Saturday, October 31, 1987

Key to Life

a short story from my junior year in college

I peered at the elderly gentleman as he left my coffee shop. With a gloved hand I fumbled in the pocket of my heavy coat for the keys to the front door. The coffee sloshed wildly about his cup, splashing over the rim and scalding his bare hand. He winced in pain.

The man wore a bedraggled jacket with a broken zipper. His thin, brown trousers were held up by suspenders. He wore an equally thin pair of brown shoes. I tugged my heavy coat a little tighter to my body to block out the harsh wind.

I locked the door to my shop and shoved the keys back in my pocket. I wrapped my scarf snuggly about my face and straightened my stocking cap. His bare face reddened from the cold.

I watched him peer into a nearby shop window and suspected he was looking for another place that was open that would let him in out of the cold. I imagined shop owners every evening being disturbed by his loitering and vagrancy as they shouted, “we’re closed!” I looked back at my own cafe.

“Sir?” I said. The old man turned slowly toward me, hesitant to accept that I was truly addressing him. I reached my hand back into my pocket and pulled out my keys and tossed them to the old man. “It’s yours.”

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