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Short Story: A Second Chance
"So, Mr Pirrell-"
"Please, call me Andrew."
"Andrew... What made you apply for this job?"
The man before me sat straight yet relaxed, a friendly unforced smile permanently upon his lips. "I'm more than ready to take on some responsibility and I feel that I would be able to prove myself within a firm of this size. Not to mention the fact that it would be a wonderful opportunity for me to gain some further experience in the industry - there's only so far you can go as a mechanic!"
"Ah, so you're ambitious?"
"Great success comes only with great ambition; yes I am."
I smiled. I knew there and then that I was going to hire this man without going through the other questions. It was apparent that he had done his research into the company - something a lot of applicants failed to do - and he was confident without being too sure of himself. He reminded me of myself when I first stepped on the company ladder, and now here I was - managing director. He had the same potential; I could feel it.
"Thank you so much for your time, Andrew," I concluded, standing to shake his hand. "We have several days of interviews scheduled for the position, so I will be in touch with you over the course of the next several weeks."
"Thank you for taking the time to see me today," he smiled warmly before bidding farewell. A charming gentleman. I wanted to cancel all the interviews I had lined up that week so that I could immediately call him to inform him that he had the job, but I knew that that was not possible, or fair. Not that it was fair that I was going to let the other interviewees go through the turmoil of question after question while I already had my mind set on someone. I tried to tell myself that there might be someone better in the group of applicants I still needed to interview, but I was wrong needless to say. Yes, most of them had far more experience than Andrew Pirrell, but he outshone all of them. His eyes had gleamed with passion for this job, and he knew exactly was he was taking on as my personal assistant and handyman. My brain was begging for peace and quiet as the last interviewee droned on about how he had overcome a problem at his previous place of work, and I found myself doodling on my pad of paper as I waited for him to finish his tale. I was perhaps too quick to jump in and thank him for his time when he finally finished, but I was past caring. Besides, he was definitely not getting the job.
It was at the time I was going to deliver the good news to Andrew that I noticed something on his application form that caused my eyebrows to shoot up to join with my hairline. Next to his contact number he had written in brackets "Ask for me". Puzzled, I dialed the number and was further shocked as a woman answered the telephone:
"Good afternoon, St Mungo's Homeless Shelter - how can I help you?"
I hung up before I could stop myself. The man was homeless? No, I must have dialed the number wrong. I redialed and again the same woman introduced the number to belong to the homeless shelter. Again I hung up. This couldn't be right. It just couldn't be!
Maybe it was stereotypical of me to have considered for even a microsecond that that guy maybe wasn't the right candidate for the job after all. Just because he was homeless didn't mean that it was his fault, nor did it meant that it had made him a thief, which I was quick to remind myself of that. I had had my heart set on this man, and I still did.
"Good afternoon, St Mungo's Homeless Shelter - how can I help you?"
"Erm, hi. I was looking for a Mr Andrew Pirrell..."
"Just a moment, sir," she said politely. I waited patiently, wondering what had caused the man to have lost so much in his life. He wasn't bad looking or anything - in fact he was very handsome and charming - so why did it seem that he had no family? Surely they could've helped support him.
My train of thoughts was interrupted by the voice on the other end. "Hello?"
"Mr Pirrell, this is Ian Bails from Wheel Deals. I'm just calling to inform you that you were successful in your application for the job. I was wondering if you could start tomorrow."
There was a stunned silence deafening me from the other end of the line until, "Oh my God!" he gasped, laughing slightly. "Oh my God! Thank you! I can't tell you how much this means to me!"
"I think I already know," I smiled.
"W-well when do you want me to start?" he stammered, so wrapped up in his ecstatic state to have really heard or registered anything else that I had said other than he had the job.
"I told you - tomorrow. Is that okay? Say about 8 o'clock?"
"That's perfect! Really, thank you for giving me a chance."
Putting down the receiver that day, I knew I had made the right choice.
-Ten years later-
Jeremy Langdon heaved a sigh of exasperation. The company was doing really well, but the constantly busy lifestyle was not doing anything to help his health. His wife was now constantly nagging at him to retire but he just couldn't bear the idea of living a life without the continuous ups and downs of a good day's work. Now, however, was one of those particularly long down periods, and he hated it.
His secretary chose the moment that he was massaging his temples - a telltale sign that he was feeling the strain - to peep her head round the door.
"Not now, Tessa."
"I'm sorry, but you have a visitor."
"Who?" he frowned.
"He wouldn't say, but he's very eager to speak with you."
Jeremy sighed. "Alright, alright. Send him in."
He was certain he didn't know him, but the man that entered his office looked oddly familiar. He wore a suit much similar to one he used to have and looked freshly shaven with his hair cropped to a professional style that suited his physique. What really caught Jeremy's attention, however, were the man's eyes. They lit up like large light bulbs behind blue filters, smiling wider than even his wide grin could manage. He looked ecstatic to see the businessman, causing even more confusion on Jeremy's behalf.
"Can I help you?" He had cleared his throat in that nervous manner he hadn't managed to rid himself of yet, and he inwardly cursed himself for seeming so vulnerable in front of this man.
"Actually I just want to thank you," the man replied, still positively beaming.
"Thank me?" He was stunned - no one had ever thanked him for anything before. "For what?"
The man chuckled slightly. "Exactly ten years ago today, you were a very generous man to me. I..." He focused his eyes on the floor with a sigh. "I was going through a rough time..."
"You..." Jeremy gasped, suddenly recognising the man. "You were on the streets."
"I was," the man smiled. "You were so nice to me. No one had ever been that generous to someone like me before..."
Jeremy had been trying to check his watch while still holding the umbrella in his hand, using his other hand to comb his hair back. He needed to look his best for this lunch meeting; it was an almost certain bet that this deal would be the making of him as an individual.
He was interrupted from his preparations by the sound of wheezing and turned to see a trio of teenagers kicking someone on the floor. “Hey!” he yelled, running after them, but of course they were too fast. Instead he turned his attention to the battered man on the floor. “Are you okay, sir?”
“They stole it...” he sobbed. “They stole it...”
“Stole what?” He furrowed his brow as he tried to understand what the man was trying to say through his gestures to his heart. “What did they steal, sir?”
“Your family?” The man nodded. “Where are they? Your family I mean. Do you want me to call them?” The man shook his head as he sobbed harder, a mess of mucus and tears. Jeremy sighed and quickly rang to reschedule today’s meeting before helping the man up. “Come on, let’s get you cleaned up. What’s your name, sir?”
“Andrew,” the man sniffed. “Andrew Pirrell...”
“I remember after lunch giving you one of my best suits and telling you, ‘Here, take this and one day you’ll be dressing like me all the time’,” Jeremy smiled.
“And you were right,” Andrew chuckled.
“Of course I was,” Jeremy joked. “Golly, look at you. You’re unrecognisable from the broken man I helped who had lost everything.”
“Yeah,” Andrew sighed. “Those were hard times.”
“You still think about them?”
“All the time. But now I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. I have my own business, a roof over my head, a family...” He put a hand on Jeremy’s shoulder, breathing deeply so as to keep the tears away. “And it’s all down to you. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.”
Jeremy smiled, lifting a hand to rest it on the other man’s shoulder. “It’s no problem,” he said softly. “In the end, it was really all down to you.”
Both men beamed as they clasped hands in a silent goodbye and good luck. As he opened the door, something ran through Andrew’s mind and he turned to look back at Jeremy. “You had been on your way to settle a deal at a meeting,” he remembered. “Did you still get the contract?” The grin on the businessman’s face was enough of an answer for him and he left the office with a spring in his step.
Jeremy couldn’t stop smiling after that encounter with the man he helped out. He even summoned Tessa to his office so that he could apologise for snapping at her.
“Wow, that man really cheered you up!” she chortled.
Jeremy nodded. “Y’know, I last saw him ten years ago today. He was homeless, and all I did was give him one of my suits. And now look at him. He owns a business of his own.”
“Didn’t he have any family?”
“His wife and kid were killed in a car crash. They’d been struggling financially for a good few months, and working three jobs took its toll on Miranda; she fell asleep at the wheel.”
“Oh my God.”
“After that Andrew was diagnosed with depression and couldn’t work; lost all his jobs. When he was well enough to work again, he couldn’t get anything. Within five months he’d lost everything and was roaming the streets.”
“And you helped him,” Tessa added, smiling widely.
“Well the state I saw him in, there was no way anyone would hire him. He needed a shave, his clothes were dirty and ripped, his hair was unruly... It’s shocking how two months on the streets can break someone even more than they already were.” Jeremy looked up at Tessa and a grin crossed his features. “But now he’s proven me right. He can make something of himself in the world. He just needed someone to prep him up.”
Andrew walked along the pavement smiling to himself, but stopped as he looked up to the respective window. Jeremy looked out and down at him, and the two of them exchanged another silent conversation between them. Andrew would always be grateful to Jeremy Langdon, as he would always be grateful to Ian Bails for giving him a chance to prove himself and later handing down the company to him when he retired. He reached into his pocket and held the set of keys that were his, his index finger momentarily stroking the key that would allow him access to his apartment. After one last glance towards the man who changed his life for the better, Andrew walked purposefully to see his family.
Although this is merely a piece of fiction, homelessness is a serious matter. The common opinion of homeless people appears to be that they are all drug addicts or thieves, and that is not always the case. The world is a tough place to live in. Jobs are scarce and money is not always available. Not everyone can stay on the ladder; people are made redundant and find that they don't have enough money to pay their rent and their bills. Some of these people end up on the streets, like Andrew.
It is therefore important not to be quick to judge homeless people. Some, like Andrew, are given that chance to pick themselves back up. Others are not so lucky, and live the rest of their lives on the streets. For information on how you can help a homeless person, go to my friend Becky Katz's hub: Helping The Homeless.
Thank you for reading.