Her story:
I’m walking along the sidewalk near the St. Vincent’s Hospital
parking deck and I just plain topple over something. I don’t know
exactly what’s happening, but all of a sudden I’m flat on my back
and my head is cut and hurting and my eyes are closed because
I’m dizzy. I keep squinting, and I’m afraid to look around because
I don’t know whether I’m dead or dreaming, or what.
I hear this deep voice saying, “Just lie still, you’re going to be
all right.” I want to see who is talking, so I open up and everything
looks dark red and I think maybe I’m blind.
“I can’t see,” I say to the voice. I think maybe I really am dead.
The deep voice says, “You will be fine. Just be calm. Just be calm.”
I try to take a deep breath and hold on. I feel a warm hand touching
my forehead and soothing me.
It isn’t long before I wake up in the emergency room and learn that
I really will be all right. The nurses have cleaned the blood out of my
eyes and I’m just fine.
I’ll always wonder how my deep voice angel knew how to comfort
me at just the right moment. I wonder if I’ll ever need him again.
His story:
I’m walking along, near the St.Vincent’s Hospital emergency room
near Christmastime, absentmindedly trailing behind a large woman
who is in a hurry. Suddenly, she trips over a partially off-center manhole
cover and falls flat to the ground, her head gushing blood. Her eyes are
closed, and I lean over to see whether she’s conscious.
She moves and squints, but the blood from her cut fills her
eyes so that she probably can’t see. I don’t want to cause further
damage, so I figure the best thing to do is stick by her till somebody
comes from the emergency room.
I sit down beside her so that she will know that she’s not alone out
here. I lean close to her ear and quietly speak so that she won’t be
startled. “Just lie still, you’re going to be all right.”
She turns toward me and says, “I can’t see.”
All I can think to do is reassure her whether or not I know she’s
going to be fine. “You will be fine. Just be calm. Just be calm.”
She responds and seems calmer. I remember the comforting healing
power of my father’s large hand when he touched my forehead so
many years ago, hovering over my sickbed and worrying. I reach
over and my hand becomes my father’s hand and warmly touches
her forehead.
She lies quietly, almost smiling.
Within minutes two casually-moving ER employees show up with
a wheelchair and escort the woman away. Even though her eyes
are still closed, I feel she’s going to be taken care of.
I walk toward my car and go about my life.
And I often wonder what this unknown woman thinks about when
she remembers her Christmas blindness near a hospital parking
deck. Does she wonder who I was? Does she know that I gave
the only Christmas gift I knew how to give
(c) Jim Reed 2010 A.D.

Bookies Walk the City Streets

The winter streets of Birmingham tantalize me. 
Why? Because each person I meet on these streets 
lives a unique life, each person I meet carries 
baggage that I can’t see through, since I’m busy 
carrying my own. 
There are hundreds of individual stories presented 
to me each week at the Museum of Fond Memories and 
Reed Books. Each is special in its own way, sometimes 
joyful, sometimes sad, always mysterious.
Pick a day--for instance, Wednesday:
I arrive at the bookstore two hours before opening time, 
to catch up on newly acquisitioned books, do a little 
straightening up, get the heating system going, becalm 
and brace myself for the day, jumpstart the monthly 
bill-paying. A shaggy street person is waiting at the 
door, staring at the posted shop hours but not seeing 
them. “We open at 10:30,” I say, before realizing he’s 
a regular customer. He says, “I don’t have my watch, so 
I don’t know what time it is…can I pick up that book you 
got for me?” Of course. I usher him into the darkened cave 
and shuffle through the Hold Shelves to find his special 
order, trying to ignore the strong fragrance of newly-smoked 
marijuana emanating from his clothing. I assist him, accept 
his payment, and am now alone in the store. I am happy for 
his patronage but happy, too, that he is gone.
Now, I can get some things done. 
As the marijuana smell dissipates, I become aware of cigarette 
smoke billowing into the shop around the edges of the door. I 
stopped smoking forty years ago, but each day I’m inhaling the 
secondary smoke of  the 3rd Avenue North Smoking Society—the 
employees of adjacent offices and stores who stand in the alcove 
of  Reed Books, lustily inhaling as much as they can on their 
frequent breaks. I seem to be their smoking court, and no amount 
of pleasant hints can get through to them the fact that their smoke 
chokes me and aggravates my allergies. I don’t want to become the 
old guy who tells everybody to get off his lawn, so I never blatantly 
ask them to go elsewhere. I try to justify my wimpishness by reminding 
myself that these are pleasant folks who at least make the entrance 
to the store look busy, and who might come in handy as observers and 
diffident security guards, should anything go wrong on the street.
I guess what quietly bugs me is the fact that, no matter how many times 
I invite them to enter the store and look around at the merchandise and 
the special monthly exhibits, not one of them does. This leads me to 
believe that smokers are not readers or collectors. They are just…smokers.
Later in the morning, when the doors are unlocked, the $2 sales racks are 
on the street, and I am ready for the day, customers and browsers enter, 
talk, enjoy, search, walk out smiling—and leave me smiling, too.
Late in the day, a very large, loud-baritoned man enters with a short, 
obese boy in tow. The baritone laughs broadly, saying, “I want a big doll 
with big t---s…that’s what I want for Christmas!” He laughs at his own 
remark and becomes bigger than the store as he comments on each and every 
item he sees. He reeks of whiskey and is enjoying his high, while the boy 
wanders silently about, trying to avoid him. At one point, the baritone 
starts dancing to the Taj Mahal music that’s playing, chuckling loudly and 
trying to engage the boy in a frisky dance. The boy blushes deeply and averts 
his eyes. Eventually, the baritone leaves, wishing me and the world a Merry 
Christmas and promising to return someday with money in his pockets. I quietly 
slip the boy a free Dum Dum and he seems grateful.
I love my job, my independence, my lack of bosses. I love my books and my 
artifacts and am glad each time someone makes a purchase and goes away happy. 
But at the same time, in a parallel portion of my mind, I’m a little saddened 
at the unfulfilled lives I occasionally see around me. I try to at least act 
better than I am by being patient with these lone wanderers of the City streets.
And I hope that each of them finds a shard of happiness mid the hundredfold 
opportunities for gloom in their daily lives
© Jim Reed 2010 A.D.