It wasn’t a special occasion but just another routine morning and I was looking forward to the day ahead. I was in my usual place waiting for Tom to come in for his usual morning coffee, toasted bagel and me, the “Metro News Morning Edition”.
As always, at that time of the morning, the coffee shop was bustling with customers and servers and would probably appear to be a real helter skelter scene for someone not used to such activity. Although I must admit that there were plenty of moments when I thought there was no one there who knew what they were doing and only got the orders straight by chance. I can say this because I had been a regular there for five years, that’s when Tom first started coming into the coffee shop and placed an order for the paper to be there each morning with his coffee. I was the lucky one who was assigned to bring him the daily news.
Tom and I had a great relationship. He always sat inside the shop drinking his coffee, eating his bagel and perusing my pages. I made a concerted effort to always be neat, in order and clearly printed so that he would have an easy time enjoying the read. When he finished with his meal, he would always make certain my pages were in place and then neatly folded me up and carried me under his arm to his office. In those five years, I never felt unsecure being carried to the office because he always made it a point to protect me from the wind, rain or snow. I never thought for a moment that it could be better than that and that my existence had real meaning; that is, until that very morning when everything changed.
But just a little note before I go on because I can see some of the puzzled looks on your faces, wondering how a newspaper can be the same one day after day. It’s like this, even though the news changes from day to day, the character of that particular paper is permanently embedded in the press so that each day when the paper is printed, that character gets stamped onto the paper and carries out its duty. It’s the character or personality of the paper that people get attached to and enjoy when they pick the paper up to read it everyday. Now I know that seems a bit far-fetched and a stretch of the imagination but trust me, it’s exactly how it is. Now that you have learned another lesson of life, let me continue the story.
On the particular morning I mentioned at the beginning of the story, Tom seemed to be in an extra hurry and somewhat out of sorts about things because he really didn’t spend much time reading me. My suspicions were also confirmed by the way he just quickly folded me up without so much as taking a few seconds to straighten out my pages. Then, on the way to the office, he discarded me into one of those wire mesh trash baskets. I watched him walk away and wondered if I would ever see him again.
Not long after he had thrown me away, someone plopped a Styrofoam coffee cup on top of me and I felt the warm liquid spilling out onto the bottom of my pages. Normally, I would have been disgusted by the stains the coffee was making but the weather was turning colder and to be quite honest, I rather enjoyed being warmed by the coffee. The rest of the day went by without further incidence and I knew that come midnight, I would be history, which kind of saddened me because I felt my day had been wasted and that I had been of little use to anyone. Yes, I know, I know, my character would be reborn the following morning but it was still a somber thought to know I had served no fulfilling purpose on that day.
Resigning myself to the cold and loneliness, I made peace with myself knowing that I had done all I could to be meaningful in Tom’s life and that my present predicament was not one of choice. My situation was solely caused by Tom’s decision to discard me in that manner. Oddly enough, that is something I had heard from other papers about their owners and never in a million editions had I ever thought it would happen to me.
I’m not sure what time of night it was only that it had to have been before midnight; I felt a trembling hand pick me up and carry me away. There were no streetlamps on so I had no idea who had chosen to snatch me from the wire basket. We traveled a bit of a distance and then the scenery changed from the openness of the street to the closeness of buildings on both sides. It finally came to me that we were in an alley. I knew that from the number of stories that had been printed in my pages about such places.
I didn’t know whether to be frightened or happy because most of the stories were never good ones. From what I could remember, the alleys contained many mean, dirty, and despicable characters. Lots of murders took place in the alleys and I didn’t want to find myself ending up on a corpse. The thought of it made my pages flutter.
The person carrying me came to a stop and slowly laid out some of my pages on the ground. It was then that I recognized it was a woman who had brought me here. She undid her coat and removed two of my pages, placed them inside her clothing and wrapped them around her body. Once that was finished, she took two more sheets, wrapped them around her clothing and pulled her coat over them. She carefully folded the rest of my pages up and placed them in her coat pocket.
The temperature dropped even more and I could feel the woman shivering a bit in spite of the protection she had taken to warm herself. No sooner had I finished these thoughts that she got up on her elbows, pulled a couple pages from her pocket and struck a lighter to them. The fire glowed in the darkness and I could see her face and was immensely saddened by the way she appeared and the suffering I knew she had to have endured each day.
It was strange to think that I could feel the sadness for her yet not feel any pain from my burning pages. I noticed she had placed some small sticks on the flames and before I knew it, she had a small fire burning where she proceeded to warm her hands and fingers. During the night, she repeated pulling a couple pages at a time from her pocket, crumpling them up and putting them on the fire along with some sticks, each time laying her head on her arms and warming her hands before stuffing them inside her coat.
Morning came and the sun was shining. It was still bitterly cold but warming just a tad as the sun drew higher in the sky. Because the woman had placed those four sheets of mine inside her clothes and coat, I had survived the night as she had. Even with missing pages, I was jubilant because I had served a most meaningful purpose. I had saved a life! I never saw Tom again and often wondered what might have happened to him. I still haven’t been assigned another regular. More often than not, I get scattered here there and everywhere and quite abused, but I don’t mind because I’m always hopeful I’ll find someone who will need me in a more meaningful way. And you thought newspapers had no life.
July 6, 2014