The charm sat in his pocket for years, with Eddie only knowing of it. It had been his constant companion since what he thought of as only “the incident.” It had happened so long ago he almost didn’t remember it.
Eddie was a street kid, of the worst kind. His family were the thugs he shared his neighborhood with. School beyond eighth grade never happened for him. When he graduated there was no diplomas, he jut moved up the ranks to the next crime. The robberies, the muggings and a hundred crimes more were what made up his resume.
Until that night. It was a robbery, simple as that. In and out, cash in hand, no complications. Except there was. One minute Eddie was skulking around the apartment , taking anything that had a potential for pawning, the net minute he was on a stretcher with a police escort. He couldn’t tell what happened, because he didn’t know. Just a searing pain and then his leg buckling under him.
The hospital emergency room hallway where he waited was busier than usual that night. Which is why, even with police milling around the old man in the wheelchair was able to hand him the charm.
Tossed it onto his gurney without a second glance. Just a gleam in his gray eyes, the quick glimpse of a snake tattoo and a muttering that Eddie couldn’t quite understand. Eddie did understand that this was something though, although he didn’t know what. With a grab that only a skilled thief could possess, he grabbed the charm and stashed it into his coat pocket.
Eddie didn’t even think of it again until he was in the hospital room, the bullet had passed right through him. With police guards outside the door, he knew he was trapped. Eddie hated that feeling of being trapped, in a room, in a detention center, in a life. Being a minor he only hoped he wouldn’t be out of commission long.
He got up to move around to feel anything other than laying there, to find his way out. When he found his coat and the charm jangled to the floor. He picked it up quickly and looked at it. The charm, was simple silver with a heart stamped on the front. The back was what really intrigued him. “My life for yours. A blessing or a curse?” Eddie put the charm in his coat pocket again and hobbled back into bed.
Eddie tried to remember the man who gave it to him. He was old he knew and in a wheelchair. There was something distinctive about him, he couldn’t quite recall. Then he remembered it was his eyes, his all knowing steel gray eyes. There was a tattoo on his arm as well, a snake of Eddie remembered right.
He doctor came in after a while to check his wound. “You should be released tomorrow, to juvenile detention to await trial.”
For some reason I didn’t care about that now, I only cared about that old man with the tattoo.
“Doc I met someone in the ER, an old guy last night.”
“Can’t help you. I was in the ER last night but we got several older gentlemen. We’re a public hospital we get a lot of old guys through here.”
“This one was different though. He had these gray eyes and this weird tattoo of a snake.”
“Yeah I think I know who your talking about. He passed away shortly after you were brought in. Sorry.”
A silent ice cold chill went through Eddie upon hearing these words. As the doctor closed the chart and left, Eddie laid back on his pillow, thinking about the man and the charm he gave him. Could it have really killed the man to give away the charm
Eddie would have liked to say after ‘the encounter’ he straightened out but it wasn’t that easy, it was never that easy. Still the charm stayed in his pocket while the possibility of the man’s sacrifice nibbled at his conscience, growing with each of his subsequent arrests. It was Eddie’s third time through juvenile hall when the possibility of the man’s sacrifice, which had been randomly appearing in his thoughts, became the reality that settled in his heart and he knew he had to change to make his life, be a blessing and not a curse.
That had been fifty years ago and a world away. Eddie now worked in the same ER where he had once been given the charm which still fit comfortably in his coat pocket every day. Eddie had never married but still had a full life, his ability to connect with the lives he met everyday, filling any empty voids in his life. Eddie was in his late 80’s these days and felt he could go on forever yet he knew somehow he shouldn’t. The charm weighed began to weigh heavier in his pocket and on his heart these days. He knew it was meant to be passed on. Yet he knew what that passing on would mean to him.
His affairs had always been in order, but even more so lately. He felt it stronger by the day, that his end was near, the charm needed to be passed on. There were so many worthwhile people though, people who he knew would be renewed to life either physically, he had no doubt the charm had given him his energy and longevity or spiritually as he had once been. Yet no one seemed to fit.
Until that night, Eddie had forgotten his briefcase and was headed back to his office. He briskly walked through the ER doors and toward the elevator. He stopped cold when he saw the gurney. In the same exact place his had been 50 years ago. Eddie walked up beside it and saw a boy, a kid about the same age he was. There was his street hardened look, the worn out exhaustion beyond his years in his eyes, this boy was once him. Eddie knew it was time.
The chill of realization went through Eddie as he realized what they were both about to do, to begin a journey. Neither knew how would end but would both be taking a journey that was necessary all the same. Eddie smiled slightly at the kid and quietly gave him the charm So the torch was passed and life continued on as it always does. Full of mystery and happiness and unending charms passed from one to another.