It’s A Wonderful Life?
December 25, 2014
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” “What a load of s***,” I thought, as I clicked off the truck’s radio and stepped out into the brisk night air. Lighting a cig I began picking my way down the dirt path to the railway bridge. It was December 24th 2008, ‘twas the epitome of the night before Xmas. Ten minutes till midnight with moonlight peeping through the clouds, as a light but determined snowfall began blanketing the land in silence.
Stepping onto the bridge it was hard not to be swept up in the majestic beauty of it all. Looking down between the ties as snow swooped and swirled beneath my feet, spiraling down towards the icy water some 400 yards below. After achieving the center and ducking through the rusted steel lattice I stood perched on the trestle’s edge. Taking a last drag of the cig I gave it a flick and leaned over to watch it flip end over end like a dysfunctional firework into the liquid blackness below. And that’s when he grabbed me.
I was dragged backwards, cracking my head on rusted lattice and falling back onto the cold steel rails. My assailant stood over me, a victorious grin on his face. He was tall with light blonde hair and was dressed from head to toe in pristine white. I had two questions
1. How did he get out here without getting dirty and 2. What kind of bleach did he use.
Before either could be asked he introduced himself. “Hello, I am Douglas, an angel sent from the heavens to aid you in this—your lowest of times. If I am successful I will receive my wings and ascend to eternity.” OK... my weird-o-meter just shot of the scale. He leaned closer with what appeared to be a winning grin mixed with pity and announced, “I have come here tonight on this Eve of Christmas; your (he emphasized this with a firm theatrical pointing) night of reckoning. To show you that life is worth living and that yours is indeed a wonderful life! Shall we begin?”...I had nothing, he sounded liked the bastard offspring of a telemarketer and a motivational speaker. All I could do was give a bewildered nod.
With this he pulled me to my feet and with a wave of his arm everything went white. “Let’s begin at the beginning.” He stated with utter confidence, “for we must look to where we’ve been to see where we are going. Just a glimpse and you’ll see yours is truly a wonderful life! And now...this is your life in review.”
There was a flash and then we saw it all. From birth to misguided youth, up through troubled adolescence and rounding out with a delusional adulthood. Then we were back on the bridge. That was kind of neat, I thought.
Douglas however didn’t look so good and seemed a lot less optimistic. “My God, oh...my...God,” he stammered, “how did you survive? How could one person take so much...” he paused, “it’s truly amazing you haven’t come to this bridge before.” I shrugged but before I could reply he perked up. “Hey I know,” he announced, confidence restored, “let’s take another look. Let’s see your life...without you in it. We’ll see how the world would be without you. How you’ve made it a better place and have a truly wonderful life!”
Another theatrical wave, another brilliant flash and...we were back on the bridge...Doug looked sick. “Sweet Jesus, what are you,” he said near tears, “you are a eclectic anomaly! You serve no true purpose. Not only is your life not wonderful, you really don’t have one. And worse, it appears the world WOULD be a better place had you never been in it.” He walked over to the trestle’s edge. “All I had to do was show you your life had purpose and meaning to earn my eternity but I can’t because it doesn’t. I think I’ll jump.” He got one foot over the edge when I grabbed his arm and finally got a word in edgewise. “Doug maybe the problem here is that wasn’t my life.”
“Wait,” he said confused, “you’re not up here to commit suicide?” I shook my head. He continued still puzzled, “You weren’t planning to leap from this bridge at the stroke of midnight...Christmas Eve?” “No man,” I replied, “I just came out here to smoke and enjoy the view.” With a look of horrific realization he said, “You’re not Edward Millston?”
At that moment church bells could be heard in the distance, sounding the midnight hour. Simultaneously there was a shriek and a splash from the other end of the bridge. “Oh, s***!” Doug said looking a little whiter. We both peered over the side and watched as a dark figure in the water made its way to shore then begin climbing back up, cursing its luck and vowing to find a higher bridge. Doug breathed a sigh of relief. “Well it looks like you dodged a bullet there,” I said patting him on the shoulder, “c’mon there’s a bar up the road that’s open, I’m buying.”
As we were stepping off the bridge the church bells sounded out again. Doug smiled hopefully, “You know,” he said, “Maybe I have done some good here tonight. They say every time a bell rings an angel get its wings.” I listened for a moment, shook my head and sympathetically said, “Sorry to tell you this pal, but those bells are tolling.”
Hope everyone has, is having or had a Merry Christmas!!!
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