Stuart stumbled along in a nameless alley somewhere in America’s hinterlands while humming Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin.
As usual, he was as drunk as an English Lord. His dirty white t-shirt was partly covered by an unzippered green hoodie he found in a Salvation Army donor bin. An invisible cloud of cheap whiskey and beer clung to him as he staggered along on the uneven cobblestones. They were still slick from the rain that afternoon, and it took all of Stuart’s weakened will power to keep from repeatedly falling.
The thing about Stuart was he was a broken man. Once he had a family. But his wife and daughter died in a tragic carjacking one day. He went crazy from grief and lost his job, SUV, and house. All he wanted to do was drink alcohol and stay in a perpetual state of stupidity. He dropped out of life. He became such a pathetic figure other homeless people in the neighborhood avoided him. Social workers would give him food and try to get him help, but he refused to go into any programs, or commit to shelter rules. His tall lanky figure was a fixture in the city’s alleys and byways. An old injury to his left foot gave him an odd gait, making him recognizable from afar and in the dusk.
Stuart’s thoughts went no further than begging for money, or stealing from supermarkets and liquor stores. He’d been arrested for countless petty crimes, did county jail time and community service, and was always released to resume his miserable existence. Every day was Blursday for him.
All that changed one Afternoon.
It was two o’clock and the town hall bell chimed precisely on time. Stuart stopped and slowly opened his first bottle of Jim Beam for the day when he saw something that froze him, causing him to drop the precious bottle as he watched something very bad happening.
A man with a gun had stopped a car in the middle of the street and was violently pulling the woman driver out! A little girl screamed “Mommie!“ Something snapped in Stuart’s head and he ran as fast as his bad foot allowed, slamming into the carjacker with all of his force. The gun fell in the ensuing struggle and the woman broke free. The enraged car jacker pulled a knife and stabbed Stuart in the chest! Adrenaline running high, Stuart pulled it out and got the switchblade off his attacker and slashed him across the face with it. Suddenly police appeared and separated them. The car jacker was handcuffed and taken away. The last thing Stuart remembered was trying to staunch the blood flow and passing out.
The next day Stuart had two visitors at the hospital. When he opened his eyes the woman he saved was standing at the side of his bed with her young daughter. He could see the relief in their eyes as they could see he’d be all right.
“My name is Beth and this is my daughter Trina. We’d like to be your friends if that’s okay?“
A tear trickled down one of Stewart’s eyes and he was so choked up it took a minute to reply, “Yeah! That would be more than okay.”