Beggars Can Be Choosers

Terry
city.boy@blueyonder.co.uk
© 2011

The story you are reading is fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are purely from imagination and are for pleasure and are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locality is entirely coincidental.

I hope you enjoy this story. If you do please let me know. I write to give something back for the pleasure I have received.

* * *

Dan's Story

* * *

My name is Daniel (Dan for short) Walker. I am 40 years old and live in Newcastle. I have lived on my own since I got divorced five years ago.

It was the second week in December, very cold and freezing. I had just come home from a long day at work. I was just starting tea when I heard noises outside. Since the rubbish bins were down the side of the house, it was obvious that someone or something was going through them. Cats and dogs were always scavenging through the rubbish for scraps of food to eat.

I picked up a torch, put on a jacket and went outside and down the side of the house. I turned on the torch and was surprised to see a boy rummaging through the bins. He looked about thirteen. When I tried to grab him, he ducked under my arm and he ran away. I went back inside to finish making tea. About ten minutes later I heard the sound of someone again going through the bins. When I finished cooking I went to the door, opened it, and shouted, "If you're hungry, come in and I will give you something to eat." It went quiet but nobody appeared so I closed the door and went back inside to eat.

A couple of nights later, I heard a knock on the door. When I opened it, the same kid stood there shivering in the snow. I told him to come in, "Do you want something to eat son?" I asked.

"Yes please." He said timidly.

I made him a couple of ham sandwiches. No sooner were they in front of him, they were gone. After he finished eating he bolted out of the door and again ran away.

The next night it was even colder and it was snowing really hard. Once again there was a knock on the back door. I opened it and was amazed to see the same kid standing there. He was wearing a thin shirt, pants (too short), and a short, thin jacket. He looked to be freezing and just stood there shivering. I told him to come inside, when he just stood there, I pulled him inside shutting the door behind him then, "OUCH!" He kicked me in the shins. I looked at him as he stood in front of me. Dark haired, he was probably about five foot one and underweight. He and his clothes were filthy with engrained dirt. In fact, he and his clothing reeked.

Stating the obvious I said, "You look cold, you're dirty and you stink." He just glared at me. I continued, "Why don't you go into the bathroom, get out of those clothes and I'll will wash them while you have a bath and I'll get you something to eat." He continued to glared at me so I said, "There'll be nothing to eat until you've had a bath." Reluctantly he nodded agreement and followed me upstairs to the bathroom. I started to run the bath adding plenty bubble bath to the water. I gave him a bottle of shampoo and conditioner and showed him how to use the shower to rinse off. Before I left I handed him a clean towel. As I stood outside he threw his clothes out on to the landing. I picked them up and took them to the kitchen and put them into the washer/dryer. All he had were a few coppers in his trouser pocket. I started the washer and went to the kitchen to make something to eat. About twenty minutes later he came downstairs wrapped in a large bath towel. He sat at the kitchen table and I put a plate of hot Spaghetti Bolognese in front of him. He literally inhaled the food as if he had not eaten for a week. He took a second helping and washed it down with a glass of milk.

Finished I let him settle on the couch in the living room and was about to turn on the TV when I noticed he had already gone to sleep. I sat and read for a while letting him sleep. Then I went to check on the washing. It had finished so I took his clothes out, folded them, and put them on the kitchen table. I then went to bed. When I got up in the morning the boy was gone.

That following night there was a knock on the door and again the kid stood there. Somehow, he was nearly as dirty as he had been the previous night. I looked at him and he looked sheepishly at me. I stood aside and let him in, "You know where the bathroom is, let me have your clothes and I'll wash them." He disappeared to the bathroom and left his clothes on the landing again. I picked them up left a towel outside the door, and then went to put them in the machine. I started it and again went to make something to eat. Again he wolfed it down and I left him asleep on the couch.

The next morning, to my surprise, I found him still asleep on the couch. I rang work to say I would be in later and went to the kitchen to make breakfast. There's nothing like the smell of bacon frying to waken a sleeping boy. He appeared in the kitchen rubbing the sleep from his eyes as I got us breakfast. While we sat eating I wondered what I was going to do? Where were his parents? What had happened to him?

When he finished eating, I said, "My name is Dan, Dan Walker. Where are your parents?"

He stared into space for a while before replying, "I ran away from home last year."

It transpired his name was Steve Turner, he was twelve years old and his mother, who was always drunk, lived in Cardiff and he was always fighting with her. He'd never known his Dad. He had hitchhiked all the way to Newcastle. He had been living in an abandoned house about a mile from where I lived. The poor kid seemed to have been through a lot. He went into to the living room, lay on the couch, and was soon asleep again. I went to work, when I returned home Steven was gone. He had left a note on the kitchen table.

'Thanks for looking after me. I don't belong here but I will never forget what you did for me.'

* * *

I never expected to see or hear from Steven again. About two years later I was in town doing some work for a friend. He worked in the local children's home. When I walked in you can imagine my surprise to see Steven hiding in a corner. He just stared at me but wouldn't talk. I found out that Steven had had a really rough time on the streets and was now living in the children's home. I felt really sorry for the lad and what must have happened to him. I wished I could help him if only so he had someone to be there for him. He needed help and with the staff, time and financial constraints there was no one at the home who could help him. I saw a person, one who I could help AGAIN!!

* * *

Steven's Story

* * *

It was Saturday. The other kids were either watching television or out in town. I was alone in my room when the counselor came to my door and told me to go to the office. Oh god what now, I couldn't think of anything I had done to get into trouble. I slowly walked downstairs to the office, knocked on the door and walked in. Mr. Fields, the house master (he ran the home), was sitting behind his desk. Another man was standing looking at me. It was Mr. Walker. Dan walked over to me and placing his hand on my shoulder, smiled and asked, "What do I have to do to take Steve home?"

Mr. Fields replied, "You would have to apply to the Social Services to become a foster parent before anything else could be considered." He added if approved it would then be possible for me to live with Dan at his home. If that proved to be working then there was the possibility of adoption.

In the UK nothing ever runs smoothly. About a month later, after a couple of visits from Social Services checking Dan out and making sure he and his home were suitable for a child. All the paperwork had been completed and Dan was now officially an approved Foster Parent. About six weeks after the first meeting I was back in the office (it was a Friday) Dan came back, he looked at me and said, "Would you like to come home with me?"

Would I? I could only nod my head.

Mr. Fields looked seriously at me before saying, "This is a chance for you, Steve. If I were you I'd take it."

I looked at Dan and Mr. Fields and said, "Oh I will, I promise."

Then Mr. Fields looked at Dan and said, "If after six months this all works out then adoption would be possible."

When they had finished talking, Dan and I walked out of the office together and I ran upstairs to get what few things I had. Together we left the home to start a new life.

When we got to the car, Dan said, "We're going to get something to eat and then we will go and get some groceries."

While we were driving Dan said, "I've always wanted kids of my own and now I have a son. I really hope one day you will be comfortable calling me your DAD."

He added, "He knew from what I had said that I had never known my dad, my mother had always been drunk and then I had run away. That's not what I'd call a family."

As we drew up to his house, he said, "I really hope now this will be your permanent home."

I looked at it and said, "It looked the same as I remember it."

Dan took me upstairs to show me my bedroom. I knew that this was going to be better than a room shared with half a dozen other lads.

On Saturday we went shopping for new clothes, Dan also got me a new computer and a television for my room. As we were going home he told me how the Home had said I was very good at school. "I will show you I can be a really good son too." I said.

After six months Dan was finally able to adopt me. "Now you are my SON," he said.

"Now I have a DAD," I said. I couldn't believe it.

Son and dad, boy did that feel good. It seemed we both had had a dream come true and it felt really good. We hugged for all we were worth.

I am now thirty.

But that's another story.

* * *

Grown Up

* * *

I am Steven Walker. You know my dad, Dan Walker. I am 30 years old. I work at the Children's Home I used to live in, the Bridgefield Children's Home. After what my dad had done for me. What else could I possibly do but work with kids in a similar situation as I was in, "No Home, No Family."

I work in Pediatrics. Which helps as I work with Mentally and Physically Disabled Children.

I was playing cards with Tommy, he was 13. He had "Dyslexia, A Learning Disability." I smiled, I was being beaten by a 13 year old playing cards.

When I looked around I saw a new kid being pushed in. He was left near the window. The kid was just staring through it. He was about 11 or 12 years old. I was a little concerned about the kid. He looked so sad. He looked normal in every way except he couldn't walk.

"I want to be a Pilot," Tommy said, interrupting my thoughts.

I glanced at my watch. I would have to be leaving shortly, as it would be Tea time for the kids.

"I'm glad I don't have to shoot you," I said to Tommy.

"Beaten again," he giggled.

I wanted to talk to the boy, but time wasn't on my side. I went and stood where the kid was sat in his chair.

"Think it will rain tonight?"

Startled, the kid looked up, his eyes were stale. He looked away without answering. A second later, he turned and looked up at me.

I knelt down, bringing me closer to his eye level. The kid had brown hair, brown eyes. He had a book on his lap.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you," then got up too walk away.

"You are Steven, right?" the boy said, as he looked up at me.

"Right," I said in my warmest voice.

"It's nice that you let Tommy beat you at cards."

"Will you tell me your name?"

"Brian, Brian Storey."

"How old are you Brian?"

"I'm 11." The kid's eyes looked really sad. There was a silence again.

"Well, Brian, it was nice to meet you," I said, starting to move away.

The kid spoke again. "Will you talk to me for a while? People just look at me when they are here. I hear people talking about me. You know, the poor crippled kid. Nobody wants to talk or be with me like you do with Tommy. You are nice.... even to someone like me."

"Someone like you, I don't see you as a cripple. I see you as someone who looks like he needs a friend."

An angry looking man in his early 40's called out, "Time for tea, everyone line up."

The kid squirmed, clearly intimidated.

"I've got to go," I said. "We can talk again tomorrow."

His face lit up with a smile. "Thank you." It was the first time he hadn't looked dejected.

The next day I went to have a word with the house master about Brian.

He said, "Brian has no family. Social Services are going to send him to another home, sometime next week."

"Oh," I said, "Thank you for telling me."

The week after, I was with the kids as usual, I looked around the room for a Brian. He was nowhere to be seen. As I played Connect Four with Tommy, I asked where Brian had gone, Tommy said, "He got sent to live at another place. He said he was scared about moving away, he didn't want to go."

I wondered where they had moved him to. I decided to talk to the house master again.

"I was wondering if you could give me the new address of Brian, the little guy in the wheelchair. The kid has really picked up since he has had someone to talk to, also having 'A Friend.'"

There was a pause while he searched records. He said, "He had had moved to, 136 Newlands Road, Newcastle."

"Thank you very much," I said, then left.

I went to the address. I parked up and walked to the house. I knocked on the door, waited for a minute, and then knocked again.

The door opened. "Hello," I said, "are you the social worker here?"

"Yes," she said.

I said I have come to see Brian Storey. He used to live at the Bridgefield Children's Home. I work at the home. I was Brian's doctor while he was there.

She opened the door and I stepped inside. I asked if I could go and see Brian. She said it would be okay. He was in the first room on the left.

I went down the hall and knocked on the door, and opened it when called to come in. Brian sat near the window staring out.

"Hi," I said. I walked over to him. He didn't look up. "So what's your new home like?"

"I hate it here. No one wants a cripple."

I knelt down in front of him. "What can I do Brian?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, it looks like you need somebody. Will you let me help you?"

He stared straight ahead, not speaking. I said, "How long have you been in care?"

"I was eight." He said

"My mum picked me up from school, she had been drinking. We got in a car accident. I lost the use of my legs... my mum got killed."

Oh, kid, you need someone on your side. This poor kid needed someone, 'Desperately'. I told him I had to go. But I would be back, "I promise."

I went to the office, and spoke to the Social Worker. Her name turned out to be, Doris Longridge. I asked about Brian. I asked about the possibility of seeing him on a regular basis. Then she asked if that was being in the capacity of being a friend or a doctor? I said either would be a start. I told her I was adopted when I was 14. Dan Walker adopted me. It was something I never dreamed I would have, being loved by a parent.

I went to see Brian a lot. I even took him to the occasional fairground. I started taking him out for the weekends.

"Let's go," I said, "we got to go shopping."

He looked at me. ?????

He shot down every aisle. Brian was wide eyed. I couldn't help but laugh. I asked, "When was the last time you went shopping?"

"I don't know. I think I was about 7."

After we finished shopping, I asked if there was anything he wanted. Brian thought for a moment, "I don't know."

"Anything at all?"

"I've got nearly all I ever wanted."

After a while I noticed tears. "What's wrong?" I asked.

"Since Mom died. I never thought..." He paused, "I would ever be happy again."

We got some groceries then went to the car.

I put Brian in the car, got the chair in, tears, still flowing, "In my wildest dreams I never thought I could be this happy."

"Me neither, Kiddo, me neither."

* * *

The End

Thanks to John Henderson for his help in editing this story.


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