chocolate and berries
Photo: Wallpaper cave
“My mom said smoking is bad for people.”
The man looked down and saw a young girl. “How old are you?” he asked.
“I’ll be seven. How old are you?”
“A lot older than that,” he laughed. “And you’re mother is right. Smoking is bad for people.”
“If you know that, then why are you smoking?”
“It’s a bad habit.”
“I’m trying to stop chewing gum. My mom said that’s a bad habit.”
“We have a lot of bad habits, don’t we,” he said, taking a long drag.
“My mom said her bad habit is eating all day long. She said she’s a grazer, whatever that means. And my dog has a bad habit too. He likes to sit at the table with us at dinner time. On a chair.”
“That sounds pretty cute, if you ask me.”
“I’m the one who taught him to do it.”
The man laughed. “Are you excited about Christmas?”
She shrugged. “Everything is kind of strange. A lot of people are sick, or hungry. They’re afraid they won’t have a place to live soon, so the feeling on the air is trembly.”
“Yes. It’s like this,” she said, moving her arms up and down.”
He nodded. “I feel it too.”
“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”
“You shouldn’t talk to them.”
“You look like you’re nice, though.”
“You can’t tell what people are like by looking at them.”
“That’s what my mom said.”
“You’re mom sounds pretty smart.”
“I guess. She knows stuff because she’s lived a long time.”
He laughed again. “Did she say that?”
“I thought so.”
“Don’t you think it’s weird that you can hold fire in your hand?” she asked.
“You mean the match?”
“I suppose it is.”
“I think we take a lot for granted.”
“I think you’re right,” he said, smiling at her.
“You aren’t homeless are you?”
“No,” he said. “Do I look homeless?”
“Not really. I just wanted to know so I could bring food to you, if you were hungry.”
“Well, it’s always nice to think of others.”
“I have a cat named Phylis.”
“I have a dog named, Cat.”
“Really?” she asked, her eyes wide.
“Really,” he said.
“Yesterday was Winter solstice,” she said, staring at him. “It’s going to stay lighter longer, everyday.”
He nodded. “Longer days are always nice.”
“If you could have one wish, what would it be?”
“Yes,” she said, seriously.
“Let’s see. One wish. What would I ask for,” he muttered.
“It’s a hard question,” she said solemnly. “When you have to whittle your wishes down to one thing.”
“It is,” he agreed
“So? What would you wish for?”
“Can I change history?”
She laughed. “How far back?”
“Pretty far,” he said.
“I think the wish is for right now,” she said, her eyes sparkling.
“Then I’d wish for an end to suffering.”
She looked at him. “People are kind of sloppy with their wishes. They aren’t very specific. So, all I can give you is an end to suffering for yourself. You didn’t say an end to suffering for everyone. Therefore, your wish was limited to you. But I promise that you will never suffer another minute in this lifetime.” Then she touched his hand and was gone.
“I guess I was right,” he sighed. “You really can’t tell what anyone is like, just by looking at them.”
Photo: Plato Terentev