Friday, December 16, 2011

The Filling Station

The old man sat in his gas station on a cold Christmas Eve.
 He hadn't been anywhere in years since his wife had passed away.
 He had no decorations, no tree, no lights.  It was just another
 day to him.  He didn't hate Christmas, just couldn't find a
 reason to celebrate.  There were no children in his life.
 His wife had gone.
 
 He was sitting there looking at the snow that had been falling
 for the last hour and wondering what it was all about when the
 door opened and a homeless man stepped through.  Instead of
 throwing the man out, George, Old George as he was known by
 his customers, told the man to come and sit by the space
 heater and warmup.
 
 "Thank you, but I don't mean to intrude," said the stranger.
 "I see you're busy.  I'll just go"
 
 "Not without something hot in your belly," George turned and
 opened a wide mouth Thermos and handed it to the stranger.
 "It ain't much, but it's hot and tasty.  Stew.  Made it myself.
 When you're done there's coffee and it's fresh."
 
 Just at that moment he heard the "ding" of the driveway bell.
 "Excuse me, be right back," George said.
 
 There in the driveway was an old 53 Chevy.  Steam was rolling
 out of the front.  The driver was panicked.
 
 "Mister can you help me!" said the driver with a deep Spanish
 accent.  "My wife is with child and my car is broken."
 
 George opened the hood.  It was bad.  The block looked cracked
 from the cold; the car was dead.  "You ain't going in this
 thing," George said as he turned away.
 
 "But mister.  Please help...."The door of the office closed
 behind George as he went in.  George went to the office wall
 and got the keys to his old truck, and went back outside.
 He walked around the building and opened the garage, started the
 truck and drove it around to where the couple was waiting.
 
 "Here, you can borrow my truck," he said.  "She ain't the best
 thing you ever looked at, but she runs real good."
 
 George helped put the woman in the truck and watched as it
 sped off into the night.  George turned and walked back inside
 the office.
 
 "Glad I loaned em the truck.  Their tires were shot too.
 That 'ol truck has brand new tires........" George thought he
 was talking to the stranger, but the man had gone.  The thermos
 was on the desk, empty with a used coffee cup beside it.
 
 "Well, at least he got something in his belly," George thought.
 George went back outside to see if the old Chevy would start.
 It cranked slowly, but it started.  He pulled it into the garage
 where the truck had been.  He thought he would tinker with it
 for something to do.  Christmas Eve meant no customers.
 He discovered the block hadn't cracked, it was just the bottom
 hose on the radiator.
 
 "Well, I can fix this," he said to himself.  So he put a new one
 on.  "Those tires ain't gonna get 'em through the winter
 either."  He took the snow treads off of his wife's old Lincoln.
 They were like new and he wasn't going to drive the car.
 
 As he was working he heard a shot being fired.  He ran outside
 and beside a police car an officer lay on the cold ground.
 Bleeding from the left shoulder, the officer moaned, "Help me."
 George helped the officer inside as he remembered the training
 he had received in the Army as a medic.  He knew the wound
 needed attention.
 
 "Pressure to stop the bleeding," he thought.  The laundry
 company had been there that morning and had left clean shop
 towels.  He used those and duct tape to bind the wound.
 
 "Hey, they say duct tape can fix anythin'," he said, trying to
 make the policeman feel at ease.  "Something for pain," George
 thought.  All he had was the pills he used for his back.  "These
 ought to work." He put some water in a cup and gave the
 policeman the pills.
 
 "You hang in there.  I'm going to get you an ambulance." George
 said, but the phone was dead.  "Maybe I can get one of your
 buddies on that there talk box out in your police car."
 
 He went out only to find that a bullet had gone into the
 dashboard destroying the two way radio.  He went back in to find
 the policeman sitting up.
 
 "Thanks," said the officer.  "You could have left me there.
 The guy that shot me is still in the area."
 
 George sat down beside him.  "I would never leave an injured man
 in the Army and I ain't gonna leave you." George pulled back the
 bandage to check for bleeding.  "Looks worse than what it is.
 Bullet passed right through 'ya.  Good thing it missed the
 important stuff though.  I think with time your gonna be right
 as rain."
 
 George got up and poured a cup of coffee.  "How do you take it?"
 he asked.
 
 "None for me," said the officer.
 
 "Oh, yer gonna drink this.  Best in the city." Then George
 added: "Too bad I ain't got no donuts."
 
 The officer laughed and winced at the same time.  The front door
 of the office flew open.  In burst a young man with a gun.
 
 "Give me all your cash!  Do it now!" the young man yelled.
 His hand was shaking and George could tell that he had never
 done anything like this before.
 
 "That's the guy that shot me!" exclaimed the officer.
 
 "Son, why are you doing this?" asked George.  "You need to put
 the cannon away.  Somebody else might get hurt."
 
 The young man was confused.  "Shut up old man, or I'll shoot
 you, too.  Now give me the cash!"
 The cop was reaching for his gun.
 
 "Put that thing away," George said to the cop.  "We got one too
 many in here now."
 
 He turned his attention to the young man.  "Son, it's Christmas
 Eve.  If you need the money, well then, here.  It ain't much but
 it's all I got.  Now put that pee shooter away."
 
 George pulled $150 out of his pocket and handed it to the young
 man, reaching for the barrel of the gun at the same time.  The
 young man released his grip on the gun, fell to his knees and
 began to cry.
 
 "I'm not very good at this am I?  All I wanted was to buy
 something for my wife and son," he went on.  "I've lost my job.
 My rent is due.  My car got repossessed last week..."
 
 George handed the gun to the cop.  "Son, we all get in a bit of
 squeeze now and then.  The road gets hard sometimes, but we
 make it through the best we can."
 
 He got the young man to his feet, and sat him down on a chair
 across from the cop.  "Sometimes we do stupid things." George
 handed the young man a cup of coffee.  "Being stupid is one of
 the things that makes us human.  Comin' in here with a gun ain't
 the answer.  Now sit there and get warm and we'll sort this
 thing out."
 
 The young man had stopped crying.  He looked over to the cop.
 "Sorry I shot you.  It just went off.  I'm sorry officer."
 
 "Shut up and drink your coffee." the cop said.
 
 George could hear the sounds of sirens outside.  A police car
 and an ambulance skidded to a halt.  Two cops came through the
 door, guns drawn.
 
 "Chuck!  You ok?" one of the cops asked the wounded officer.
 
 "Not bad for a guy who took a bullet.  How did you find me?"
 
 "GPS locator in the car.  Best thing since sliced bread.  Who
 did this?" the other cop asked as he approached the young man.
 
 Chuck answered him, "I don't know.  The guy ran off into the
 dark.  Just dropped his gun and ran."
 
 George and the young man both looked puzzled at each other.
 "That guy works here," the wounded cop continued.
 
 "Yep," George said.  "Just hired him this morning.  Boy lost his
 job."
 
 The paramedics came in and loaded Chuck onto the stretcher.
 The young man leaned over the wounded cop and whispered,
 "Why?"
 
 Chuck just said, "Merry Christmas, boy.  And you too, George,
 and thanks for everything."
 
 "Well, looks like you got one doozy of a break there.  That
 ought to solve some of your problems." George went into the
 back room and came out with a box.  He pulled out a ring box.
 
 "Here you go.  Something for the little woman.  I don't think
 Martha would mind.  She said it would come in handy some day."
 
 The young man looked inside to see the biggest diamond ring he
 ever saw.  "I can't take this," said the young man.
 "It means something to you."
 
 "And now it means something to you," replied George.
 "I got my memories.  That's all I need."
 
 George reached into the box again.  A toy airplane, a racing
 car and a little metal truck appeared next.  They were toys
 that the oil company had left for him to sell.  "Here's
 something for that little man of yours."
 
 The young man began to cry again as he handed back the $150
 that the old man had handed him earlier.  "And what are you
 supposed to buy Christmas dinner with?  You keep that, too.
 Count it as part of your first week's pay." George said.
 "Now git home to your family."
 
 The young man turned with tears streaming down his face.
 "I'll be here in the morning for work, if that job offer is
 still good."
 
 "Nope.  I'm closed Christmas day," George said.  "See ya the
 day after."
 
 George turned around to find that the stranger had returned.
 "Where'd you come from? I thought you left?"
 
 "I have been here.  I have always been here," said the stranger.
 "You say you don't celebrate Christmas.  Why?"
 
 "Well, after my wife passed away I just couldn't see what all
 the bother was.  Puttin' up a tree and all seemed a waste of a
 good pine tree.  Bakin' cookies like I used to with Martha just
 wasn't the same by myself and besides I was getting a little
 chubby."
 
 The stranger put his hand on George's shoulder.  "But you do
 celebrate the holiday, George.  You gave me food and drink and
 warmed me when I was cold and hungry.  The woman with child
 will bear a son and he will become a great doctor.
 
 The policeman you helped will go on to save 19 people from being
 killed by terrorists.  The young man who tried to rob you will
 become a rich man and share his wealth with many people.
 
 That is the spirit of the season and you keep it as good as any
 man."
 
 George was taken aback by all this stranger had said.  "And how
 do you know all this?" asked the old man.
 
 "Trust me, George.  I have the inside track on this sort of
 thing.  And when your days are done you will be with Martha
 again."  The stranger moved toward the door.
 
 "If you will excuse me, George, I have to go now.  I have to
 go home where there is a big celebration planned."
 
 George watched as the man's old leather jacket and his torn
 pants turned into a white robe.  A golden light began to fill
 the room.
 
 "You see, George, it's My birthday.  Merry Christmas."
 
Author Unknown

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