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Now we go on to more serious things. I have a story for you. It's not mine, but rather it was written by the friend who I exposed you all to during Friendship Week. She gave me a story, a comic, and a rant to share with you all. Now she's back with another story and she's curious about what you think. I think it's good, but I'm biased. The only problem I had with it was run on sentences. Anyway, that's enough from me. Enjoy the story! Buckle up because it's kind of long.
Elijah Merry Holmes is an interesting man. He managed to go from a successful English teacher, to a man living on the street. The shoes on his feet made of water bottles and simple twine. He is a rather average looking African-American man, currently 67. His previously dark hair is flecked with grey, a result of a hard life. He measures in at 6’4”, giving him a slightly imposing appearance to some. But if you look past his size, you see eyes that have seen years of hardship, and sadness. They also contain a great warmth. His gaze catches some with the honesty and kindness it contains, but no matter how he tries, he can’t hide his unfortunate past.
He was born May 12th 1940, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His mother managed to raise him and two brothers, twins in fact, all by herself, at the young age of 19. Well, not quite. You see, both of his brothers are actually half brothers. Their mother often said they were a result of one of the best mistakes she ever made.
The man that got her pregnant left once he found out her condition, and was never heard from again. However, that courageous woman pressed on. She got a meager job at as a secretary, and managed to keep her family fed and clothed for 18 long years. Then the second of those great wars struck our planet. Those two brothers, inseparable since birth, signed up for recruitment, against the wishes of their mother. They went through their basic training, but were sent to separate squadrons. The brothers fought for several years with little to no incident., separated by space, but connected by spirit. Then, on a the fateful day of April 17, 1940, they were both struck and killed by shells, only minutes apart.
The news reached their mother, poor Ms.Kingsley, while she was in her 7th month of pregnancy with her third son. This pregnancy however, was planned. She was so distraught at the deaths of her sons, that she locked herself in her home for weeks. The only signs of life was the periodic turning on and off of the lights. Through the support of friends and neighbors, she mustered up enough courage to venture outside of her small, dark apartment. She gradually reintegrated into her normal life, going back to work, and resuming her regular visits with friends.
Then, on May 11th, at 11:59 pm, Ms.Kingsley went into labor with her third child.
Elijah was born into this world on a warm spring morning, at exactly 7:53 AM.
He was brought home the following day, showing no signs of ill health.
Now Elijah was different from his brothers. He was created as a result of planning on both his mother and father’s part. You see, after his brothers were shipped out, his mother found herself rather lonely, and longing for someone to talk to. Then, one night she met a charming man, who has lost his wife in a building fire, almost eight years prior. They connected almost immediately, and were married in less than a year. This particular man was an english professor at a local college, so as you can imagine, the now Mrs.Holmes’ life improved considerably.
Elijah was brought up loving reading and learning. In addition to the education he received at school, his father supplemented his education with a countless number of books, poems and short stories. He became enthralled with the writings of Jules Verne, more specifically, The Mysterious Island. At the age of 7, he had a banana for the first time, and it remained his favorite food for the rest of his life. As time went on, Elijah excelled in school, and made his way into college, specifically, the University of Philadelphia. Elijah earned his degree in English, and went on to teach at public high schools. He quickly became a favorite teacher of many of students, and earned the respect of his peers.
You may think, “How does a man of this standing manage to end up living in abandoned building with water bottles as his only footwear?”
The answer to this is long, and starts with a young man named Alex Winston.
Alex was a troubled, but bright boy. He came from a troubled background, but had a real passion for knowledge. However, he was severely disturbed, and had battled with what we now know as depression for years. It all started when his mother died in a horrible accident when he was only 9.
He was sitting in the car next to her.
Alex bonded with Elijah, and the two became friends. Alex confided in his teacher some of his troubles, and would go to him when he was in need of advice.
One day Alex came to Elijah with some troubling words. “Mr Holmes, I don’t know what to do anymore.” Alex said with tears forming in his eyes. “I’m in my last year of high school and I have no money, no job, nowhere to go, and I have no chance of paying for college. I feel like I shouldn’t bother trying anymore.” he concluded with a sigh.
“What are you talking about?” said Elijah, clearly concerned for the boy. “I know you don’t have much money, but your grades are good enough to get you in almost any school you would want to attend.” Alex turned his back on the middle aged man and sighed loudly once again.
“You don’t understand. Even if I could get into any college, I don’t have the money for a car or to take a train. Heck, I couldn’t even afford groceries.” He turned back to his teacher, eyes visibly reddened with tears running down his cheeks. Elijah took a step forward and embraced the boy.
“Alex, you are one of the brightest students I’ve ever had. It would be a shame if a flame as bright as you went dark.” he released the boy, keeping one hand on his shoulder. “Whatever you do, don’t give up. When you give up, it all ends.” He looked Alex in the eyes and clapped his hand back on his shoulder a few times. After several seconds Alex sniffled, nodded, and smiled weakly.
“Thanks Mr Holmes. I’ll remember what you said.” Elijah let the boy go and sat down on his desk, thinking about the recent conversation.
“Alex doesn’t seem altogether convinced.” he thought silently to himself. He picked up a stray pencil and began chewing on the eraser. He stood up, pushed his chair in, and walked out the room. After searching the campus he finally found Alex. He was standing atop the west most wing of the building; six stories up. Upon seeing this, Elijah ran back inside, and raced up the stairs as quick as he could. He reached Alex just as he started to step off the edge. He reached for him and caught him by the collar of his shirt and pulled him back on to the rooftop.
“Why did you do that?” shouted Alex, turnin to the breathless Mr.Holmes, tears streaming down his cheeks. “I have nothing to look forward to! No job, no money, no future.” he concluded with a sob. Elijah took Alex’s hand in his own, and closed his other hand over it.
“Don’t ever say you have nothing to live for.” said Elijah, looking sternly into the boy's eyes. “There is always someone out there who cares about you, even if you don’t know they do. They’re there whether you see them or not.” Alex collapsed into a heap on the rooftop, just as the rain started to fall.
After calming Alex and leading him inside Elijah found the boy a towel and a change of clothes. After a few soft words he sent the boy home.
Mr Holmes’ deed was never learned of by most of the student body. Alex hadn’t wanted people to know what he had almost done, so Elijah agreed to keep it a secret.
Two weeks passed before any big developments in Elijah’s life occurred. Unbeknownst to all but a few choice friends, Elijah was actually a homosexual. He kept this fact from the school because he feared they would terminate his employment. He kept his relationship very secretive. His boyfriend, Franklin Lovegood, only met with him in private a few times a week. However one day Franklin dropped Elijah off at his shop and a student took a picture of them kissing one another. The picture was immediately spread throughout the entire school and a great deal of controversy emerged. Despite his popularity among the students, and the support he had from many of them, Mr Holmes was fired.
After this incident he found it impossible to get jobs at any public schools. He quickly ran out of money and his boyfriend also lost his job. The two found themselves homeless and living on the streets of an unforgiving city. Months passed and winter came. The two found themselves huddling together for warmth, their clothes in tatters and their shoes falling apart. They started thinking back to their previous lives. Back to dates they had gone on when they had first met each other.
Elijah thought back to Franklin’s old life. Franklin loved the movies, and In 1952 the two men saw one of the first showings of Singing In The Rain. Franklin adored the show so much that Elijah purchased him a record of the movie’s songs for his birthday soon after.
Franklin thought back to Elijah’s old life. He remembered spending the night at Elijah’s and waking up in the morning to find Elijah already wide awake, writing another one of his stories with a pot of hot tea next to him, and two cups set.
Thoughts like these kept them going throughout the cold months. Unfortunately all of this took a severe toll on Elijah. He began smoking for the first time in his life, and wound up spending most of the money they had on cigarettes.People became afraid of Franklin and Elijah. People would obviously avoid them on the streets and turn away when they walked past them.
Then in the spring their shoes finally gave out and they didn’t have the money to purchase new pairs. They scoured donation centres but they could never find shoes that were large enough. Elijah was forced to improvise. He took twine from a bundle of newspapers, and gathered several water bottles from the garbage. With these he crafted some makeshift footwear. These shoes were very uncomfortable. They caused blisters, raw spots, and bleeding. At one point Franklin’s feet became so red and raw that he couldn’t walk for a week. Throughout this time the two men stayed together, their affection for eachother never wavering.
One day, the following winter, the two men were huddled underneath the overhang of a building when a brightly polished pair of shoes stopped in front of them. Elijah looked up and saw a man who he recognised. It was someone he hadn’t seen in a long time. A young man, twenty four years old, wearing a business suit and carrying a briefcase. The man frowned, kneeled down, and placed a hand on Elijah’s shoulder. The gesture shocked Elijah. No one besides Franklin and his fellow hobos had been willing to touch him. The young man looked down at Elijah’s feet and saw the crude “shoes” that were fastened with more pieces of twine than he could count, on to feet that showed years of abuse. The toll of a life lived on the streets. He looked up into Elijah’s eyes. Those eyes, filled with grief, but still containing the same kindness and understanding they had years ago. Elijah met the man’s eyes and let out a gasp. In a voice choked with emotion Elijah whispered “Alex?”
Alex nodded and gave a small smile. He took both mens hands and pulled them upward. He embraced them both, feeling the emptiness the two shared. The men separated and Alex turned his focus to Elijah. “You saved me. And I never thanked you. AFter that day I went home and applied for as many scholarships as I could find. I got an amazing of responses and was able to go to law school on a full scholarship. I graduated top of my class with honors, but high school was never the same after they fired you.After you left, Mr Holmes, so many students were gathered in your defense I thought they were going to riot. ” Alex paused, and glanced over at Franklin. “ You changed my life for the better Mr Holmes and gave me a future. All these years I’ve wondered where you were, and now I found you just a few blocks from my office building. What the school did to you was unfair and I can’t change what they did, but I can help you now. I want to give you both jobs and help you get back your lives.” Franklin and Elijah looked at each other in amazement. Franklin tried to speak but couldn’t. A single tear rolled down his cheek. These two grown men, who had faced so much adversity due to their race and sexuality, were finally getting a second chance at life. The men gathered their few belongings and walked off with Alex towards their futures.