The Red Umbrella
It was sunny when you left home, so you didn’t take an umbrella. An hour later, you’re caught in a torrential downpour. You run into the first store you can find — it happens to be a dark, slightly shabby antique store, full of old artifacts, books, and dust. The shop’s ancient proprietor walks out of the back room to greet you. Tell us what happens next! This post is part of the Daily Prompt at http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/sudden-downpour/.
I stood just inside the door of the shabby antique store, as tiny rivulets of rain poured from my hair and clothes. A large puddle of rain water spread beneath my feet. An ancient old man with hair exploding out of his ears was looking at me kindly. “May I help you my dear,” he asked? “Looks like you got caught in the rain storm.” The old man caught my gaze and said as comfortingly as he could, “I know just what you need – an umbrella!”
I was disheveled and still dripping wet as I stammered, “Th-Thank you.” I knew I was making a mess of the old man’s floor however, I felt helpless to look away from his kind eyes. They crinkled at the corners as he gently smiled. He continued to meet my level stare and said, “I always know what people need when they come into my store.” In his hands he held out an old red umbrella. It was a bit tattered at the ends where the stays poked out. Otherwise, it seemed to be in good working order.
I did not want to step forward to where the old man was standing for fear I would leave puddles in my wake so, I just stood there – my feet rooted to the wet floor. I felt stupid standing there staring like that. The old man came forward and handed me the umbrella and kindly said, “Here take the umbrella.” “You can have it for free.” “I know this is what you need.”
I reached out and grabbed the umbrella. The minute I touched it I felt a tingly sensation in my arm. I was flooded with the most wonderful feeling. I felt giddy with joy. I was almost manic, my high was so intense. The old man met my eyes again. We exchanged some kind of telepathic mind expansion communication of the purest form in that last parting look between us. We never spoke again. There was no need. His simple act of kindness spoke a multitude of languages in my head.
With the umbrella in my hand, I turned and walked out the door. The storm had abated somewhat and the sun was trying to peek through the clouds. I opened the umbrella and walked down the street as the rain continued to spatter against my shoes. Cars drove by splashing water on the sidewalk with their tires.
At the end of the block I turned left and walked the rest of the way to my apartment all the while thinking about the red umbrella, a gift from the old shop owner. How kind he was to give me the umbrella so I would not get semi-drown in the rainstorm, I thought. People are not that kind anymore I mused. I felt strangely warm inside.
My apartment was just up ahead. As I grew closer I could see into the shadows of the stairwell to the lower level of my apartment building. In the corner a dirty woman was crouched. She was homeless by the looks of her tattered clothes. She held a wet newspaper in her hand trying to shield herself from the rain. Her hair was frizzy and stuck out in all directions.
Normally, I do not look at the homeless people I see in the city. To be frank I am afraid of them. So many are mentally ill these days that you do not know how they will behave. I choose to pretend they are not there. I look right through them and pass quickly.
Today was different. The woman looked at me, and I stared back at her, my breath quickening. When I looked into her eyes I saw the eyes of the old man from the shabby antique store. Her eyes crinkled at the corners just like his with tiny wrinkles spread out like sunbeams.
I smiled first and held out the red umbrella to her saying, “Here take the umbrella.” “You can have it for free.” “I know this is what you need.” I stood there in the shadows with the rain falling gently around me.
The old woman reached out and took the umbrella from my hand. We both stood staring at each other with those silly smiles on our faces. A peaceful sereneness seemed to come into the old woman’s face and she said, “Thank you for your kindness.”
I smiled back at her, turned and walked into my apartment. I knew I had done what the old man had wanted me to do. When the umbrella was no longer needed by me, I was to give it to someone else who needed it. I knew that the homeless woman somehow understood that wordless message too, even though we had not exchanged those words. I just knew it.
As I made a cup of tea, I looked out the window. I could see the homeless woman walking down the street with the red umbrella protecting her from the cold rain that continued to pour down on the greasy city streets below. A wind had picked up and was blowing newspapers across the street.
When the woman got to the homeless shelter at the end of the block I saw her hesitate at the entrance door. She looked as if she was talking to someone as I squinted through the rain spattered glass to try and get a better view.
Still sipping my tea, I watched the old woman in the distance. She handed a young homeless man the red umbrella as she walked into the front door of the shelter. The woman stopped and turned. She looked back at me from a block away as she flashed the most beautiful smile I had ever seen in my life.
(Image captured from http://www.redbubble.com/people/becx/works/7183920-dreaming-of-red-umbrellas on 7/28/14).