The Great Metaphor

“The world is as big or small as you want,” made for a quaint phrase often uttered by Herbert during his residency at the shelter. This motto now found itself meticulously etched underneath the lid of a Swiss pocket watch. Wesley rubbed his finger over the etching like one would place a reassuring hand on the shoulder. The ecstasy of gold could never match the tactile pleasure of the watch itself. His timepiece became a worry stone, as it was placed between the forefinger and thumb. A jewel set in the center of the cap deviated the arc of his finger. There was reason to fidget.

Wes sat in the corner of a city mission waiting for another to arrive. He requested to see a homeless man named Willie, but it was nearly impossible to tell if that was his real name. Sometimes the indigent would never give anything but a pseudonym. The gift Wes had would circumvent that problem though. It was a perk.

The lunch shift was wrapped up and he sat fussing over his tethered bauble while twisting his cup of cheap coffee. He wondered what his life would be like, if he’d never spoke to that fortune teller. Would he still have the gift, and not understand it? Maybe. All he knew was his path in life, a servant in a not-for-profit organization. He also knew he needed a new polo, as he felt the tragic start of a hole in the armpit of the shirt. No amount of mending instruction could save him.

“You’re brave waiving that watch around, son.” A husky voice broke Wesley’s concentration. It may have even produced a startled jump. It was him, though, the one that calls himself “Willie.”

“What? Oh, yes. Well, it’s bound to me in more ways than one. I’m not worried about it being stolen. You’re Willie, right?” Wes turned his head to the side to greet the voice, as if trying to be casual about the impending conversation. He figured his neuroses would never let him though.

“Maybe. Who wants to know?” Suspicion wasn’t anything new, especially if they were running away from their past, but this was only a matter of formality. A sagging, tired, black man immediately brightened from ethereal illumination. As he sat down, spirals of neon yellow and white encased the man and the seat he was on. He was definitely in the lunch line today.

“My name is Wesley. I’m the line cook for the mission here. There’s a story I need to tell you. It’s going to sound crazy but you need to here it.”

“I’ve got nowhere to be,” Willie laughed, “might as well stay out of the cold for a few minutes.”

“OK, good. So… twenty years ago, when I was in college, I went out on the strangest night I’ve ever had. A group from our fraternity got drunk and decided to visit a psychic on a whim. The college was in a small town, and that was the best we could do without getting arrested.” That got a laugh out of them both. Wes continued, “when it came to my turn, the lady got real quiet. After the most awkward pause, she asked me what I wanted out of life. Being the young and hopeful boy I was, I wanted to be rich. Her response was I would get what I want, but not what I expect. It didn’t occur to me what she meant, until many years later.”

“That’s good for you Buddy, but why are you telling me this?” Willie was losing interest quickly.

“A few years after that, I started volunteering in a shelter near Toledo, Ohio. It made my resume look good, and I did feel better for helping out. However, something inexplicable happened on a freezing Winter’s night in late December. My sight was blinded by flashes of light. Where they came from, I don’t know. What I saw was one of our regulars by the name of Herbert wrapped up in these fingers of energy for a few minutes and then it vanished. I asked if anyone saw it, and of course they thought I was making it all up. No more than a few days later, a letter finds its way to the shelter in a desperate attempt to find him.” Wes paused, almost dramatically in this stage of the game, to wet his throat. “It was an estate trustee searching for a man named Herbert Silvers, the last known living heir to a closet organizer fortune. He became an instant millionaire, and I never saw him again.”

“Wouldn’t that be nice?” Willie was thinking of the crates full of booze he’d purchase alone.

“Throughout the years, I’ve noticed this phenomena with other homeless people. It has never failed that they run into large sums of money shortly thereafter. I have good enough reason to believe you’re next, only there’s a catch. I usually find out through the grapevine they’ve died about ten to fifteen years after they strike it rich.” This statement was never comfortable to Wes, because he always worried the visions would be wrong. They weren’t though. Over eighteen years, he batted 1,000. “I make it a point now to warn others about their future. It’s quite a shock to them.”

“So, yer tellin’ me I got ’bout ten years to live, but I’ll be filthy rich the whole time?” The bum gave a dead look to his informant and continued with, “that’s fine by me. I’m 59, kid. What’s my life worth to me now?” Willie shot a side glance at the modest man across from him. “What do you want out of this?”

Wesley sat back with his Styrofoam cup. These sentiments were fairly common, but still irksome. It’s easy to understand it sounds a little fantastic, but what could he possibly gain from lying to any of them? They had nothing right now, and would frequently forget who tipped them off in the future. “In return, I only ask that you not speak about me or this meeting to anyone. I’m deathly afraid I will be hounded for the rest of my life, and just want privacy more than anything. Whenever people get too suspicious, I move to another city and get a fresh start. I’m a little tired of starting over again, to tell you the truth.”

“Well… OK… I guess. Nobody does nothin’ for free. If what you say is true, then I don’t won’t you hangin’ around trying to steal it. You hear?” This was also common, but Wes knew what he was doing. “You won’t see me again, Willie. Just don’t mention me to anyone.” The past has been known to repeat itself.

“Alright… well, I’m out of here. It’s nice talkin’ to ya, pal. I’ll be thinkin’ of that money, when I’m sleepin’ in my box.” Willie was skeptical, and understandably so. What line cook corners you in a mission and gives you a fortune like this? “It must be a full moon, or somethin’,” he thought as he walked over the threshold of the main entrance and straight to the garbage cans.

Later in the week, the local newspaper broke a story of a homeless man who was the sole winner of the Powerball jackpot. A careless lotto player threw away his ticket when he misread the numbers. Willie had snapped up the discarded slip of paper on a whim and shoved it in the face of some convenience store clerk. The rest is history.

“I’m not sure I ever get used to the attitude, Herbert.” Wesley conceded to the watch, “but I know it’s going to happen one way or another.” That small diamond on the watch lid was synthesized, but still very precious. More accurately, it was the remains of Herbert courtesy of LifeGem. He had entered in an agreement with the company to be made into a gemstone after his death and placed upon the watch. Wes was contacted out of the blue by Herbert’s estate after his death, and an oddly cheerful lawyer explained that Herbert demanded the bequeathment be put into the will after a meeting with a psychic.

It meant the world to Wesley.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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10 thoughts on “The Great Metaphor

  1. Nicole says:

    That’s the best I have read here so far. It made me feel warm inside.

  2. Excellent, Nate, very cool early morning read.

  3. kerbey says:

    You’ll have to keep this one going.

  4. This is perfect after reading the NY Times today…..

  5. Well, huh. Didn’t even hear about it until you said something.

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