Saturday, February 28, 2009

Food For Thought

“If GOD had a name, what would it be
And would you call it to his face
If you were faced with him in all HIS glory
What would you ask if you had just one question.”

Joan Osborne, One Of Us

It didn’t feel right taking a booth. It was lunchtime and I was by myself, and I was sure there would be parties of three or four who could make better use of a booth than I could. I tucked the newspaper I had bought from the machine outside tightly under my arm. There would be time to read it later, and certainly no room at the lunch counter to spread it out.

There were three places to eat in a 5 block radius and the Everything's Tip Top Diner was the best of the three. It was always crowded at lunch, but I managed to spot two empty stools at the lunch counter on the far end of the counter. I sat down and stretched my arms to get a better idea of what my elbow room would be if someone were to sit next to me. I decided there was adequate room and that I would be comfortable.

I pulled a bottle of aspirin out of my pocket, opened it, and spilled three out onto the counter. My temples were throbbing again.

I prayed no one would sit next to me.

A waitress with red hair took my order and smiled as she walked away. Her name tag said “Monica.” She seemed older than she probably really was and you could tell that at one time she had had a pretty figure and maybe a happier life. There was nothing to her smile, though, except for the hope of a good tip and a smear of red lipstick.

I listened to the din of the diner. There was a baby crying off to my left and a man with a thick and phlegmy cigarette laugh to my right. There were glasses rattling in dish racks and plates crashing around in bus tubs.

As I scanned the menu, a man sat next to me.
“Thanks,” I said to myself. I guess my sarcasm was directed at GOD for ignoring my prayer in regards to the empty seat next to me.

The man who sat himself on the stool next to me was tall but his demeanor and face were that of a smaller man. He was balding and had bright little eyes. He was wearing a blue track suit and white high top sneakers. A tape player was connected to his belt, and I could hear Springsteen’s Badlands through his head phones. He tried to swivel himself around on the round stool, but our knees met with a thud and his round the world stopped short.

Laughing, he apologized as he swung back around so that he was facing straight ahead. He caught me looking at him and smiled.

“Afternoon. Sorry for the music. I just hate turning off The Boss, you know?”

He turned the player off and appeared to be waiting for some sort of response from me.

“It’s cool, “ I reassured him. ‘It’s a great song. And you weren’t bothering me.”

“Well, good to hear. And always good to meet another Springsteen fan. July 7, 1981. The Meadowlands in Jersey. NOW that was a concert."

I smiled, but offered no opinion. I hadn't seen Springsteen live and I guess he picked up on that and asked, "Well, maybe one day, right? Would you mind passing me a menu?"

‘Not at all,” I said as I passed him a menu from the rack on my right.

“This place has GREAT French fries.”

“Is that so?” I said.

“Oh yeah. Well worth the travel?”

I popped the three aspirin into my mouth and washed them down with some Coke. “Come a long way, did you?"

“You can say that.”

I looked at his funny little warm up suit and asked, “Did you power walk all the way?” I imagined him doing that funny duck-walk-jog thing around the mall.

“Power walking? ME? You couldn’t get me anywhere near a shopping mall...a little too static for me. I mean, seriously, how many times can you walk past the Godiva chocolate store without caving I right?"

How weird, I thought to myself, that he would make that comment about shopping malls. But I guessed that where people his age did their power-walking laps. But still...

“No. I just took a little stroll. It’s a beautiful day.”

“It certainly is. Thank GOD for that, right?”

“Of course. And you’re welcome," he said sounding very full of himself.

“I’m sorry. What did you say?"

"I said they’ve got really good French fries here. You should try them.”

I turned and tried to act as if I had something better to do. Better to end this now before I had to look at faded family photos in his wallet or hear about his golf game.

“Am I bothering you?" he asked not bothering to look at me.

“Not at all. I’m just waiting on a burger. Guess I'm hungry and a little preoccupied.”

"And fries?” He continued talking as if I wasn't there, "You got the fries with your burger right?"

“No. I decided to be good and got a salad instead.”

“What a shame. You should have gotten the fries. They’re the cat's pajamas.”

“Maybe next time.”

I saw my waitress coming towards me with a plate.

“You don’t know what you’re missing. I love a salad as much as the next guy, but these fries. Oh Brother!”

The waitress sat my plate down in front of me and I was amazed to see my burger with a large side of fries.

“Excuse me,” I said, stopping my waitress from retreating into the back for a quick cigarette break. “I had ordered the side salad, not the French fries.”

“Oh, I’m sorry Sugar. I could have sworn there was a salad on the plate. I can get you a salad. It'll just take a minute or two.”

I looked over at Smiley next to me. He nodded towards the fries and then back at me.“No. No. That’s okay. I’ll go with the fries today. I heard they’re the...uh-.”

"The cat's pajamas," my curious friend finished.

“Okay, Sweetie. Whatever you want,” and with that she disappeared beyond the swinging doors into the kitchen.Smiley was still staring at me. All time seemed to have frozen. I reached down and picked up a rather long French fry, blew on it, and popped one end into my mouth.

“Is that not the best French fry you have ever had?”

It was hot and I huffed and puffed trying to put the fire out in my mouth. “It’s hot,” I choked.
“Well of course it is. That means they’re fresh. Good right?”

“No cat-ever-had-better-pj's good,” I said.

“Well, then, you’re welcome.”

You’re welcome? Why am I welcome?”

“You don’t think it’s weird that you ordered a salad and got French fries instead?”

“This is a diner. It’s an imperfect world. Mistakes happen. Wait. Are you trying to tell me that you had something to do with this?”

He just smiled at me like the Cheshire Cat.

“Did you flag the waitress down or signal her or something?’

"Let’s just say that I really wanted you to try the fries. Besides, you really didn't want the salad. It’s not a problem, really. And you are welcome. Now eat up before they get cold.”

I took a bite of my burger and grabbed another French fry.

“Ok. What did you mean by ‘you’re welcome?’” I asked.

“Forget about it. You wouldn’t believe me anyway. Just enjoy your burger and fries.”

Monica came back and placed a white plate in front of the perplexing man to my left. There was a delicious looking BLT buffered by a heaping side of French fries. Smiley hummed happily to himself and popped several fries right into his mouth.

“Who are you?” I asked quite matter-of-factedly.

“Just a guy," he said with a sly smile.'

“Bull. There’s something else. I feel like I know you. C’mon. Out with it. Who are you?”

Smiley put down one half of his BLT and turned to look at me. There was a glob of mayonnaise on his chin. “I’m GOD, Joe.”

“Excuse me. Did you just say you were GOD?”

“Yep. You asked and I told you.”

"Well, GOD, you've got some mayo...there..on your chin."

"Oh. Thank you," he said as he wiped his chin with a napkin.

GOD. THE GOD. As in GOD in Heaven? In GOD We Trust?”

HE interrupted and continued, GOD Bless Us Everyone. Thank ME It’s Friday. Yes. GOD. HIM," HE looked up towards Heaven and pointed.

“Sure. It figures.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Oh no. It's not you. It's me. It's always me. I’m a magnet. For people like-"

He stared at me blankly.

"Look. It's not you. Ok. Well. I guess it is. It's just that if I get on bus, I’m the guy the crazy guy who sees giant rabbits wants to sit next to and talk to. Not that there's anything wrong with it. I just seem to attract cr-”

“I’m not crazy. Joe.”

“Of course not. You’re HIM.”

“Yes I am.”

Well, imagine my embarrassment for having not said Grace before starting to eat.”

“Don’t be a wise guy.”

“Why not turn the other cheek?” As I said that I bit the inside of my cheek.

“Hurts likes a son-of-a-gun, doesn't it?"

“Am I supposed to believe you had something to do with that?”

“A little faith goes a long way, Joe. We could always test the theory and see if it happens again?”

I spat blood into my napkin, “No that’s okay GOD. I’ll take you on your word.”

HE turned and enjoyed a few more French fries, a bite of his sandwich, and a sip of coffee.

“So, GOD, how do I know you’re really GOD?”

“You wanna see my driver’s license?”

“No. I mean. Seriously, how do I know you’re really HIM?”

He muttered something to himself about people always wanting proof. And then he said something under his breath about burning bushes. He stopped eating and mumbling and asked “Whatever happened to faith. Why can’t you just believe that I am who I say I am?”

My inner voice answered, “Faith? You’re barking up the wrong tree, Mister.”

“I’m not barking, Joe, and you’re not in a tree. I’m asking the question. Whatever happened to Faith?”

For the first time since we had started our bizarre conversation, I was speechless.

HE continued on as is nothing had happened, if, that is, something had really happened, “So. You want proof?"

My brain kicked back into gear. “Sure. I guess. Wouldn’t you if someone sat down next to you at a diner lunch counter, ordered a BLT, asked to borrow the ketchup and then announced that he was GOD?”

“You have a point.” He took a sip of his coffee. “Ok. What do you want?”

“Ummm…I don’t know.”

“Too bad I don’t have any playing cards on me. I do the coolest thing where I make the Ace of Spades-"

“I don’t think card tricks are going to do it,” I snapped.

“Ok. A tough room. I can respect that.”

“Oh! I know," I said snapping my fingers. “How about a turning your coffee into wine?”

“No can do, Kemosabe.”“’Because you can’t? ‘Cause you’re not HIM?”“No. I can’t turn that coffee into wine for two reasons. One. This is a diner. It’s taken Gus over there a lifetime to build this business and I would hate for him to get in trouble because someone had brought wine into his establishment that doesn’t have an ABC license."

“And the second reason?”

“More pragmatic, really. I just got the perfect blend of sugar and cream in my coffee. I mean, this cup of coffee is perfect. Look at the color. Perfect. I don’t want to ruin that. You’re talking miracles and I’m saying to you. Here. Here is a miracle. I took a cup of Gus’ coffee and made it something perfect."

“Ok. Well, how about something a little more dramatic?” I thought for a second or two and then it came to me. “Make it rain.”

“Make it rain? On such a pretty day? You know how many people have been praying for a day like this? Do you know how many people took their bag lunches to the park today because of the gorgeous blue sky and white fluffy clouds? And you want me to ruin all that just to prove to you I am who I claim to be?”

“Well, if you can’t do it-"

There was a clap of thunder and the sky outside darkened. The diner grew silent as everyone watched the perfect day outside cloud over with shades of gray.Within a second or two, the rain began to fall. Large drops battered the aluminum siding of the diner. I looked at the man sitting next to me who seemed to be burning holes through me with his eyes. There was no expression on his face. There was no gloating and he didn’t say “Ta Da!”He simply turned away and took another bite of his BLT.

“Satisfied?” he said staring at his plate. “Can I stop now or would you like to see frogs falling from the sky?”

“Uh, “ I stammered. “Yeah. You can stop."

He continued eating as if nothing had happened.

"I don't know what to say. I'm....Sorry I doubted YOU.”

“It’s alright. It was such a pretty day though. What shame. No crying over spilled milk, though. And I guess a little rain never hurt anybody. Truth be known, I like a good rain. It washes everything clean. It wipes the slate.”

He took another bite of his sandwich.“Then of course there’s the whole rainbow thing.”

“Yeah, nice one there, with the whole rainbow thing.”

"Don’t kiss up, to me, Pal.”

“Sure. You got it.”

I hesitated and after a minute of silence and a sip of his perfect coffee, he asked, “You okay?"

“I’m not talking to myself, am I?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like in the movies. You aren’t invisible, are you? I’m not sitting here talking to myself, am I?”

“Of course not. I’m really here, sitting right next to you, having a conversation, and eating a pretty darn good BLT on wheat toast.”

I sighed and He laughed. “You’re not what I expected. That is to say, you don’t look the way I thought you would.”

“What did you expect me to look like? Jerry Garcia? "George Burns? Morgan Freeman?”

“I don’t know. When I went to Catholic school, I always drew you with a white beard, sitting on a cloud.”

"So, it’s Jerry Garcia then?” He laughed. “Is that who I look like?”

“Honestly? You look a little like John Malkovich.” HE didn’t say anything. “You know?” I pushed, “The guy from Of Mice and Men? In the Line of Fire with Clint Eastwood?”

“I know who John Malkovich, is.”

“Oh. Right. You’re GOD.”

“Well, yeah, but that wasn’t the point I was going to make. I was going to say that I like movies and that I know my actors. Con Air. Wow. Hard to believe that's the same John Malkovich who was in Places in the Heart.”

“Really. GOD is a movie buff? Who would have guessed?”

“Sure. I have to do something to unwind. What? You think I sit up there reading the Dead Sea scrolls all day? And for the sake of keeping things a little more normal, why dont you call me John from this point on?”

“Ok, John. I'm just having a hard time seeing you at Blockbuster, is all.”

“What can I say? I like movies. I watch television. In fact, I just finished watching all six seasons of The Sopranos. And between you and me and the napkin dispenser, I hated the ending. Even I didn’t see that one coming. I also like the This Old House Hour. Noah and I watch it on Sundays. Noah is a real Norm Abrams nut. Loves the guy! I mean, like a teen girl with Elvis. In fact he’s working on a hallway coat rack right now. I think he prefers the smaller projects to…well you know.”

‘Speaking of which….is he?”

Elvis? Dead? Yes. Elvis is dead. What a waste.” HE took a bite of his sandwich and a long sip of coffee. There was a small piece of toast on his lip.

“You’ve got a little piece of-”


“On your lip-there’s a piece of-”

HIS tongue darted in and out trying to find the crumb. It finally fell off and landed somewhere on his lap.I couldn’t help but laugh. “What’s so funny?”

“I’m just glad you didn’t decide to appear to me at the BBQ place down on Sommerset and 5th, John.”

HE laughed and when HE did the rain stopped and sunlight came pouring back into the diner. “So. Any questions you want to ask while you have me here?”

“No. I’m good.”

I shoved half of my burger into my mouth.“It’s okay, really. This is a working lunch for me.”

“You’re kinda putting me on the spot here. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the whole ‘I’m GOD-do-you-mind-if-I-borrow-the ketchup-thing.’ Questions? I hadn’t really thought about it. I guess I don't have any questons for you.”

“Sure you have. Just think for a second. Catch your breath. It's okay. I've got nowhere to be."

My mind was racing. After all, what would you ask GOD?

Finally, I blurted out, “Ok. How about The Loch Ness Monster. Fact or fiction?"

"That's the question? The Loch Ness Monster? Really?"

"I panicked. It was a stupid question."

"Well, that was it. Sorry. You only get one."

"What? Are you serious? I'm freaked out here. You can't expect me to-"

"Joe. I'm kidding. Ask me another question. Think a little harder than. I'm sure there is something a little more pressing than The Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot-"

Damn. That was my second question. How did he?

"You have a unique opportunity here, Joe. You're talking to GOD. You can ask anything and you want to know about Bigfoot? Why not ask me who is going to win Top Chef this season? Or if Heath Ledger is going to win the OSCAR for Best Supporting Actor this year? Or where the wallet you lost last year is?”

I stared down at my plate. I was never good under pressure. Damnit.

“What do you really want to know? And don’t give me anything you can find out on your own watching The Biography Channel. What do you want to know? I’m here. Take advantage of the moment.”

I grabbed the newspaper and showed him the headline. The front page story concerned a man who had gone on a rampage and killed 11 people. I tapped my finger on the grainy photographs of the mad man's victims, and then looked back at GOD.

“How could you let this happen?”

“What do you mean, Joe?”

“This tragedy. How you let something like this happen...John? This is an eight year old girl. Did she deserve to die so tragically?”

HE stopped and looked at me. There was a flash of something not quite anger in his eyes, “You're right, Joe. It is a tragedy. But terrible things happen. Tragic things happen. I can't control that.”

“YOU can't control it?! You're GOD!" I tried to lower my voice to a whisper, but it was getting harder,"You're HIm, John. Are you telling me 'Sorry, Bub, but shit happens? Deal with it?'”

“Of course not. Look Joe. I gave man many gifts. One of them was free will. You make choices and then you have to live with the consequences. It's very complicated.”

“No GOD. It's not. It's quite simple, really. See. Here is a little girl who is has dealt with the consequences from someone else acting on their free will and now she's paid the ultimate price. Not complicated at all.”

I was suddenly aware that there were no other sounds in the diner. Everything had come to a complete stand still as if someone had pressed the PAUSE button.

“Would it do your heart any good to know that the little girl there, Tanesha, is now with her grandmother and is happy and well.”

“Of course it would. It's just so sad. I don't understand how you-”

“Look at your hands Joe. Do you see any strings?”


“That's because you're not a puppet. And I am not a puppet master. You are in control of your destiny.”

“Than what good are prayers, John?”

“Prayers are good, Joe, and I hear them all. And I hear some better than others. Just because I do not intervene does not mean that I am not listening. It is a matter of faith. You have to believe that what is supposed to happen...will.”

I slid the newspaper in front of him, “Was this supposed to happen?”

“No. Of course not. But it did, Joe. It happened and those people are dead. And it is a tragedy. But what do you do now? Give up. Just say, “Ok. Check please! I'm done.”

“No. I mean-”

“You want to give up?”


“What does it say to you that I am sitting here next to you...right now?”

“That this place has great French fries and you had a craving.”

“I've always liked your sense of humor, Joe. No it says that there was no hope for the man who killed those people. There is hope for you, however. You still have faith. You still have hope. Whether you think so or not.”

“Speaking of that. Can I ask you something else?”

A French fry disappeared into his mouth and with his mouth full, he said, “Shoot.”

“What about me?,” I said meekly.

“What about you?”

“Who am I, John? What am I supposed to do?”

“Don’t you know?”

“No. I don’t. I guess I’m lost. I’ve been praying for-"

Then it hit me.“Is that why you’re here?”

“Sort of. Plus these fries are-”

“NO. Are you here because of me? To help me? Tell me."

He turned his stool until once again our knees were touching. “Joe. I’m here for lunch. A sandwich, a cup of coffee and," He popped another French fry into his mouth, "these great fries. There just happened to be an empty stool next to you.”

“Oh. I see.”

“Besides. I didn’t think you thought you needed me. I didn’t think you believed in me.” He seemed hurt but he didn’t seem angry or bitter.

I couldn’t find the words.

“It's all good, Joe. Everyone’s faith gets tested. Everyone’s. It’s not an easy thing. I understand.”

“I used to believe in you. I mean, I still do, I guess…”

“Used to? Did I do something wrong? Did I let you down somehow?"

My expression changed and HE picked up on it."What? Your life didn’t turn out the way you wanted and you’re gonna hold me responsible? You know how many people only talk to me when they’re taking a math test or when they get pulled by the police and there is an expired inspection sticker on their car?...”

“But if they-"

“I still love them. Despite their bad choices. I probably won’t be having lunch with them any time soon, because some of them just aren’t nice people.”

“You’re GOD.” I realized I was talking too loud when a woman stared at me from a booth by the windows. I whispered, ‘You’re GOD. You’re supposed to like everybody.”

Who says? Who made that rule, Joe? And besides, I didn’t say I didn’t love them, I said I didn’t like them. There’s a difference. They’re all my children, and I love them even though some of them are selfish and mean idiots.

“So you’re here for the French fries and because you like me just a little better than some of the jerks in the world. That does wonders for my self-esteem.”

“Quit feeling sorry for yourself. You asked the question, Joe. Let me answer it. Who are you? You’re a guy. A nice guy for the most part, although sometimes I wish you had a little more patience with people and didn’t drive when you are angry. But for the most part, you’re a good man. But as to the question, “Who am I?” and “What am I supposed to be doing with my life?” that’s for you to find out.”

“That’s a cop out and you know it.”

“This isn’t It’s A Wonderful Life, Joe. I’m not Clarence, I’m not going to show you how the world would have turned out if you had not been born and ZuZu’s petals aren’t in your pants pocket.”

“Then why are you here?”

“Just so you know I am here. And maybe, if that piece of the puzzle is in place, maybe you can focus on other things.”


“Like answering those questions you posed to me yourself.”

He could tell by the look on my face that none of this was what I wanted to hear.
“I’m always here, Joe. Remember that. I’m always here. But I’m not going to make it easy for you. You’re a smart guy. Figure it out. Work at it. In the end, is your life really that bad? You have people who love you. You have a sense of humor that has gotten you through some rough times. And you’re smart, Joe. At least about most things, but when it comes to you, you can be as thick as granite.”

“And that’s it?”

“What do want from me Joe? You want me to grant you three wishes? You want tonight’s winning lottery numbers? You want all the answers now. You want me to tell you how the rest of your life is going to be? How boring is that going to be? What would be the point of getting up every day if you know how it is going to go?”

“The point?” I seemed to disrupt the entire diner and lowered my voice. “Yeah. The point. Why are you here if you’re not going to help?”

“Joe. I can’t give you all the answers. Part of the deal is that you do the leg work. You help yourself.”

“And that’s that?”

“And that’s that, Buddy.”

“You can’t give me one thing? Like when am I going to die?”

“Can't tell you that. I mean, it's not like I have a date with October 16th circled in red magic marker.”

“Why would you say October 16th just like that?”

“Don't read anything into it? All I will say is don't ever go to Poland.”

Poland? What? Are you telling me that somehow I end up going to Poland and I die there?”

He laughed and everything in the diner started back up again as if the needle had been dropped back down on the cosmic turntable, “I'm messing with you, Joe. I have no idea where you are going to die. Or when. I don't have a big calendar with your death date on it circled in red magic marker. You might die in Poland. You might walk out into the street after lunch and get hit by a truck. I don't know. And if i did, I wouldn't tell you.”



“Oh sorry. Look. You can't give me just one thing?"

One thing?”

“Yeah. One thing-"

"One thing. What? Like, 'Well, Joe, you might want to go to the doctor and ask him about all of those headaches you've been having.”

"SEE! That's what I'm talking about. HOW did you know I was having headaches. THAT makes me think there is something going on. Do I have a tumor? Is that how I go?"

"Ok. First. I am pretty sure we covered this, but in case you forgot, let me say it again. Hi. I'm God. Second. You downed three Excederin migraine tablets when I first sat down. It was a big bottle and it sounded half empty. Doesn't take Columbo to figure out you've been having a lot of headaches lately. Thirdly, if you have a tumor or not is not something I can tell you. I will not interfere with your life Joe. It is yours to live and deal with. I can't very well give you free will and then tell you what's going to happen for the rest of your life."

"Just one thing? Please. Let's just say, as a matter of faith."

One thing that will affect your life? Let me think for a second. Okay. I've got something.”

I leaned forward and he leaned into me. I could hardly hear him over the clatter of the lunchtime crowd.

In a soft whisper, he spoke. “That load of white laundry you have soaking in the washer? There’s a red sock mixed in. You’re going to turn everything you own that is presently white a nice shade of pink.”

He pulled back and shoved the remaining half of his BLT into his smiling mouth.

THAT’S it?”

“Seems pretty important, to me. Unless, that is, you want to walk around looking pretty in pink.”

Well, thank you GOD, for saving me from a load of pink underwear and socks.”

“You’re welcome Joe, even though it doesn’t sound like you mean it."

I stared straight ahead. There were letters missing from the menu board and the daily special apparently was going to be "Meat Oaf."

He stared at me for a second and then he smiled. Leaning back towards me, he said, "Your wallet. The blue one with that annoying Velcro flap? It fell out of your pants at a movie theater, somebody found it, took the money, and threw it away. Case closed. Move on. And stay away from Velcro wallets. You're not 11 anymore. Heath Ledger will win the OSCAR for Best Supporting Actor. I had better not see you in Vegas placing any bets on that. And Hosea will win Top Chef. There are just some things I can not control.”

“Thank you for that, John. No Velcro. No Bets. Promise."

He stood up, stretched, and threw a five dollar bill on the counter. GOD was a good tipper. That was nice to see.

I tried to make up for my previous remark and shouted after Him, “Hey. Thanks for the fries. They really the cat's pajamas.”

“Now THAT I believe you mean. Tell a friend,” he said smiling as he put his headphones back on, paid the cashier, and walked out into the sunshine. I lost him in the brightness of the day and saw him no more.

I finished my lunch, thanked my waitress, tipped her five dollars, and headed for the cashier. I paid my tab and grabbed a handful of mints, shoving them into my pocket with my receipt.

I stepped outside and squinted. The air had that just rained smell and I breathed in deep. I didn’t know what had just happened or even if what had just happened had really happened. I wasn’t sure if I felt better about my current situation or not. I certainly didn’t know anything more. I didn’t have all the answers I had been looking for these last few years. I did know one thing however. I didn’t feel as alone as I had before my lunch at The Everything's Tip Top Diner.

I faced West and prepared to step off the curb when a truck turned the corner, blaring its horn, and scaring the Hell out of me. As it sped by I noticed the company name on the truck. Poland Springs Water. I decided against crossing the street.

As I continued down the sidewalk, I reached into my pocket for one of the mints I had taken from the fishbowl near the register. The mints I shoved into my pocket weren’t there, though. Neither was the receipt the cashier had given me.Instead I felt something that felt like the wings of a butterfly. There were several of them and they were soft. I squeezed my fingers tight to make sure I got all of whatever was in my pocket.When I pulled out my hand and unclenched my fingers, I saw something that brought a tear to my eyes. There, in my hand, clumped together from the pressure of my grip, were the petals of a flower. I stared at the yellow and white shapes and then I pushed them back into my pocket.

As I continued my walk, I looked up into the sky. The clouds had parted and the endless blue stretched out above me. A car drove by to my left. The windows were down and I could hear the strains of The Grateful Dead’s Big Boss Man. I laughed to myself.That was when I stepped into a huge puddle.

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