Orphan Survival Stories Index |
It had been many a year since I stood in front of Preston's Drug store. It is located where Beach and Atlantic Boulevard come together on the south side of Jacksonville, Florida.
This was the store where I remember getting my very first hug. I was 6 years old when I gave the woman behind the counter a nickel for hugging me. This was also the store where we kids stole many a comic book, not to mention ordered ice cream cones and then ran out of the store without paying for them.
As I entered the store, I walked over to what use to be the ice cream fountain. I sat down on one of the stools and just sat enjoying the fact that I was now all gown-up.
"Do you still serve a cherry coke?" I asked the woman.
"Large or small?" she asked.
"I'll have a large one," I said.
I twisted around on the stool and just sat staring off in the distance. All the while, I was thinking back to when I was a 7-year-old boy roaming about in this wonderful store. I searched deep within my mind to see if I might have a bit of guilt for all I had illegally taken from this place when I was a young boy. Yes, there were many regrets stored in the back pages of my mind. I wondered if I should even have the right to enter this place because of all I had done when I was a young ‘whipper-snapper.’
I finished my drink, picked up the ticket and walked over to the front counter. As I stood waiting for someone to take my money, I looked down into the glass case that divided the store from the cash register. Taped to the glass shelf was a $20 bill along with a note. I squatted down and began to read what was written on the small paper.
It read: "Please except this along with my apology as payment for the items that we kids stole from your store many years ago."
Reading those words almost took my breath away.
"May I help you?" someone asked.
"Yes," I replied as I handed the man the drink ticket and $5.
"Do you know where this came from?" I asked pointing down to the $20 bill.
"Was dropped in the mail slot several years back," replied the man.
"I was just wondering... " I stated to say.
"Wondering what?" asked the man.
"It's not important," I said as I took back my change.
I do not have the slightest idea who might have dropped the note and $20 bill through the mail slot. I hope it was one of the boys from the orphanage. That would be a sign that another young boy who had been abused and mistreated by the orphanage, also beat the odds and became an honest man with a conscience.