Carl – Episode 2
Last week we left Carl startled by the sudden approach of someone from behind. He stumbled and fell into some evergreen branches. As he struggled to regain his footing, he turned to see the tall leader of his summer tormentors reaching down for him. He braced himself for the expected attack.
“Don’t worry old man, I’m not gonna hurt you this time.” The young man spoke softly, still offering the tattooed and scarred hand to Carl. As he helped Carl get up, the man pulled a crumpled bag from his pocket and handed it to Carl. “What’s this?” Carl asked. “It’s your stuff,” the man explained. “It’s your stuff back. Even the money in your wallet.” “I don’t understand,” Carl said. “Why would you help me now?” The man shifted his feet, seemingly embarrassed and ill at ease. “I learned something from you,” he said. “I ran with that gang and hurt people like you. We picked you because you were old and we knew we could do it. But every time we came and did something to you, instead of yelling and fighting back, you tried to give us a drink. You didn’t hate us for hating you. You kept showing love against our hate.” (Valentine’s Day??)
He stopped for a moment. “I couldn’t sleep after we stole your stuff, so here it is back.” He paused for another awkward moment, not knowing what more there was to say. “That bag’s my way of saying thanks for straightening me out, I guess.” And with that, he walked off down the street. Carl looked down at the sack in his hands and gingerly opened it. He took out his retirement watch and put it back on his wrist. Opening his wallet, he checked for his wedding photo. He gazed for a moment at the young bride that still smiled back at him from all those years ago.
Carl died one cold day after Christmas that winter. Many people attended his funeral in spite of the weather. In particular the minister noticed a tall young man that he didn’t know sitting quietly in a distant corner of the church. The minister spoke of Carl’s garden as a lesson in life. In a voice made thick with unshed tears, he said, “Do your best and make your garden as beautiful as you can. We will never forget Carl and his garden.”
The following spring a poster declared: “Person needed to care for Carl’s garden.” The flyer went unnoticed by the busy parishioners until one day when a knock was heard at the minister’s office door. Opening the door, the minister saw a pair of scarred and tattooed hands holding the poster. “I believe this is my job, if you’ll have me,” the young man said. The minister recognized him as the same young man who had returned the stolen watch and wallet to Carl. He knew that Carl’s kindness had turned this man’s life around. As the minister handed him the keys to the garden shed, he said, “Yes, go take care of Carl’s garden and honor him.”
The man went to work and, over the next several years, he tended the flowers and vegetables just as Carl had done. During that time, he went to college, got married, and became a prominent member of the community. But he never forgot his promise to Carl’s memory and kept the garden as beautiful as he thought Carl would have kept it. One day he approached the new minister and told him that he couldn’t care for the garden any longer. He explained with a shy and happy smile, “My wife just had a baby boy last night, and she’s bringing him home on Saturday.” “Well, congratulations!” said the minister, as he was handed the garden shed keys. “That’s wonderful! What’s the baby’s name?” “Carl,” he replied.
Author: Joseph E. Stickney in Stories for Children (Adults too?!)
Submitted by Henry Wiebe