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When John volunteered to spend time with inmates of an old folks’ Home, the administrator, Matt, assigned him to ‘mentor’ a group of elderly men – to keep them occupied with activities.

Unlike most of the other residents, Mr Charles was bubbly and brimmed with life. He claimed to be about ninety-five years old. His limbs withered and weak, he moved about in a well-worn wheelchair.

Whenever John appeared, Mr Charles’ eyes lit up and he would regale the young man with tales. Often it was a monologue, with John reduced to making polite sounds and nods. The old man’s descriptions were vivid, the events lived and always in the first person.

Listening to Mr Charles, John could not help but wonder at the active and vital life the old man had lived. As the weeks slipped by, John realised that he would never get to travel to half the places the old man had seen or enjoy the thrills and adventures of the yesteryears.

Then, it happened that John had to leave on an extended business trip and upon his return, was distraught to learn of Mr Charles’ death.

Matt had a bittersweet surprise. Apparently, Mr Charles who had no known relatives had bequeathed to John his earthly treasures – his books, which numbered a few thousand.

“Well, at least he lived a good life, filled with marvellous adventures.”

“Oh, you didn’t really believe all that did you?” Matt remarked.

“Sorry?”

“Didn’t you know? He was born a cripple. After his parents died about seventy years ago, he ended up here. Spent all his life reading those books.”

They held one another’s eyes for a few moments before Matt patted John’s shoulder and walked away, his steps echoing down the length of the corridor.

John glanced at the old man’s bed, and his frown relaxed. He thought he heard a familiar voice, the words crystal clear.

Bon voyage!

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Related Link – World Travellers 🙂

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Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2013

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