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THE RED RUBY-DIAMOND



"WATCH IT!" yelled the young man as he shoved the man backwards, causing him to hit the telephone pole and then fall down onto the street.

"You ass holes are all over the place," he said.

Then he straightened his coat and tie, and walked away.

"Are you okay?" I asked the man as he began to pick himself up off the ground.

"I'm okay.”

"Why did he push you down like that?"

"He thought I was begging for money."

He began to brush himself off.

"What did you say to him to make him act crazy like that?"

"I asked him if he would step inside the donut shop and get me a few donuts."

"Can't you go in and get some donuts yourself?"

"I'm not allowed on the premises!" he exclaimed loudly.

"What's a premises? I've never heard of that word before?"

"An establishment or place of business."

"Give me the money, and I'll go in and get the donuts."

The man handed me $1 and I went inside to get the order.

"I want 12 donuts in a box," I told the woman behind the counter.

"Are you with him?" she asked.

She was pointing to the man standing out on the street.

"I'm just getting him some donuts," I replied.

"Can't sell them to you, kid.”

"Why can't I have some donuts?"

"Nothing for him; he is nothing but a vagrant. He's been told to get off this block and stop hanging around here bothering our customers.”

"But he's hungry. It's unfair not to sell him some food, if he's got money.”

"Life ain't fair kid and you'll learn that one day. Now, you get out of here too," she said giving me a dirty look.

I walked back out of the shop and handed the $1 back to the man. He reached in his pocket and took out a small money clip. It had a big red stone in the middle of it. He placed the $1 into the clip and then he stuck it back into his pocket.

"I'm sorry I couldn't get you some donuts to eat," I said.

"That's okay, kid. I'll eat elsewhere," he replied smiling down at me.

"How come you ain't in school?"

"Can I see that red diamond again?" I asked him changing the subject.

"Sure," said the man.

He reached into his pocket.

"But it's not a diamond. It's a ruby," he explained. "My wife gave me that clip more than 30 years ago."

"It sure is pretty," I replied as I held it up to the sun.

As we walked along, he talked about his wife. He told me she had died a few years back. That they never had any children and he now lived all alone. As the conversation progressed, I finally told him that I had skipped school and was from the Children's Home Society Orphanage over on the south side.

"Have you ever been to the zoo?" he asked.

"I went one time, but the matron hit me on the head with a candy apple.”

"Let’s go to the zoo, kid!"

The next thing I knew, we were in a checkered taxi and headed to the Jacksonville Zoo. For hours, we walked around looking at all the animals. He did not hurry me along as the matrons did the one time we came to the zoo. We walked, talked, ate ice cream and he bought me lots of cotton candy. I had never eaten so many bags of peanuts in all my life.

After our visit to the zoo, he took me in a taxi for a real long drive. When we got to this small town, he took me to visit a great big fort that sat on the edge of the ocean.

"It was a fort from way back in the old time days, when Indians and the Spanish lived here," he explained.

"I never knew that Indians lived in Florida.”

He just laughed.

As our day ended, the man told me he would drop me off by the orphanage gate, when we got back to Jacksonville. He said I should go back, because I could be hurt out in the street. I told him that the matron would beat me, because I had skipped school.

"I've had a few switchings in my lifetime," the man said and then winked at me.

"They don't use any switches on us. They use green bamboo canes and they hurt real badly too.”

"You'll be okay," said the man patting me on the knee.

When the taxi stopped in front of Spring Park Elementary School, I got out of the cab and thanked the man for all he had done for me.

"Kid, you were kind to me this morning and in return, I was kind to you. Being kind to someone costs absolutely nothing. I want you to remember that as you grow up. Can you do that for me?"

"But you spent a lot of money on me. I didn't do nothing for you.”

"Oh! Yes, you did boy. You brought delight and joy into my life for the first time in years.”

"Does that make me good for something?"

"You’re the best," he said as he tapped the cab driver on the shoulder.

I stood and watched as the taxi slowly drove away. When I returned to the orphanage, no one said a word to me about missing school. It was as if that day had never even happened.

That was a wonderful day in my life. I have never forgotten that red ruby diamond, my trip to the zoo or my visit to the fort. However, most of all, I will remember being told that I was worth something and that I brought joy into someone's life. That was a real good feeling.

There is no doubt that my going off with this strange man was a very stupid thing for me to do. My frame of mind at the time was something ‘unknown’ had to be much, much better than having ‘something bad,’ like the orphanage.



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