It was the Monday before Thanksgiving. Elizabeth sat at her kitchen table making out her grocery list. The grocery store was about 10 long blocks away from her house. “Oh, well,” Elizabeth said, “Going to the store guarantees exercise.” She got up from her table, put on her coat and hat and put the list in her coat pocket. She grabbed her purse and her shopping cart and exited her house.

After locking her door, Elizabeth started down her steps and spied a classmate, Darwin, standing on a corner she had to pass. Elizabeth sighed. The last thing she wanted was to meet up with Darwin today. He had become an alcoholic after his wife died, and although his family saw that the rent for his apartment was paid, his family did very little else for him.

As luck would have it, the light turned red when Elizabeth reached the corner where Darwin stood. He smiled at her as he teetered back and forth. “Hey, my angel,” Darwin said, “Goin’ to the store?” The alcohol all but took Elizabeth’s breath away. “Good morning, Darwin. How are you?” Elizabeth asked as coolly as possible? “Fit as a fiddle,” Darwin quipped, “You ready for Thanksgiving?”

“Not quite,” Elizabeth answered. “Me neither,” Darwin replied, “I don’t have a thing for turkey day. Gobble, gobble, gobble! Turkeys don’t have to be afraid of me.” He laughed. Elizabeth laughed, too.

“Happy Thanksgiving anyway,” Elizabeth said without thinking, “I’ll be seeing you.” She started across the street to get away from Darwin, but Darwin had decided to walk with her. “Where are you going, Darwin?” Elizabeth asked. “I’m going with you to help you carry your groceries.” “Thanks,” said Elizabeth, “but I have my cart. I’ll be alright.” Darwin kept staggering along beside her and said nothing as though he hadn’t heard a word she said. On every block Elizabeth reminded Darwin that she wouldn’t need any help, but Darwin continued to walk with her.

When they got to the store, Darwin sat down on a bench just outside the entrance and said he would wait for her. Elizabeth hoped he wouldn’t, but when she exited the store with a filled-to-the-brim cart and a shopping bag in her hand, who jumped up from the bench to help her but Darwin. “Oh, Lord, please,” Elizabeth prayed. Darwin reached for Elizabeth’s shopping bag, which wasn’t heavy but contained eggs. “No, no, no,” Elizabeth demanded as she held on tightly to the bag. Darwin looked at her, bewildered and hurt. “Why don’t you pull the cart, Darwin,” Elizabeth suggested, “It’s pretty heavy.” Darwin took the cart and followed Elizabeth down the street. He never let go of the cart although he and the cart weaved back and forth across the sidewalk. When they reached Elizabeth’s house, Darwin insisted on pulling the cart up the steps and into the house. “Thank you so much, Darwin,” Elizabeth said, “I really appreciate your help.” “You are so welcome, my angel,” Darwin said as he continued to stand inside the house. Elizabeth looked at Darwin and suddenly recalled a song her mother sang.

“Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do, Do not wait to shed your light afar;

To the many duties ever near you now be true, Brighten the corner where you are.

Brighten the corner where you are! Brighten the corner where you are!

Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar; Brighten the corner where you are!” (Ina D. Ogdon, 1913)

“Darwin, why don’t you join me and my family for Thanksgiving dinner at about 2 pm,” Elizabeth said,” Do you think you can be sober then?” “You better believe it, my angel,” Darwin said, weaving back and forth and grinning from ear to ear. “I’ll see you on Thanksgiving in my best bib and tucker.” Elizabeth smiled, shook Darwin’s hand and opened the door, “Bye, Darwin, see you on Thanksgiving.”


Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...