And the Old Man Saved Me

Reads: 463  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 4

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is a short, simple story that I wrote recently about an old man that saves a young boy from poverty and in turn changes his life.

Submitted: October 10, 2009

A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 10, 2009

A A A

A A A


The Old Man

by Oliver Zimbelman

 

When I was young, my father once told me a story. He said the story had been told him when he was young and his father was told it by my great-grandfather. My father said the story goes back farther than anyone in the family can remember; back to a time when our people had just come here from across the ocean. Although the story has always been told by word of mouth, I decided I should write it down should something happen to me and my own son be unable to hear it someday. From what I can remember, the story goes something like this:

 

There was once an old man. He was short, rather pudgy, and grew his beard long. He lived close to the sea, in an old house much too small even for him. Every morning, he would awake before the sun rose and roll a large cart into town. On the cart was an assortment of breads, cakes, and other sweets. The man came to a building in the center of town and entered with his goods. This was his shop. The old man was a baker. He made a modest living, selling his goods throughout the day and going home before the sun set in the evening. It was the same thing every day. Nothing changed.

 

One day, just as the man was entering town with his cart in tow, a young child peeked out from behind a building. His face was dirty, and his hair matted and disheveled. The child gave the old man a sly smirk before coming out from behind his hiding place. The old man saw that the child was very thin and wore little clothing. Dirty torn rags covered his chest and torso. Now the man had never seen this child in town before, and wondered why he looked so unclean and unfed. He said to the child:

 

“Who are you? Go home so you can clean yourself up and eat a good meal.” The child looked at the old man with a puzzled expression on his face. “Go on. Where do you live son?” the old man said. But still the child did not respond or move away. He finally whispered softly.

 

“Sir, I was wondering sir if I might try a cake?” The child’s hands wandered toward his stomach in an instinctual gesture of hunger. “It’s just, I’ve been watching you come into town now for some time. And the food on your cart smells better than anything here in town!”

 

The old man was speechless. He had never seen anything like this in all his years. “Who are you son? I’ve never seen you in all my years here.” The boy looked down at his feet as though the question caught him off guard. He kicked at a small mound of dirt and pebbles before looking up again at the man and speaking again in a hushed tone.

 

“Well actually sir, I don’t gotta’ home. My parents died when I was rather young. Don’t even remember em’ anymore now that I think about it.” The old man was rather shocked. He hadn’t heard that there were any homeless children in town, and had certainly never come across one before. It was more or less an unspoken rule that you kept your issues to yourself. And anyways, the townspeople were mostly rather well off to begin with.

 

“No home huh?” the man replied. “Well go on and have a cake then.” At the sound of these words, the child ran excitedly toward the old man’s cart, a look of utter triumph on his face. He grabbed a cake from underneath the sheet the man was holding up and shoved it into his mouth, savoring its sweetness. The old man watched the child devour the cake before covering his goods and moving on down the street. “See me again tomorrow son!” he called out as he made his way to his shop.

 

“Oh I will sir, I will!” the child shouted after him. And that is how it began. Each and every day, on his way to the shop, the old man would meet the poor child on the street and allow him to choose one cake from his cart. And so it was the same every day. Nothing changed.

 

One morning, as the child was walking away from the cart, cake in hand, the old man paused and called after him: “Son, would you like to meet me later tonight? Come to this same place before the sun goes down.” And so the boy met the old man as he was coming back towards his home. The old man looked down into the boys eyes and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Son, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. The streets of this town are no place for a child like yourself. Would you like to come and live with me? You could come with me each day and assist me in my work.”

 

The boy looked at the old man as though he were certain it was all a joke. But after a moment, he stared into the man’s beady eyes and a grin spread across his face. “I would like that very much sir. I would like that very much.” And so every day, the old man and the poor child awoke before the sun rose and rolled the cart into town. The boy assisted the man in his daily work, and each night he would walk back toward the man’s house before the sun set. He and the old man would sit in front of the fire for hours, talking about life, the sea, and baking. And just before midnight the old man would clap his hands together and announce that it was time for bed. It was the same thing every day. Nothing changed.

 

This continued for years. The child grew and soon forgot the life that he had left behind. He accepted the old man as his father and treated him as such. One bright summer day, the young man awoke as usual before dawn and began to prepare the cart for the day’s sales. The old man had not yet awoken, which was very unusual for him. The boy entered the man’s room and inquired of him.

 

“I’m just not feeling up to it today ma’ boy. You know how to handle the shop. Take care of it for me today.” And so the boy rolled the cart into town and sold his goods. The next day was very much the same. Once again the old man was too sick to work and so the boy handled his duties. This continued for some time. One day, he awoke before the sun rose and entered the old man’s room to check on him. He found the old man with his eyes closed and cold to the touch.

 

Even after the death of the old man, the boy still handled his duties and continued to live in the small house by the sea. He would wake every morning before the sun rose and roll his cart into town. He would come to a building in the center of town and sell his goods throughout the day. Afterwards, the young man walked back through town and to the small house. He did this each and every day. Nothing changed.

 

Eventually, the young man found a nice young woman in town whom he thought to marry and they had a child of their own together. And when the man looked down at his son, he saw himself. He saw the child that he was before the old man had saved him.

 

And so I suppose that is why I’m writing this story down now, here in a small house by the sea. It is not yet light out, and soon I will be off to sell my goods. But my son, I hope that in a few years, when you are ready to read my story, that you will understand what that old man meant to me, and how he gave me a life that I otherwise would never have known. And son, how he gave that same life to you.


© Copyright 2019 obz900. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Comments

More Literary Fiction Short Stories