Second Chances

This is one story for those of you who have been reading my stuff and wondering about my "bleeding heart" credentials.

This is one story for those of you who have been reading my stuff and wondering about my “bleeding heart” credentials. I was the manager of a small chain pharmacy in Pacheco, California. It was August, 1972 and 110 degrees in the shade. There was no humidity in the Diablo Valley. Your perspiration dried up in an instant. This was not the time of the day to be out. Golf courses were empty. Tennis courts were deserted.

A patient I knew well stepped into the pharmacy entrance and gave me a look,

“What’s wrong?”

“There’s a man with a dog in the alley. He’s sitting with his back against the wall.”Her face showed concern in a decade when ME was usually all that counted. “Will you see if he’s okay, Jim?”

I went out and asked him if he was sick. He said that he was alright, but could I bring some water for his dog.

“How about you? Are you hungry? Thirsty?”

“Both,” he croaked. I noticed that his lower lip was cracked. There was dried blood on his Oakland As tee shirt. I remember a head of red hair and a three day-old beard. I barely acknowledged him as a human being. I was still young.

I bought a 12-inch sub sandwich, cole slaw, chips and a giant cola. For the dog I bought water that I put in a pan and three hot dogs.

Ah, what a good boy, I was. It never occurred to me to invite him into the air-conditioned store. I was too busy congratulating myself. Me: Plagakis Gandhi.

He was DEAD.

An hour or so later, another patient with a worried look asked me to check on him. This time, he was stretched out asleep with the dog panting beside him. I asked him if he was okay, but he didn’t respond. I said it louder. Then, I used the toe of my shoe to give him a nudge in the ribs. Nothing!It was not long after that afraid-to-touch-with-my-hands move, that I discovered that the guy was dead!

This has haunted me for 36 years. I wanted one more chance to have him come inside to cool down. Too late. Much too late. I was staggered. My heart was opened forever in that summer of 1972.