Stories of Micheal

“Have a happy day, Love”

He caught my eye and looked at me with a cameradery that one should reserve for someone closer. It was not the first time he had heralded me with wishes of a happy day, I was still as surprised as the 1st time.

I smiled and waved to him, feeling much warmer inside and more of a spring in my step. I walked to the top end of Acland Street, which was as usual milling with tourists, residents, and people on days out. It was a cloudy day and God knows why there were so many people around. The temperature had been 10 ceelcius for most of the week.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the old man. My brisk walk had turned in to a thoughtful stroll. He sits there almost every day outside the Village Belle Newsagents on the wrought iron bench , entertaining and befriending every person that goes by. If one knows him they stop and give him the time of day, and if one does not know him they are they are heralded by whatever tune is on the Old Mans tongue.

Frequently he is also known to give advice on whichever weather extremity should be happening at the time.

“Don’t forget to wear your coat love, theres a cold snap in the afternoon,” he bellow’s down the street.

I pondered whether he got his information from his small transistor radio complete with headphones that he was always listening intently to, or was it from a higher source only ever tapped into by Geese that fly south in winter.

I reached the Esplanade and wandered to the grass my eyes searching for a comfortable place to sit, soon I made it to the beach. The sea was gray and I looked to the sky and it was gray too.

“At least its not too windy” my mind turning to the old man again. I felt grateful that the weather decided to behave itself and not be to hard on the old man. After all he is mostly always on Acland street rain, hail or shine. .

The sparse few day he is not there is a source of worry because the street is not the same with out him.

But mostly he is there. There to tell you to “have a happy day”, there to give you weather advice, there for you.

I breathed in the sea air defining and isolating the seaweed from the salt and taking in the white wave tops from a distance.

“Not a day for rowing "I whispered to myself and laughed out loud for I reminded myself of the old man and knowing if he was with me now it was the most probable thing he would say.

A couple strolled by arm in arm and clinging to each other tightly. Only the contrasting shades of their pullovers defined who was who and where each other started and ended.

I stared after them seeing them and not..

In my minds eye I pictured the old man and took a rough stab at his age. Couldn’t be less than 60. The laughter lines deeply etched across his ruddy cheeks were not suggesting otherwise. His long hair spiraled in to a soft curl at the ends looked as though the wind had brushed it and his face indeed as tho the rain had had a hand in washing it. He usually wore his navy overcoat on a cold day and on the warmer days he took to wearing the Beige and brown tweed coat.

He sat on the wrought iron bench as tho it were the kings throne and waved his arms as tho he were showering you with a thousand blessings.

My mind wandered back to all the encounters I have had with him. When I 1st met him , I was slightly taken aback that someone who looked shabby and down and out could still have the time of day as if he was wearing a cloak of ermine. He sat on the wrought iron bench as tho it were the kings throne and waved his arms as tho he were showering you with a thousand blessings. He was the only street guy I have seen who doesn’t beg for money. People are more than willing to give him what is required for the day.

Although my first meeting with him was still somewhat hazy in my mind, and all the other meetings with him all melted together in the same shower of heraldry and weather warnings for the day.
My partner and I give him money or whatever it is that we can give. And whether it be a friendly Hello or a gold coin he still accepts each as same value and smiles and hellos with the same respect.

Some times if I am what I concider to be rich in cigarettes i usually hand over 3 . He only asks for 1, but from my own experiances, I know one is not enough and I try to pass the cylinders of tobacco to him. He still refusing and praising me to the hilt.

He thanks me and knows what thought process I have put in to deciding how many to give him

I remember on Christmas day last strolling through St Kilda , well more like dashing as I heard a rumor that Eidelwiess was open and serving coffee, (usually unheard of and when you get to know me you will know that my lust for coffee is insatiable)"

I could hear him singing…

“Hark the hearald angels sing, Glory be to the newborn king”

Upon hearing his raspy rendition of this yuletide hymn made my beverage dash turn in to a Christmas mercy mission to the Newsagents. I u-turned to the newsagents and I qued impatiently and asked the girl who was on the front counter

“Do you know the man with the white hair that sings?” She nodded ,

“What kind of ciggarettes does he smoke, do you know” I asked shifting my weight from one foot to the other.

“Oh Let me see”,

She conferred with her work mates and a packet of Winfields were produced.

I skipped out, and felt butterflys in my stomach partly due to my excited antisipation of giving to him and also wondering whether he would accept my gift.

Its a bit silly but I kind of wish I had wrapped them now.

I knelt before the old man and looked at him lovingly and said “Happy christmas mate”.

Well his face was a picture, he looked at me and his eyes quizzical, “Its for you mate , Happy christmas”. He took my hand and squeezed it like he was trying to squeeze every bit of love and gratitude from himself in to me.

“Oh, Thanks love, this is too much” I shook my head and told him “no its for you on Christmas”

I have to admit that there was a big lump in my throat and I am pretty sure there was for him too.

I got up as I felt a bit embarrassed, and waved goodbye to him. “Happy Christmas love, have a happy day” He bellowed after me.

As I made my way back home, I felt such a lightness in my pace and my heart wanted to sing. I felt so good for doing a good deed even if the gift is concidered by the majority, unhealthy.

Some say of him , and I cant be absolutly sure if its true but the most likey explaination, but apparently he used to be an absolute genius. Theres a fine line between that and madness and people say that he went the other way. It makes me think of his hair and I wonder whay the last curl on the spiral could tell me ,should it talk. In some ways I took this as being a landmark piece of hair. The bottom of the strand telling on the first day he decided he would no longer cut it, if he decided at all.

Some days I see him all on his own, singing and whispering, and I have an almightly urge to pull him by the elbow and take him home with me. If only to get a warm cup of tea down his neck and a sandwich too. I know he is diabetic, he told me once, so that crosses out making any cakes for him. He told me that one day as he was sharing out buns that someone had baked for him. He caught my hand, and pulled me close, and produced a Glad bag full of buns.

“Oh I cant eat them love I am a diabetic, here bring a few home to the kiddies.” Pressing the buns into my already secured hand, he gave me a gentle squeeze. I couldent refuse him partly because he was like everyones Aunty Bessie at Christmas trying to fill you up with all her baked goodies and partly I could see he wanted to be human and give to me like so many had given to him. Things like that make me just want to cry, for happiness, for sadness and mostly being so overcome by the generosity of one human.

You Could’nt honenstly meet someone who was more respectful towards children.

One evening I was running to the shops in a dreadful teatime rush. We saw the old man in Safeway and as usual he greeted us with having a happy day and also warnings of a cold night ahead. He asked me then where were the crackers and cheese and I pointed him to the aisle he needed. I finished up my shopping and made my way out to the footpath with Curly and RB in tow and we saw the old man again. He thanked me for my help, and asked if the children would like a bun.

“I would really like to buy them a bun from Brumbys’

“Ahhh yer alright” I said knowing that he was being generous and respectful,

“You Don’t have to”.

“Oh but I want to,” his peircing azure eyes implored me.

“Only if its ok with you too” I relented. He popped some money in to Rbs hand and sent him off. “Would the other lad like one?” “Oh please Don’t worry” I said knowing he had little enough money for himself, never mind buying treats for the kids. He pressed some coins into my hand and in a show of trusting gratitude I asked him to stay with Curly while I got the other bun.

I wanted him to know that inspite of all the political correctness that happens these days, I trusted him to be with my children. I wanted him to know that i wasnt one of these starchy mama’s who give their children whiplash if they even look at someone like him.

I remember walking home that evening with the children just overcome by another persons generosity and also his respect. God knows he has probably been stung more than once by the political correctness that defines our society and thus he was trying to compensate for that with his overt politeness.

He took his place by the Village Belle and munched on his cheese and crackers back to the same train of thought that had got him there in the 1st place

Stories of Micheal


St Kilda, Australia

  • Artist

Artist's Description

Moments in life

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