By Roger Dean Kiser
"There's a good movie playing downtown. How about let's go tonight?" asked my wife.
"I guess so." I told her. I really did not like going to the theater. It was located right on the edge of a very seedy part of town. When we arrived we parked the car and started to walk the block or so to the theater.
"Can you spare a dollar?" or "Can you spare some change?" asked almost every person that we passed. Most people coming to this part of town had already learned that it was best not to speak and to just keep on walking.
As we rounded the last corner I saw a gentleman sitting on the sidewalk, his back to the building. Next to him was a large duffel bag. He was unshaven and very unclean. Around his eyes were very dark circles. It appeared as though he had not washed his face for quiet a long time. His clothes were old and worn and there was very little doubt that they were in need of a good washing. As we passed, he said not a word. My wife proceeded up to the ticket booth to buy the tickets.
"Going to see the movie?" asked the man.
"Yea, my wife wants to see it." I replied.
"It's a very good movie." He said.
"Have you seen it?" I asked.
"No. Just heard that it wasÉuh, that it was very good." he replied.
"Well, I had better go in" I said.
"Could you spare a dollar?" he asked.
"Sorry. But the wife's got all the money." I said to him, as I turned and walked away. We entered the theater and my wife purchased a large bucket of popcorn and two drinks. After seating ourselves I slowly started eating the popcorn. All at once I looked over at my wife.
"Can I have $20?" I asked her.
"Twenty dollars! For what?" she said.
"I just need $20, Hon." I replied.
"You're not buying a bunch of juicy fruits and candy junk. I told you that before we came," she said. She reached into her wallet and took out a $20 bill. I took the money and walked back to the entrance of the theater where the man was still sitting. I had decided that I was not going to give him any money. I would invite him in to see the movie and feed him while he watched the show. He looked up as I approached.
"I'll pay for it if you want to come in and see the movie," I said to him.
"I can't leave my stuff. Somebody will steal it. Besides I'm not dressed for the movies." said the man, looking down at his clothing.
"Tell you what, I'll put your bag in the trunk of my car until after the movie."
He quickly reached over and grabbed his bag and held onto it, as if I was going to take it.
"It'll be safe." I told him.
Slowly he got up from the ground and picked up his bag. We walked to where my car was parked. I placed the large bag in the trunk and locked it. We then walked back to the theater where I purchased his ticket.
"Roger." I said to the man, holding out my hand.
"Willie" he said, wiping his hand on his pants before shaking my hand.
I bought a bucket of popcorn and a large drink, which I handed to him. I don't recall the name of the movie that we saw that day. I do remember it was one of those women type movies. You know the kind that makes women cry. Every now and then I'd see a tear rolling down Willie's cheek. Each time a tear appeared he'd cough with his hand over his mouth and then turn his head to the side and wipe the tears away with his fingers.
After the movie the three of us left the theater and headed back toward our car. All Willie could talk about the entire time was that darn movie. My wife and he were talking about the movie as if they were old friends.
"How about some Baskin-Robbins?" I said to my wife.
"You don't need any ice cream," said Judy.
"Just one scoop on a cone. PLEEEEEASE," I begged.
In the ice cream parlor I asked, "What kind of ice cream do you like Willie?"
"Do they have that kind with marshmallows and the nuts in it?" he asked.
"That's called Rocky Road," said Judy.
"Ain't had none of that since before Vietnam," Willie responded.
"Three Rocky Roads. Double scoops" I yelled.
"One scoop for you, idiot," said Judy.
Willie laughed, turning his head to the side as if embarrassed. The clerk reached across the counter handing Willie his double scoop of Rocky Road. Slowly he licked the ice cream and then closed his eyes and just stood there. All at once the top scoop fell off his cone and splattered on the floor. I couldn't help but laugh. Then Judy started laughing. Willy's eyes got real big and his face was that of a young boy who felt that he was going to get into trouble. Then he started laughing. The three of us just stood there laughing as hard as we could.
After we ate our cones we walked to the car. I took Willy's bag out of the trunk.
"Where do you live Willie?" I asked.
"I got a place over at the mission on Market Street." he answered.
"You take it easy, Dude" I told Willie, as I shook his hand.
Judy and I got in the car and headed home. Judy said absolutely nothing about Willie, whatsoever. It was as if she had never even met him. All weekend long I thought about Willie and why he had taken to the streets. I wondered if his experience in Vietnam had something to do with him not caring about himself.
Monday morning I drove back downtown to see find him. I didnÕt see him anywhere on the streets. I drove to the mission on Market Street to see if anyone knew Willie.
"Willie? Don't have no Willie here, " said the man the counter.
"Sort of a short man with dirt rings around his eyes. Sort of looks like a raccoon's eyes. Carries an old green army duffel bag." I told him.
"Oh! You mean Waldo Williams. He left out of here on Saturday morning, heading to Kentucky, on the Greyhound bus." said the gentleman.
"Kentucky?" I asked.
"Yea. Old Waldo came in here Friday night acting as though he'd been on a date, or something. He took a hot shower for the first time in months. He shaved his face down to the bone. Then asked Billy to cut his hair. He told old Bill that he was going back home to his family. He said something about having forgotten that life was supposed to be a fun time."
Our gratitude to Roger Dean Kiser for sharing this story with To Be A Blessing. Roger has used the early adversities of his life to help him focus his heart and mind on being a blessing to others. He ADDS! Roger's stories are frequently published in a variety of venues. He can be reached through http://www.rogerdeankiser.com