Jason Lawrence Bell
Stories
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05-09-19

05-09-19                    PUSH ARROW TO BEGIN AUDIO

‘Buy me a candle and a can opener’ was the request from the panhandler outside the store to the kind-faced woman walking in. The woman thought what an odd request. They usually want money or alcohol. So, she curiously stopped and asked, ‘did you say a candle and a can opener?’ The panhandler nodded yes. The panhandler was an older man possibly in his sixties who was dressed in a dark overcoat, dark green corduroy pants with black boots. He was too clean to be homeless but he seemed sincere so she added his requests to her shopping list.

When she was leaving the store, she looked for the man to give him the items, but he was nowhere to be found. So, the items stayed in her bag. When she reached home, she unpacked her bag and left the old man’s items on the kitchen counter. Later that evening while the woman was watching television all the power in the neighborhood went out and her house became dark. She felt her way around the house, then she remembered the candle and lit it. This was fortunate because she wasn’t prepared for a blackout and the candle was her only light source.

Then the next-door neighbor knocked on her door. They were trying to feed their newborn baby and could not open the canned baby formula without electricity. The woman immediately remembered the can opener and gave it to them. As she watched the grateful neighbors leave, she began thinking about the old man and the two items that were needed most this night.

The next day the woman returned to the store, but the old man wasn’t there. She asked the manager of the store about the old man. He was surprised and said ‘get in line. You’re the tenth person who asked about him. I can take your phone number and if I see him give it to him.’ ‘There were others,’ she asked. ‘Oh yes and the stories are weird. The old man had them buy things for him but they became items that they desperately needed themselves. Is that what happened to you?’ The woman nodded and left her phone number with the others.

Then she thought of her daughter, Regina, who was a human interest’s writer for the local newspaper. Maybe she would be interested in this strange story. And she was, very interested. Regina got the list of phone numbers from the store manager and organized a meeting with everyone there. The store manager offered the group their meeting room in the back of the store. It would be good publicity for the store he thought. So, the meeting was set for Friday afternoon.

To everyone’s surprise the old man was standing outside the store when the group arrived. Regina was excited because everyone involved in the story was there and she could finish her story easily. Regina asked the old man to join the meeting and he agreed.

As they all sat around the meeting table everyone peppered the old man with questions. But the old man stopped them and said, ‘I will tell you all you need to know.’ He noticed a chalk board in the corner and rolled it out and picked up the chalk. He wrote on the board in big letters, daeharetsaidiiawahotthgilflecnac, then he asked to use the bathroom and left. The group was completely in confusion. These letters didn’t make sense so they waited for him to return. But he didn’t return and manager could not find him.

The group all stared at the letters on the board. Then Regina figured it out. ‘Everything is spelled backwards’. She went to the board and reversed the letters. Then the words became apparent. ‘Cancel flight to Hawaii disaster ahead’. The manager said, ‘I have tickets to fly to Hawaii next Thursday’. Shockingly everyone in the room including Regina stated that they had the same tickets. ‘Oh my god. What do we do?’ asked the confused group. Regina offered, ‘the old man obviously has insights into the future. I think we have to take his warning seriously.’ ‘But do I have to cancel my dream vacation for this weird old man’ said another group member. Regina offered again, ‘I guess it’s really up to each of us to decide. I am not certain what I’m going to.’ The group all stood up and left the store.

A week later there was an article in the paper that Regina wrote. It was titled ‘local store manager killed in plane crash in Pacific Ocean’. Peace**