The old man found it difficult to breathe. He felt something blocking his oxygen from getting into his lungs.
It would be better if I had a cup of tea, the old man thought as his fingers went through his old and worn out sack and felt few coins. He pulled them out eagerly when his brown and parched lips began to tremble.
He was few cents short.
The sturdy man in the nearby tea shop had warned him just the previous evening to stay away from his shop, unless he had the exact money for tea.
The old man looked all around himself.
The park was deserted and the night was frightening . The town had begun to doze for the day.
It was a winter night and the atmosphere was cold.
A strong wind swept past the old man, making his hands and feet tremble. He grabbed two more newspapers from his sack and wrapped them all over him. It made him feel a bit better.
Still, he had trouble with his breathing.
He looked up at the sky. Dark clouds threatened him of a thunderstorm.
Oh God, how am I going to survive the winter?
The old man remembered the last winter, when he was staying with his dear son in a comfortable apartment. Tears welled in his eyes as he thought of his young son’s fatal death followed by the misfortunes that haunted him, which resulted in his landlord sending him to the streets.
The old man coughed helplessly as his lungs cried out for oxygen.
He wondered why was he still alive when he heard a tiny voice beside him.
‘Grandpa, is it too cold in here?’
A little girl was standing beside his bench. Her face was filled with kindness and her eyes were screwed in concern.
Something made the old man lie.
‘Then why do you tremble?’
The old man’s lips curved into a faint smile.
‘Grandpa, would you like to have a cup of hot tea? I still have some tea left from the hospital. Grandma is sick and papa says she will be leaving us soon.’
The little girl narrated the old man her little tale, rolling her big brown eyes. She poured him a cup of hot tea which was still left in her flask and sat beside him, looking at his poor appearance.
‘Grandpa, my mom told me that it will rain tonight. You can’t stay here, please come with me.’
She got up and grabbed the old man’s arm.
‘No dear, I can’t come with you. I’m waiting for my son to take me home.’
‘Oh, that’s awesome!! Where do you stay, grandpa?’
The old man looked up at the sky as his dried lips began trembling. The little girl looked up at the mighty sky, with a confused face.
‘When will he come? Shall I stay with you till then?’
The old man took the little girl’s hands in his.
‘It’s getting late for you, little one. Go home now.’
‘Yes, papa would be worried.’
She held a sad face.
‘Is there anything you want me to do, grandpa?’
The old man looked in her pretty eyes, as a teardrop began to gather in his pale eyes.
‘Pray dear. Just pray that it shouldn’t rain tonight.’
The little girl nodded her head and ran past him, carrying the empty flask, when the old man called out to her.
‘Your good name, dear?’
The little girl shouted back as she ran out of the old man’s sight towards her house, nearby.
Little Gabbie woke up the next morning and ran straight to her father.
‘Papa, did it rain last night?’
‘No dear… It just..’
‘Wow, I’m off to see grandpa.’
Gabbie ran down the stairs and opened their main door, merrily. She hadn’t stepped down, when a strong wind blew across her face, making her eyelids shut close. When she reopened them, she let out a gasp.
‘Oh my !!’
True that it didn’t rain the previous night, but goodness gracious, it had snowed.
Little Gabbie stepped down to see each and every part of the ground covered in a thick blanket of soft snow. She ran as fast as her legs could carry her and reached the park in a minute. She took tiny steps towards the bench, where she saw the old man sitting the previous night.
The bench was cleared of the snow, and the old man was missing. She looked all around herself but there wasn’t a single sign of any living thing in the park. She thought that the old man had left the park, when her eyes caught sight of his worn out sack bag, lying all alone, beside the bench.
Little Gabbie dusted the snow off it, as she took the weightless sack in her little hands. A teardrop rolled down her chubby cheeks, when a gentle hand fell over her shoulder. She turned around and saw her father standing beside her.
‘Papa, grandpa’s gone. I don’t know where.’
‘He has gone home, honey.’
Her father nodded his head as he took her little hand in his and started walking home.
‘But papa, his sack is here. He must’ve missed it in his hurry to go home. I wonder why was he in such a hurry to leave his bag behind.’
Little Gabbie screwed her eyes in confusion.
‘Because honey,” her father paused before saying. “His time has come.’
Her father then turned his head and signalled to the two men, who were hiding behind a huge oak tree, carrying an old man’s lifeless body. They nodded their heads in acknowledgment, as they started for the nearest grave in the town.