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Mark M Lichterman

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The Climbing Boy 19:Touched
By Mark M Lichterman
Posted: Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Last edited: Thursday, August 16, 2012
This short story is rated "G" by the Author.

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Recent stories by Mark M Lichterman
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           >> View all 957
Seeing the little chimney sweep, the lady smiled and lightly, with her forefinger only—not wanting to get her
somewhat dirty glove dirtier—touched his shoulder as the man went to the road to hail a passing cab.


The Climbing Boy can now be purchased as a Kindle eBook @ $3.00


___________________________________________________

 

And each time he was touched, Zachariah was touched.

He had never felt that he belonged among the “clean people.”

 

Forgetting who he was and what he was for the first time

in his life since becoming aware of his lowly station,

Zachariah felt that…? That he belonged. His eyes becoming

shiny and wet, he became one of them, one of the happy

people…

One of the clean people

 ____________________________________________________

Climbing Boy 19: Touched

London, England

December 24, 1843

                             Christmas Eve

Streaky and distorted, the glass was heavily frosted near

the bottom and coated with beads of moisture nearer the

top, and although the wavy window was misty at eye level,

Zachariah was able to see trays; at this time most were empty,

but not all.

 

Not too long until closing time, on this, the evening before

Christmas, not much was left in the bakery, but what did

remain was enough to make the suddenly hungry boy’s

mouth water.

 

There were cakes and cookies of many shapes and sizes;

some tarts with delicious-looking red and yellow toppings;

a few large, crusty napoleons; scones with rich, oozing

cream; and gingerbread men.

 

With his nose pressed against wet, cold glass, Zachariah

watched as the baker, wearing a soiled apron, reached from

tray to tray, taking the last of the napoleons and three

cherry tarts.

 

Who could ‘ave so much money, the boy thought, to buy

so many’a them wonderful things? And to Mousy, “Should I

go in ‘ere and buy me one’a them cream things?” Turning

from the window, starting through the door, No! Don’t ya

spend ya money so fast, thinking of what was ahead, Ya still

got a way to go. And knowing he’d be sorry if he spent his

money now, “An’ ya know’s what ya really be wantin’!” he

said aloud. “Just ya wait till we get to the confectioner’s shop!”

 

His deceived stomach grumbled in protest, but sighing

and wishing he had enough money for a pastry, too,

Zachariah began to walk again.

 

“A merry Christmas to ya, lad!” A smiling man with a

young boy in tow rubbed his shoulder.

 

“Thank ya, Sir!”

 

Another man, touching the sleeve of his long-coat, “May

the Lord Jesus keep ya, boy!”

 

“I thanks ya, Sir!”

 

“Aye, boy!”

 

Zachariah turned, looking.

 

“Aye, boy!” Waving, an elderly woman accompanied by

two younger women purposely crossed the road to come to

him, and each in turn touched Zachariah, wishing him “A

good Christmas.”

 

“You, too, Mum.” Warmed by the friendly touches of the

three women, “And a good Christmas to ya, too, Mum!”

 

The women were rewarded and delighted with the boy’s

heart-warming smile. “God bless you, lad!”

 

“Thank ya, Mum.” Looking from one lady to the other,

“And to you, too, Mum. Thank ya!”

 

They parted, the boy going in his direction and the women

theirs, but each of the four came away from their accidental

meeting feeling somehow rewarded.

 

Going on, one road crossing another.

 

Looking… Watching… The boy continued on until,

suddenly, he stopped walking and, turning in a tight circle,

his head thrown back, his nose in the air, he sniffed deeply…

 

An aroma!

 

His nose twitching, sniffing the air like a hungry animal,

“There!” It’s coming from there.

 

His stomach rumbling loudly, his mouth watered so badly

that he actually had to swallow and wipe the saliva from

his chin.

 

Crossing the road, still sniffing, he stood in front of the

door of a rather melancholy appearing tavern when, the

door opening abruptly, he had to move backward out of the

way as a cheaply dressed man and woman came from

the tavern.

 

Seeing the little chimney sweep, the lady smiled and

lightly, with her forefinger only—not wanting to get her

somewhat dirty glove dirtier—touched his shoulder as the

man went to the road to hail a passing cab.

 

Zachariah watched as, “Whoa!” the driver pulled the

plodding horse to a halt, climbed down from his seat and

ran around the rear of the small carriage. Opening the door

with a slight bow, “Mum, Sir! An’ where might I be takin’ ya?”

 

Holding the man’s offered elbow for support, the lady

stepped onto the runner and into the cab.

 

Telling the driver their destination, the man followed

the woman.

 

Tipping his cap, “Aye, Sir!” Slamming the door shut, the

driver ran back to the front of the cab where he pulled

himself up onto the seat and, the reins slapping the horse’s

rump, “Giddy’ap!” they were off.

 

Hesitating a moment, Zachariah came closer to the tavern

door again… And within seconds had to back away as it

swung open once again.

 

The man coming out noticed the boy. “Ah, for luck, my

little friend.” he said as he vigorously rubbed his left hand

across the boy’s shoulder, then, walking away, he picked his

teeth with a toothpick with his right hand, while wiping his

other hand on the back of his own shabby coat.

 

Drawn back, holding the door open a bit, inhaling deeply

through his nostrils, smelling, the combined odors of

roasting pork, beef and mutton made the suddenly ravenous

boy giddy and, his stomach grumbling, he took another deep

breath, as though by merely breathing he’d be able to taste

what he smelled, and so satisfy his hunger.

 

“You!”

 

Grabbed from behind, held by the collar of his coat,

Zachariah was lifted off his feet.

 

“What do you want here?”

 

Frightened, the tips of his toes barely touching the ground,

turning his head, the boy looked into the face of a thin, elderly

man with deep set, dark brown eyes, scraggly eyebrows, a

beaked nose and wildly flowing white hair.

 

An obvious look of contempt showing on the man’s face,

“Don’t you have anywhere else to be?” Shaking the boy,

“Why’s your kind always hanging about?” Bringing his head

closer, breathing his fetid breath in Zachariah’s face, “Every

place I go it’s you beggars and filth!” Bending forward,

coming even closer, the man’s long nose just an inch from

the boy’s, “Why can’t you stay with your own kind? Why

must you people always be hanging about?”

 

“But, Sir,” squirming, Zachariah tried to speak. “I ain’t…”

 

Tightening his grip on the boy’s collar, the man shook

him into silence. “Why must your kind”—annoyed at being

interrupted, he repeated—“always be bothering and

harassing honest, hard working people?”

 

Taking his unknown anger out on the unfortunate boy

who just happened to be here, in his way.

 

“I ain’t a beggar, Sir. An’ I works, too…”

 

Shaking him even harder, “Quiet!”

 

Bouncing back and forth, slipping off the bump on

Zachariah’s forehead and his ears, the top hat covered his

eyes for a second, then jiggled off his head and fell to the

ground where it rolled to the man’s feet.

 

The man looked at the little boy’s frightened, pathetic

face then down at the hat where, seemingly lost in thought,

the man stared at it for a long moment then, “Bah!” he said,

and released Zachariah.

 

Losing his balance, almost falling, the boy slumped to

his feet.

 

Straightening his back, dismissing the boy, the man

turned away, grabbed the doorknob and angrily pulled the

door open letting it slam against the opposite wall where it

remained open and, “Bah!” muttering, the man entered the

tavern.

 

The confrontation with the dreadful man having left

Zachariah cold again, bending, he lifted the hat, fitted it

onto the three points of his head, and as before, by covering

his head, a feeling of warmth came to the boy.

 

Everyone he’d met this night—except this man—seemed

to, or at least gave the appearance of liking him. Confused,

“Why’s ‘e ‘ate me so?” he said to his pocket. “‘e don’t even

know me!”

 

The door to the tavern remaining open, the boy watched

as the man walked to a table and sat.

 

Noticing the man, “Evenin’, Sir!” a barman went to

his table.

 

The man did not answer.

 

The barman, knowing this customer, asked, “Ya, be

wantin’ the mutton tonight, Sir?”

 

Still irritated by his encounter with the ragamuffin

outside, his voice harsh, “Yes!

 

“Aye, Sir!”

 

Knowing this customer well, knowing that making a stab

at friendliness on this night would probably mean no more

than the times he’d made an attempt at being friendly in the

past, “Will ya be spending this night afore Christmas with

your family, Sir?”

 

“No, George!” the man answered harshly. “If it is any of

your business, I’ll be spending this night before Christmas

at home, in bed, as all men should.”

 

“‘owever, Sir, I do wish ya a good Christmas.”

 

“Save your ‘good Christmas’ for some other gullible fool!”

 

Expecting none other than this rebuke, “Aye, Sir,”

George said.

 

“One thing more…”

 

“Aye, Sir?”

 

“None of your indigestible potatoes tonight, George!”

 

“Aye, Sir. As ya wish, Mister Scrooge.”

Outside, catching the door, a gust of wind slammed it shut.


Web Site: mmlichterman.com  


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Books by
Mark M Lichterman



For Better or Worse

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The Climbing Boy

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Becoming

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