Monday, December 25, 1995

The Bum’s Rush

It was on a cold December’s Day, nearly Christmas time,
And Adam lived upon the street — he didn’t have a dime.
His beard was long and snowy white; his nose was chapped and red.
He wore a second-hand knit cap atop his grimy head.

That head was nearly void of hair, but for a tiny hummock.
But the hair he lacked up on the top grew on his ample stomach.
His stomach was the feature of which he most complained,
But, of all of Adam’s body parts, it was the best maintained.

The day was dark and icy-cold, a worse Christmas he hadn’t known.
He was lost, forsaken and forlorn — he’d ne’er been so alone.
He pulled his tattered collar tight; his coat was just a rag,
In his hand, Vicks Vap-o-Rub wrapped in a paper bag.

“I have my self respect!” was his aggrieved lament,
Though he ate from garbage cans and slept on the cement.
“I have my health, I hardly smell, I walk with head held high.
“And any man I come across, I can look right in the eye.”

To those who passed him on the street he was not so proud a thing.
He was wretched and beneath contempt, though of beggars he was king.
They saw a man who labored hard to stay alive in their cruel city,
But, in spite of all his toil, all he earned was pity.

He said, “I wouldn’t be like this,” as runny nostril he did daub,
“I wouldn’t be this woeful wretch if I only had a job.
“I want to work … I want a job,” and with a sob his shoulders shook.
“But no one will come and give me one, and I’m too tired to look.”

A frigid wind began to blow; trash went dancing down the street.
Adam huddled in a doorway and tried to warm his tired feet.
A cozy family restaurant’s door was the haven he had chosen.
The smiling folk inside were warm while Adam was half frozen.

A lady and her little girl saw Adam and gave pause.
“Mommy, look!” the daughter cried, “Look! It’s Santa Claus!”
The mother of the little girl examined Adam, full of doubt,
From his old knit cap to his worn-out shoes where his toe was sticking out.

“Oh, no, my dear,” the lady said, “this is not Saint Nick.
“Come along, don’t look at him. He’s just a derelict.”
She looked away and bustled past and pulled her daughter by the arm.
They left poor Adam standing there and went inside where it was warm.

They chose a table by the window to escape the restaurant’s din,
And were surprised to look outside and see poor Adam looking in.
The woman sought to ignore the wretch, a blind eye she tried to turn.
“Of all the nerve! Just look at him — these poor will never learn!”

“You can’t turn from those in need,” the daughter cried, “You can’t. A
“Man deserves much more than that — and, Mommy, that is Santa!”
The mother looked and saw the way he eyed the food upon her plate,
And then the thing that happened next could be best described as fate.

She looked away from Adam and the window his breath was steaming,
And atop the restaurant’s Christmas tree she saw an angel gleaming.
And as she watched that angel, so serene upon her perch,
She heard the melancholy bells of a lonely, distant church.

Outside, some carolers gathered ’round and stood by Adam on the street.
And, as they sang, it began to snow — the Yuletide scene was then complete.
She regarded Adam’s grubby hat and stomach hanging o’er his belt,
Then she looked into her daughter’s eyes and her heart began to melt.

“I think you’re right, he’s Santa Claus,” she told her daughter with a grin.
“But it looks as if he’s lost his way; why don’t you invite him in?”
So, then Adam came inside and joined them at their meal.
With a word of thanks he sat himself and began to eat with zeal.

“Oh,” he said, “how good this bread! And how tender is this meat!
“How fine this Coca-Cola — Ah, how I love to eat!”
“Oh, Santa Claus,” the girl asked as he ate his turkey with all the fixin’s,
“Can I see your little elves? Can I have a ride on Vixen?”

“Santa Claus? But I am not … Oh — you think … I see!
“I’d hoped not to be recognized. Kris Kringle, yes, that’s me.”
The girl asked Adam, “Where’s your sleigh? And your sack stuffed full of toys
“That you bring on Christmas morning to all the little girls and boys?”

“Ah, my dear,” he improvised, “This may be hard for such a tyke,
“But my reindeer fell to hunters and my elves are all on strike.
“So I have no presents now, you see, but I have ’til Christmas Eve.
“And even without reindeer … I have bus fare, I believe.”

“So don’t worry about Christmas, hear?” he said, as gravy he did sop,
“I’ve checked my list, and checked it twice, and your name is right on top.”
He finished off a final crumb, then he scratched and burped.
He gave his belly a little pat, “That hits the spot,” he chirped.

Then, with a groan, Adam stood, “I’m afraid I have to go.
“Thank you for the meal,” he said, “Merry Christmas. Ho ho ho!”
He paused a moment at the door, savoring the heat,
Then prepared to step outside and resume his life upon the street.

“Santa, wait!” The girl ran to him and grabbed him by the shirt.
“Please come back and sit with us — you haven’t had dessert.”
“Oh, little girl,” Adam said, “I’m not Santa Claus. I lied.
“But I was hungry, I was cold and I had to get inside.”

“I knew you were not Santa when I first saw you standing there.
“’Cause Santa is much thinner and Santa has more hair.
“Now come back to our table and eat some pumpkin pie.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, and I’ll tell you why.”

“This is the Christmas season, a time for goodwill to men.
“To let you stay out on the street — it would have been a sin.”
So then Adam sat back down and his napkin he unfurled,
And he realized this little girl was his best friend in the world.

He wished he had some gift to give this little one who was so good,
But Adam was so poor he gave the only present that he could.
“God bless your soul,” Adam said as he brushed away a tear.
“Have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.”