Fifteen days before a Katrina-bruised Christmas,
and here I was out on the streets once more. Alice had told me she never wanted to see me again.
Don't ask why.
I'm Victor Standish.
I always find a way to snatch defeat out of the mouth of victory. It is my curse to be always alone.
It was night and cold for once in New Orleans. A little black and white puppy, starved down to a walking set of ribs, shivered in the alley to my right.
I took the stale croissant from my lips. I bent down and held it out to the poor little guy. "C'mon, Lucky. Good groceries."
I jerked as a black man appeared as if out of nowhere. "You call him Lucky?"
"Yeah," I smiled. "He's got a new friend ... me."
I petted Lucky's tiny head. "And he'll never be hungry or alone again."
The man looked ripped as if he pumped iron, and he laughed at me.
"Not iron ... wood. Plane a tree into planks, and it builds muscle."
He sighed as he saw Lucky hesitantly nuzzle my hand.
“No one's life should be rooted in fear. We are born for wonder, for joy, for hope, for love, to marvel at the mystery of existence,
to be stunned by the beauty of the world, to seek truth and meaning, to acquire wisdom, and by our treatment of others to brighten the corner where we are.”
He squeezed my shoulder. "Name's Joshua. Yours?"
"Victor. Victor Standish."
"Heard of you."
"I'm nobody. Just a street punk living out another nothing day."
Joshua shook his head.
“No day is without profound meaning, no matter how nothing it might seem, no matter whether you are a street kid or a movie star."
He nodded to Lucky.
"Because in every day of your life, there are opportunities to perform little kindnesses for others.
Each smallest act of kindness reverberates across great distances and spans of time,
affecting lives unknown to the one whose generous spirit was the source of this good echo,
because kindness is passed on and grows each time it’s passed,
until a simple courtesy becomes an act of selfless courage years later and far away."
As Lucky ducked back into the alley, Joshua looked at a roving band of police heading our way, malice in their eyes and guns on their hips.
(A really sucky combination.)
" Likewise, each small meanness, each thoughtless expression of hatred, each envious and bitter act,
can inspire others, and is therefore the seed that ultimately produces evil fruit,
poisoning people whom you have never met and never will."
Joshua pushed me behind him and into the alley with Lucky.
"All human lives are so profoundly and intricately entwined—those dead, those living, those generations yet to come—
that the fate of all is the fate of each, and the hope of humanity rests in every heart and in every pair of hands."
As the cops spotted Joshua and started to laugh like wolves, he said softly,
"Every hour in every life contains such often-unrecognized potential to affect the world
that great days and thrilling possibilities are combined in this precious gift called the present.”
He slipped to his knees, putting his hands atop his head. It wouldn't do him any good. What few cops were left in New Orleans were pretty much stressed-out, walking time bombs.
I faded into the shadows. Not that I was deserting Joshua. My name wasn't Peter.
You never leave a friend behind. Friends are the only true wealth you can expect in this life and the only treasure you can hope to find in the next.
Lucky growled as the bully boys whacked Joshua with their night sticks to get him back on his feet.
"Hey!" yelled one. "He's attacking!"
Another grabbed Joshua by the throat, fingers closing in on his wind-pipe.
"Can't ... breathe," Joshua gasped out.
"Hey, Ass-Wipes!" I snarled with five ball bearings between the fingers of each hand. "God can't breathe!"
"What?" snarled the closest to me.
I said low, "In as much as you did it unto the least of these, you have done it unto Me."
"Knee cap him, Jim!" spat the officer to his right.
I slung two ball bearings each into their open mouths.
Suddenly, they were the ones on the ground not being able to breathe.
Joshua got up. "How did you know?"
With His words giving proof to my guess, I felt a great weight lift off my chest.
While all these rough years I felt as if no one saw, no one cared.
Someone always had.
"Well, you replied to my thought about you being pumped. And I read a lot. Jesus is just Greek for Joshua. And it is your time of the year."
Joshua shook his head at me. "Every day is my time of the year. Now, come help me with these officers."
"Aw, man! I am not gonna do mouth-to-mouth on them. I mean I might kiss a ghoul, and all, but even I have standards!"
"Uh, can we at least wait until they're deprived of oxygen long enough to be brain-damaged?"
"Oh, yeah, that would be kinda redundant, wouldn't it?"
But it wasn't a total loss. Lucky peed on them.