold across the table. This time it was a drawing of an older man. It almost looked like Arnold’s father, but that couldn’t be possible thought Arnold. Papa is dead! He died 3 years ago. There was a shackle around the man’s ankle, and attached to the shackle was a chain that was connected to an enormous can of beer. The can was about a couple of feet taller than the man in the drawing. At the bottom of the drawing were the words: “Please forgive me!”
“Thank you,” said Arnold. “Did you draw this for me?” Arnold heard the word “Yes” in his mind. “What does this mean?” The little girl placed her hand on her heart. Arnold heard the words: “Heal this!” The little girl smiled and walked away. Arnold did not know what to make of these drawings. Was the little girl a magician or mind reader? It was clear that he needed someone to talk to in order to make sense of this!
When Arnold awoke in the morning, he discovered his father lying on the floor with a bottle of whiskey by his side. Arnold ran to his father’s side and tried to wake him but to no avail.
“Papa, wake up!” shouted Arnold. No amount of pushing and pulling his father seemed to do the trick. Arnold called 911 and within 10 minutes the paramedics arrived. A tall stocky man with gray hair took Arnold to the side. He placed his hand on Arnold’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry son, but your father is dead.” Arnold buried his face into the tall man’s chest and cried. The man stroked Arnold’s head.
“It’s my fault that papa died!” The tears were flowing endlessly.
“It’s not your fault son. It’s not your fault.”
Arnold was a happy camper. It was Tuesday and they just got in a new shipment of fantasy books. He couldn’t wait to read Charles de Lint’s latest book. They also got some new children’s books. I’m sure those two girls will be happy to know that when they come in again. As Arnold was thinking this last thought, the bell on the door jingled. He looked up and saw the two girls. Arnold smiled and waved at them. The little girl smiled.
“Hey you two!” said Arnold, full of enthusiasm. “We got some new children’s books in.”
“Sir, I don’t know why you keep mentioning there is two of us!” replied the older girl. “I am by myself! There isn’t anyone with me.”
Now, it was Arnold’s turn to look puzzled. “Of course, there is a young girl around 5 years of age with brown curly hair with you. She is smiling at me right now! She says her name is Samantha.”
“Sir, you must be mistaken. My sister died 5 years ago from leukemia. There is no way that she could be here. She’s dead!” Tears were falling from the older sister’s eyes. Arnold placed his hand on her shoulder, but the girl pushed it away, and ran out the front door. Arnold tried to chase after her, but soon turned around. He decided that it is best to leave her be. It would only make matters worse. Arnold heard the words, “She will be okay,” in his mind. He turned around and saw the younger sister. This time she didn’t smile, but Arnold could feel unconditional love radiating from her heart center. She handed Arnold another drawing. This drawing was a picture of beautiful sunflowers. They made one smile and feel loved when looking at them. At the bottom of the picture were the words: “Love never dies!” Arnold looked up from the drawing but the young girl was gone.
You'll Be In My Heart - Phil Collins
Arnold placed two café mochas on the table. Sally smiled at Arnold and took a sip.
“Thanks Arnie!” said Sally. “I love Jake’s café mocha. It’s awesome!”
“You’re welcome Sally,” replied Arnold. “Thanks for seeing me today. I needed someone to talk to. These past few weeks have been very weird to say the least.” Arnold pulled out three drawings from his folder and placed them on the table.
“These are beautiful Arnie! Who gave you these?”
“Actually, this is where it gets crazy Sally!” Sally raised her eyebrows. “These were given to me by a young girl that is supposedly dead!”
“I don’t understand?”
“There were two young girls that came into the bookshop. One was around 5 and the other was 8. They were looking for children’s books for their mom. However, I soon learned that the younger sister died five years ago from leukemia. It must have been very painful because the older sister ran out the door.”
“Arnie, you interacted with the young girl’s spirit.”
“That explains why the older sister couldn’t see her!” Sally nodded her head. She then began to look at each drawing with great detail.
“What I see is that she is trying to help you heal your old wounds and at the same time she needs your help to help bring healing to her sister and mother.”
“I don’t need any healing, Sally. Everything is fine!”
Sally placed her hand on Arnold’s. “You don’t need to pretend with me Arnie. We all have issues that we need to heal.” As Sally said the last statement, tears began to fall from Arnold’s eyes. Sally took some tissues out of her purse and handed them to Arnie. She kissed him on the cheek. “I love you Arnie! I hope you know that.” Arnold nodded his head. Sally felt compelled to flip the sunflower drawing over. As she did this, she saw an address written on the back side. “Hey Arnie! Check this out!” Arnold’s eyes grew large. “We need to check out this address!”
Don't Dream It's Over - Crowded House
It was early afternoon when Sally and I arrived at Benberry Lane. The address revealed a cottage style house on the left side of the street. Sally took my hand as we walked toward the house. She smiled at me. Sally knew I was nervous and was trying her best to comfort me. Sally rang the doorbell and a woman with brown flowing hair in her mid 40s answered the door.
“Hi, my name is Sally and this is my friend Arnold. Do you mind if we talk to you for a couple of minutes?”
“Sure, I have a few minutes to spare.”
Sally nodded her head at Arnold. Arnold pulled out the three drawings. The mom looked confused. The style of the artwork looked very familiar. “Ma’am, I know this will sound completely crazy, but I have been communicating with your daughter that passed away.”
“You must be joking, young man!” replied the mother. “My daughter died 5 years ago!”
“I know ma’am. I know this all sounds a bit crazy, but I think your daughter is trying to help you. She has come to me because I can see her and hear her thoughts.” Arnold handed the mom the drawings. When she looked at the drawing with the young boy with the angel touching his heart, tears began to fall. Sally handed the mom some tissues. She wiped the tears away.
“Even when Samantha was in the hospital dying of cancer, she would place her hand on my heart and tell me she loved me. She was a complete angel. Her heart was full of such love for humanity. I’m sorry you two. Please come in and take a seat on the couch.” I took Sally’s hand as we sat on the couch. The mom took a look at the second drawing. “Hey, this man in the drawing looks like my friend from the AA Meetings. The mother got up from the couch and went over to the mantle to grab a photograph. She walked over to the two us and pointed to the man in the photo. Arnold’s jaw dropped.
“Ma’am, you are not going to believe this! That’s my father.” Arnold was puzzled. “How do you know my father?”
“Both your father and I attended AA Meetings. We both had serious drinking problems. I missed Samantha deeply and tried to wash away my pain with alcohol. Your father had it much worse than me. He suffered from many personal demons! His father would beat him and his mother. His dad constantly cheated on his wife. But the ultimate blow to your father is when his dad abandoned the family. He never got over this!” The tears were flowing from Arnold’s eyes. Things were starting to make sense. Sally kissed Arnold on the cheek. As the mother saw the third drawing, the tears began to flow again. “Samantha used to give both Elizabeth, my other daughter, and me, a sunflower. She loved how they made us smile.” The mom smiled as she revisited those old memories.
“Ma’am, flip over the drawing,” said Arnold. The mother smiled. She recognized Samantha’s handwriting. “Your daughter wants you to know that she will always love you and Elizabeth. She wants you to know that love never dies!”
“Thank you, Arnold! I am so happy to hear those words! She’s right. Love never dies. Arnold, even though your father was a broken man, he loved you very much. In the AA Meetings, he talked about you all the time! He was very proud of you. He knew you would touch the world with your writing.”
As Sally and I made our way back to Jake’s Café, two white feathers on the ground caught my eye. I picked them both up and smiled. “Thank you, Papa. Thank you, Samantha. I love you both.”
I took Sally’s hand in mine. She smiled and kissed me on the lips.