Learning To Believe


Mervyn had no idea, that in a few days time something amazing and totally unique was about to happen to him.
It started ordinarily enough.
Having just finished school, he was determined to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, move to America and prove himself.
Eventually he had been offered a job at a delivery company in New York a few hundred miles from his brother and so he would have to stand on his own two feet. He saw this as an advantage.
Two days later, with nowhere to stay we find Mervyn walking the streets of New York looking for somewhere to sleep that night. His job would start in a few days and he needed to get settled. Unfortunately, he has had a shock. His very poor savings have proved to be far too small in this very expensive city and he is getting desperate. Tired out he bought the evening paper and among the many adverts he saw one for a “Very cheap apartment to the right person”. He decided to follow it up.
He finally found the address, which was an old apartment block. Once upon a time the building might have been called a skyscraper but, to Mervyn’s young eyes, it looked rather small and had obviously seen better days.
He walked into the building’s lobby, asked for the manager and was shown to an office where he was told he had missed the rush but the room was still available. After talking for about half an hour, the manager said, “Come on, I’ll show you the apartment to see if you’ll still be interested”. He took Mervyn out to the lobby and they walk to the lift.
Now this lift is important later on in our story when things get rather strange, so I’m going to try and describe it. I want you to picture it in your mind.
It is very old and has two sets of doors. On the outside they pull shut and meet in the middle. Each door has a round window, a bit like a porthole on a ship. Once inside the lift there is a criss-cross metal gate that pulls across from left to right. Through the gaps in those bars, passengers can see the wall going by as they look out of the round windows. I hope you can picture it, as it is so old-fashioned.
The manager closed the doors and pressed the button. Mervyn noticed the movement was very gentle and slow. Finally, on the seventh floor they got out and walked along a corridor to the apartment. On the way the manager mentioned, with a big smile, that Mervyn had very quiet, soft-soled shoes on the concrete floors.
On arrival, the door was opened and Mervyn realised that he could not possibly afford this wonderfully large apartment and says so. However, the manager offers him an extremely cheap price which he certainly could manage. So, of course, Mervyn asks, “Why so cheap?”
The manager explains this block of apartments is for the elderly and that on every floor they are required to have one young person who can be called on in the middle of the night in case of emergency. Mervyn suddenly recalled the very slow lift and the need for quiet shoes. He realised there was a certain air of peace and calm about this old building and luckily he was being offered a place. He was not going to argue. He reasoned to himself that, at his young age, a couple of nights with no sleep will be no great hardship.
So Mervyn moved in and, in case you are interested, I can let you know that, during the three years he lived there, Mervyn was not called out once. However, he quickly realised the elderly people simply felt better having a polite young man around who they could call upon if they wanted.
Having got Mervyn settled, we must jump forward to the following Tuesday morning. I have no idea why but the fact is that Tuesdays come up rather too often in this story and when we come to the end you will have to look back and decide for yourself whether or not you think they are important in the extraordinary chain of events that follow.

Mervyn is getting ready for work. He hasn’t far to walk so is in no hurry. He has no idea that something different is about to start. He went through his morning routine and left the apartment being sure, as always, to wear quiet shoes.
Now, they say if somebody wanted to hide, then the streets of New York during the rush hour would be just the place and this morning was no exception. Mervyn took his normal route amongst the crowds. However, after a couple of blocks of walking he started to hear something of a commotion behind him. He realised that while he might not usually have noticed such a far off disturbance, in this case it seemed to be getting nearer, so he listened a little more.
He was gradually able to pick out certain phrases which were repeated by different people. I can mention some of the more polite words here. They were, “Hoi, mind what you’re doing” or “Hey, don’t be so rude” and very simply “That hurt!” There were lots more but I know you’ve got the idea.
Well, at this point Mervyn turned around and looked behind him but could see nothing and so he turned back and continued on his way. However, the disturbance got louder and nearer and soon Mervyn looked round and this time could see people being jostled and pushed but he could not see the cause. It was as if individuals were being bumped or shoved out of their way by an invisible force.
Mervyn continued on his way once again but gradually the commotion caught up with him and he was just about to turn and see exactly what was going on when he felt something like an elbow push him forcefully in the hip and over to one side. Just like everybody before him Mervyn started to shout, “Hoi! What are you doing pushing and jostling like that?” but was cut short as, when he looked there was nobody there. Until that is, he looked down and saw the shortest man he had ever seen. Now Mervyn may only have looked for a second or so but he was able to take in a great deal of detail as time seemed to slow down. This man seemed to be wider than he was tall. His amazingly short legs and his bulky frame were certainly not built for rushing and pushing his way through a crowd of people. He was wearing a brown jacket and a bright blue shirt. His bald head, brow and cheeks were bright red and even purple in places from his exertions and lines of sweat ran down his face and neck onto that shirt which, around the collar, was soaked. His glasses had such thick lenses in them that his eyes seemed like specs at the bottom of a tunnel. Some people call these “bottle lens glasses”. Under each arm of his jacket huge sweat stains had soaked through.
All this detail Mervyn absorbed in a moment of exclamation that actually turned out to be, “Hoi! Wha…” as this most odd character continued to push past him. Suddenly however, this rounded figure came to an abrupt halt, turned and just for a split second, as people spilled around him, it seemed as if he looked straight up into Mervyn’s face and even perhaps gave the most imperceptible of nods, as if somehow confirming something to himself.
Mervyn who had stopped anyway was taken aback by this and even more so when this little man with the thick lensed glasses didn’t speak but turned again and simply continued on his way, pushing and shoving people and causing them to resume shouting at him.
The whole thing had taken no more that perhaps 3 seconds and yet Mervyn stood there, with the crowed pushing round him, wondering if it had really happened. Whilst he felt sure it had been him that was stared at for a tiny moment, he still turned around and looked over his shoulder up at the building behind him to see if it was possible that this little man’s line of sight had been aimed at something up there over his shoulder rather than at him. He saw rows and rows of windows, all looking exactly the same. There certainly seemed to be nothing there of interest.
He took another few seconds of consideration and then shrugged his shoulders and decided to get a move on before he was late for work. After all, this was a big city and crazy stuff happened, right?
This peculiar journey to work was soon forgotten as Mervyn’s work became ever busier and we now jump exactly one week through time. Mervyn had quickly become aware that he was hard up, even with his cheap rent. However he was also determined to save what little he could but he also knew he should get out and meet people. So, once each week he ate out at a lovely little Italian restaurant close to his apartment, which offered a very cheap meal and glass of wine if you ate between 6.30 and 7.30 on a Tuesday evening. Each week it was almost empty and the manager was obviously trying to boost trade during a very quiet time.
So here we are, on a Tuesday evening at about 7.15. Mervyn is sitting facing the door onto the street and is tucking into a very tasty Lasagne. He is half way through his glass of wine and is the only customer in the restaurant. He is enjoying chatting to the staff.
Just then he heard a clip-clop, clip-clop, clip-clop just like a child in tap dance shoes running down the street outside. It got louder and louder when suddenly the door burst open. It was pushed back on itself against the wall and all the little panes of glass in the top half rattled as if on the edge of breaking. Everybody stopped including Mervyn who had a fork full of Lasagne halfway to his mouth. The peace of the evening was shattered as, standing in the doorway, was an extremely short, round man with bottle lens glasses who seemed, for an instant, to hesitate and stare at Mervyn before shutting the door with a slam and then trying to take off his brown jacket.
Unfortunately this little man seemed to be in such a hurry that, whilst constantly panting, he was trying to take both arms out of his brown jacket at once. I don’t know if you have ever tried this but even with an athletic figure it would be a difficult exercise. Finally, whilst muttering under his breath, he lifted both arms over his head, trod on the jacket with his left foot and pulled both arms out at once, leaving each sleeve inside out. He then threw this twisted and sweaty jacket onto the pegs where it lay across the top and then turned and ran, more of a shuffle really, in a bright blue, sweaty shirt to a table and did the one thing that nobody should ever do in a restaurant, café or bar anywhere in the world. He started repeatedly clicking his fingers to show he wanted quick service.
Now, I’m not sure about you, but early on in my life I spent many weeks as a part-time waiter in a variety of settings and just occasionally it became obvious that an individual customer does not see you as a person doing your best but more as a slave. The one sure sign of this is the snapping of fingers. Please be warned, if you are reading this, that it was universally agreed by staff in every establishment where I worked that any customer doing this should be completely ignored for being so rude.
However, this odd individual seemed to have no idea of manners and continued clicking his fingers along with the rattling of a fork. Eventually the manager, nodded to his waiters that he would serve the man himself.
Meanwhile Mervyn noticed that he still had that fork of Lasagne poised halfway to his mouth. He put it down, as somehow he did not feel like eating. He reasoned to himself, there cannot be two people who look like this and wear the exact same clothes. Not only that, but the shirt was surely the same one, with many lines of dried sweat clearly showing a map of his perspiration over the last seven days. Most puzzling to Mervyn however, was the fact that he could not help but feel this little man kept stealing glances at him. The trouble was that, with those extremely thick lenses, it was so difficult to tell exactly where those eyes were looking and the constant, impatient fidgeting and rude behaviour simply served as a distraction.
Whilst Mervyn pondered the situation the meal had been delivered. It was spaghetti bolognaise and Mervyn watched in amazement as, without a napkin of any sort, a fork was plunged into the food and a large trailing clump of both sauce and spaghetti was shovelled into the mouth. There was no attempt to stop spaghetti or sauce dribbling down his chin onto his shirt and the tablecloth. The manager, who had paid for the carpet, watched in stunned silence as bits of this family recipe finally found their way to the floor, where those constantly moving and fidgeting feet promptly trod it in. Yet, it did not finish there. Another forkful was scooped from the plate and, still chewing, with the previous portion still hanging out of his mouth and down his shirt front, he attempted to push yet more into his mouth. It seemed as if he didn’t have time to chew and swallow like everyone else. After a third portion had been rammed into his mouth and with a grotesque mess lying all round him, his shirt seemed to be more white and brown with spilt food than its original blue colour. Mervyn could not help but think he looked like a hamster with bloated cheeks.
A quick glance around the restaurant told Mervyn that everybody had stopped to watch and even the chef had emerged from the kitchen. Nobody had seen anything like it.
Things did not stop there as yet more attempts took place to force food into his mouth but with the vast majority spilling out covering both him and the surrounding area.
Mervyn had just decided that choking was surely the next step when, with half his meal hanging out of his mouth and down his chest, the little man suddenly looked up as if remembering something, perhaps a missed appointment. Bits of food dropped to the floor all around him. He quickly stood and with those tiny legs ran as best he could towards the coats leaving a trail behind him. Just as he arrived, he had another thought and another set of hurried tiny steps took him back to his table, treading his spilt food deep into the carpet. He then took out his wallet and threw money on the table (it turned out to be far too much) turned and ran back to the door. He was able to make use of an old umbrella to reach up and get his jacket off the pegs and, after spending a few seconds trying to untangle its mess, put it under his arm and opened the door with another crash as those small panes of glass rattled close to breaking.
Mervyn, along with everyone else, could not take his eyes from the scene. As this tiny figure grabbed the door to shut it, and…. there it was! There was a tiny hesitation as that seemingly over sized head on such a short body looked up straight at Mervyn and – yes – this time Mervyn was sure. The look was accompanied by the slightest of nods seemingly of recognition or perhaps confirmation. Then he turned and the door was slammed shut, the panes rattled and the rapid clip-clop of rushing tiny feet gradually disappeared into the
distance to mark his departure.
Mervyn sat back and took a deep breath realising that everybody else was doing the same. It was as if there hadn’t been time to breathe whilst this spectacle unfolded.
In a very understanding gesture a waiter came over and took Mervyn’s plate to reheat his meal. Whilst he waited Mervyn decided that, strange as this was he didn’t feel threatened in any way and the next time he saw that man he would grab him by the shirt (or maybe shoulders if it was the same one) and demand to know what was going on.
Mervyn slowly finished his meal, was given an extra (free) glass of wine and slowly and thoughtfully made his way home.
We will not dwell upon that evening’s events. This is meant to be a short story so we will once again jump into the future, this time by exactly one month minus one day. It was a Monday, which at first might seem a bit odd.
Mervyn was doing very well at his job. He worked in a big open plan office alongside all his workmates with the only closed off space being that of the manager behind a glass wall.
It was just after lunch on a Monday when, just like a thousand times before, the phone rang in the manager’s office. Only this time, what happened next was very different. The manager knocked on the glass of his office and with the phone to his ear, gestured to Mervyn to join him. On arrival the manager asked him if he had a brother called David to which Mervyn replied, “Yes, I do.” The manager then said, “Sit on that chair, take this phone and listen.”
Mervyn sat down and listened as a man confirmed his identity and then explained that his brother had been knocked down by a car about three hours before. He then went on to say that David was physically OK with the problem being that he had bumped his head and was now slipping into a coma. He told Mervyn that a family member, stroking David’s hand and talking continuously about old times, particularly private or very happy memories of childhood was the best way to bring him back to consciousness. The doctor had phoned their parents in England who said they would arrive as soon as possible but had mentioned David being much closer and, as time was of the essence, asked if he would be able to get there quickly.
Mervyn looked up but before he could speak his boss said, “Look, you’re doing very well here. Just go. Your job will wait. You only get one family”.
Mervyn muttered thank you many times and ran out of the office. He rushed back to his apartment. Packing quickly was not Mervyn’s strong point and the situation did not help. His mind was racing and he could not properly concentrate. He filled a small bag with, what turned out to be, all the wrong things. He rushed to the lift and finally out onto the street, straight to the nearest car hire firm. He rushed in and, with his very limited savings, asked to hire the quickest car he could. The result was an old and disappointing model but he had no option. He knew that (in those days) the speed limit was 55 m.p.h. and he also knew that, if possible, he was about to break the law. At that point it seemed to Mervyn there were more important things in life than the speed limit. Unfortunately, he also knew that the traffic cops were very strict. As soon as the paperwork was settled he jumped in and set off.
Once he was out of the city and on the open road Mervyn put his foot down. He was going to risk it and he watched as the speedometer crept slowly upwards. With his foot pressed firmly to the floor he was finally moving at 87 mph.
Knowing he could overtake on both sides on these multi-lane highways he was weaving in and out of the other cars just hoping that he wasn’t spotted by any officers. He decided that, if he was caught speeding on camera, he would worry about that another day when he finally had to show up in court. Right now his priority was getting to his brother. All around him other motorists were honking their horns and there was much shaking of fists. Mervyn was glad he couldn’t hear what they were saying.
Having started with a full tank of petrol he was able to continue into late evening before he had to stop for a refill of petrol, except they call it “gas” in America. He had a quick check of the car, looked in the boot (except in America they call it the “trunk”) and then he was off again.
By now darkness was looming and he was far from the city. I’m sorry I can’t remember the details of exactly where he was. I’m sure it would make this far more interesting. However, what we do need to know is that by now he was driving on a narrow two lane highway through, what felt like to him, to be the middle of nowhere. When he originally told me this I remember Mervyn saying that, although it was pitch black and he could see nothing, it felt like he was driving through the middle of a desert.
As the hours drifted by he would very rarely come across another car and then, on such a deserted road, he could easily overtake. Very occasionally he would see headlights turn onto the road behind him but he was going far too fast to have them in his rear view mirror for long. Everyone was quickly left behind.
He gradually became more and more concerned about driving at 87 mph on a narrow road in the pitch black of night and then about 2.30 in the morning it started to rain. He thought long and hard about slowing down but finally decided that he must press on and his foot remained pressed to the metal. After all, at least the road seemed to be straight and at this time in the morning he hadn’t seen another car for nearly two hours.
It was at about 4.00 a.m. on that Tuesday morning when he noticed the first headlights in his mirror for some time. He paid no attention and did not expect to see them again. Nevertheless when he glanced again a few minutes later, they were still there and Mervyn almost thought they seemed slightly nearer. He reasoned to himself this could not be, but two minutes later when he looked again he was sure these headlights were very slowly getting closer. Well, over the next 40 minutes Mervyn was glancing at his rear view mirror more and more. The car was getting ever closer and Mervyn was asking himself who apart from himself could possibly be stupid enough to be travelling at this speed on a narrow road through the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night and in the pouring rain.
By now Mervyn was glancing in his mirror every few seconds. The headlights behind were creeping up on him bit by bit. He estimated that, if he was travelling at 87 mph, then this driver was travelling at 88 or maybe 89 mph.
Very slowly but surely the car drew up directly behind him so that car’s headlight glare was reflected to a small extent. Mervyn found he could make out some details and what he saw amazed him. He knew a bit about cars and this one was a very old Plymouth model from the 1960s. It wasn’t any special kind of model and hadn’t been built for speed in those days let alone all this time later. Shockingly, steam was blowing from the sides of the bonnet which had something that looked rather like a big leather belt tying it down so it wouldn’t fly open.
Mervyn was wondering how this old wreck was able to go so fast without falling apart when it started to pull out and overtake. This was a slow business and Mervyn knew that, as dangerous as it was, he would have to steal a quick look at the driver.
Bit by bit the car drew alongside. When he was sure he was exactly level with the driver he glanced over and was stunned by what he saw. His steering wheel wobbled and he immediately put all his attention back into keeping control.
It had only been a split second but Mervyn knew what he had seen. Weakly illuminated by the car’s dashboard lights had been the figure of the shortest man he had ever met and he was staring at Mervyn as if he had all the time in the world. There were no steering worries there. In fact, the light had been enough to show this short, round figure was wearing a blue shirt and judging by the mouldy stains stuck to the front, it was the same one. Whilst it was impossible to clearly see the other man’s eyes it was definitely Mervyn that was being stared at. There was nothing else to see.
Mervyn’s mind started to throw up all sorts of questions. How could this man be driving that old car in the first place, as his legs would never reach the pedals? How was he able to see out of the windscreen? How many cushions must be piled up on that seat, just so he can get a view of the road? If this little man was following him, why had he not been noticed earlier in the journey? Why now? There also remained the fundamental question of how could such an old car be travelling this fast?
Very slowly, the other car started to overtake. Mervyn dared not turn his head again but he could see out of the corner of his eye. So there, in the pitch black of the night, on a deserted road, in the pouring rain, Mervyn found himself trying to push the accelerator pedal through the floor of the car. How desperately he wanted another 3 mph of speed just so he could overtake and somehow force the other car to stop, grab that little figure and scream, “WHAT IS GOING ON?”
Nothing happened of course, his foot had been pressed firmly to the floor of the car for some time now. So Mervyn was forced to watch as, ever so slowly, the red lights of the car in front gradually disappeared into the night.
I’m quite sure I don’t have to tell you about the workings of Mervyn’s brain over the next two hours, all I do know is, he was able to force himself back to the job in hand and concentrate on doing everything he could to save his brother. As dawn was breaking he estimated he would arrive at the hospital at about 11.00 a.m.

Somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind, he registered that it was very early on a Tuesday morning.

At 11.23 a.m. feeling exhausted and looking tired Mervyn arrived at the hospital and was pleasantly surprised that the hospital reception staff were expecting him and he was immediately shown to a room on the 5th floor. Lying on the bed, looking perfectly healthy and peacefully asleep was his brother. The doctor arrived straight away and before speaking a word asked the nurse to get Mervyn a strong black coffee and to keep them coming. Mervyn realised that, for the moment, he didn’t feel tired any more. The sight of David had somehow helped wake him up.
Once again the doctor explained to Mervyn that he must sit on a chair, stroke his brother’s hand and talk about the things they used to do, particularly memories that were shared in some emotional way. He apologised for not giving Mervyn time to sleep, asked the nurses to keep an eye open to ensure Mervyn had not nodded off, propped the room door open and left.
I will not detail those long hours and the efforts of so many hospital staff to keep him awake. I will simply jump forward 17 hours to when Mervyn saw a little toe on his brother’s left leg move. Up until then absolutely nothing had stirred and he immediately rang the call button and once again, despite being desperately exhausted, seemed instantly awake.
A nurse came, watched for another movement, this took about three minutes and then called the doctor. It was great news. It seemed as if Mervyn’s efforts were working and all that exhaustion temporarily disappeared as he talked and laughed as much as he could about old times. After an hour both legs were moving and he started to feel a response in the fingers. After 2 hours the eyes gradually opened, David focussed, saw Mervyn and said in the most calm and everyday voice, “Hello. You look awful. What are you doing here?”
He could remember nothing about the accident, which didn’t seem to bother the doctor because in every other way he seemed perfectly well. David was going to be absolutely fine.
The doctor then said to Mervyn, “The only reward I can offer you is this and a bed”, as he handed over a toothbrush and a small tube of paste. He explained that, however tired you are, brushing your teeth makes you feel better. Mervyn was to do this and then he would be shown to a room with a bed.
It was 16 hours later that Mervyn gradually woke up trying to work out where he was. It gradually came back to him and so he knew why he felt so awful but remembering the doctor’s words he had a wash and brushed his teeth and, yes, he did feel better. Just then a nurse popped in, saw he was awake and pointed to a chair where there was some standard issue hospital underwear and told him to have a shower.
After a meal Mervyn was shown back to his brother and they talked for some time before he left the hospital and booked into a cheap hotel nearby. A few days later, having spent time with his parents and after the final tests had been completed, happy in the knowledge that his brother would make a full recovery, Mervyn set off on a slow, leisurely drive back to New York during daylight hours.
When he finally arrived back and after he had showered, he looked at his watch and gathered his thoughts. It was 4.00 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon. His office would still be open and he decided to pop in personally rather than ring. He wanted to say a big “Thank You” to the manager.
In a fresh change of clothes he shut the door of his apartment and made his way to the lift. He shut both sets of doors and was putting his finger on the down button when he heard the loud clip-clop of shoes on the hallway floor. As he pressed the button he absent-mindedly thought to himself that the obviously small steps meant it must be a child when he abruptly gathered his thoughts and immediately tried to pull his finger away from the button but it was too late. Just as the lift gave the most imperceptible jolt to set off downwards the top half of a face he knew all too well squashed itself against one of the round windows of the outside doors.

In that split second three thoughts passed through Mervyn’s mind. The first being disgust, as bits of dried and mouldy spaghetti bolognaise on one of the cheeks became compacted on that window. The second considered the deep purple and red, sweat lined face that he knew so well, which brought to mind a volcano that was about to erupt. He momentarily imagined an exploding head. His final thought was a question. How had this shortest of men managed to reach the window in the first place, even if it was just the top two thirds of his face? When it came to this strange man there seemed to be nothing but questions.
With a whirlpool of such thoughts spinning round in his head Mervyn felt the lift continue its gradual downward journey and to his surprise he saw the face disappear and he heard a faint but rapid clip-clop of those shoes. He realised that the shortest of legs were running and it occurred to Mervyn that he might be using the stairs, which were next to the lift. However, Mervyn reasoned, that bulky frame was not meant for running and there was no way they could keep up with the lift. Yet, at the next floor just as he drew level, the top two thirds of that face banged against the outer window and Mervyn was as sure as he could be through those thick lenses that they had actually made direct eye contact.
Mervyn was stunned, as the rapid clip-clop of tiny steps disappeared once again and then he quickly starting pressing the buttons of every floor on the way down to see if he could get the lift to stop so he could grab, yes he knew he would actually grab this man, as he no longer cared about the appalling lack of cleanliness or smell any more. He just wanted answers.
However, as he drew level at the next floor, try as he could, the lift did not stop and then he hardly believed what he saw. That purple and red face, with sweat seeming to run in rivers down onto (Mervyn was sure but couldn’t see) that same sweat soaked and mouldy food stained blue shirt, was actually waiting and watching him go by on his downward journey. Somehow, unbelievable as it was, one of the most non-athletic men in the world had managed to overtake the lift! As the lift slowly left the squashed face behind, once again he heard that familiar clip-clop of shoes and once again he pressed the button for the lift to stop at the next floor. Well, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you the details. It is simply enough to understand that, against all probability Mervyn was able to see that same face watching him at the window at each floor. It was a stunning achievement and Mervyn had to grudgingly acknowledge that, as slow as the lift was, even at his young age he could not have kept up.
At last the lift reached the first floor, which proved to be the same experience as the others but now Mervyn knew that his chance must come. On the ground floor the doors would finally open and he would have his chance.
The lift ground to a halt and, as he opened the doors as quickly as he could, he realised why the lift had not stopped. There was a large crowd of elderly people waiting to get in. They had probably been pressing the lift call button repeatedly for some time.
Over their heads Mervyn could see that short, stout round figure running across the floor of the lobby. As politely as he could he tried to weave his way through the crowd repeatedly chanting, “Excuse me, excuse me”. There were a few murmurings and rather a lot of tutting but eventually he was through the gathering just as he saw that his target in the main doorway onto the street. There was a rapid glance back at him with an almost imperceptible nod of the head and then he was gone. Mervyn ran across the lobby, out of the door and stood on the pavement. Well, you will remember, if you ever wanted to hide, the crowded streets of New York are the perfect place and it was true at this moment. Mervyn was not even sure which way the man turned and so he was left once again to ponder the mystery of it all, as he slowly walked to his office.
Now, I’m quite sure that you are keen to hear the end of this strangest of tales so that, in your own time, you can consider the whole and eventually come to your own conclusions. There were in fact two other minor incidents when Mervyn espied this most obvious of figures. He classed these as “near misses”. We shall however pass over these and jump to the final meeting and once again we must move forward through time exactly one week to the very last Tuesday of our tale.
Mervyn got out of bed at the normal time and prepared himself for work. 30 minutes later, freshly showered he set off along the corridor, down in the lift, across the lobby and out onto the street for his walk of a few blocks.
As he was striding along he couldn’t help but notice that, totally coincidentally, he had fallen exactly in step with a man to his right. Now you may be momentarily assuming this was a very short man. However, on reflection you will quickly realise that Mervyn could never be in step with a man with such desperately short legs and so this individual is totally new to our story.
They walked along a few steps and, in an odd way, Mervyn felt it was a little embarrassing, almost as if they were marching along like soldiers. Even their arms were swinging together. He could not help but consider what other people might think if they happened to glance at them. For a second he considered stopping to do up a shoelace but realised he was wearing slip on shoes. Not that it mattered he thought, as the likelihood of anyone paying any attention at all on these crowded streets was ridiculously small.
As these thoughts tumbled around inside his brain both men marched in unison to a main road crossing just as the little green electronic man conveniently lit up to say they could proceed into the road. Both men put their right foot onto the crossing just as Mervyn heard the clip-clop of tiny running footsteps and gasping breath behind him. Almost simultaneously he was poked in the back. There was no delay this time in realising who it must be and he immediately stepped back onto the pavement and turned in order to catch this little man. However, he need not have worried as this elusive person obviously wanted to get his attention. Somewhat surprised, Mervyn stared for a split second as the fellow looked up through those amazingly thick lenses. He seemed totally unaware that he smelled awful due to him still wearing the same green and mouldy spaghetti bolognaise and sweat stained clothes. The shirt could certainly no longer be described as “bright blue”. There were even bits of that old meal still stuck to his cheeks. All this Mervyn took in during the tiniest moment in time as he stepped back onto the pavement. He also realised this apparition had something to say. The words came out as he gasped for breath, “Have…. you….. got…. a…. light?”Mervyn was stunned enough to answer honestly, “No I don’t smoke” to which the reply came, “Neither do I, it’s very bad for you”.
There were of course many questions whirling around in Mervyn’s head and not least was, “Why ask for a light if you didn’t want one in the first place?” However whilst this briefest of exchanges took place he became aware of a honking horn blaring out and then through the traffic burst a huge lorry with a driver pressing his horn and waving with one hand to everybody to get out of his way. To anybody watching from afar it was obvious that his brakes had failed and he was desperately trying to avoid trying to kill somebody. People dived left and right to avoid this rush of oncoming death. Only one person was caught in exactly the wrong spot. It was the man with whom Mervyn had been exactly in step as they had marched onto the road. There was nothing the man could do, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and was sadly going to pay the highest price for being so unlucky. He was knocked high into the air and turned over and over just like a rag doll as the lorry passed underneath and crashed into a lamppost with nobody else being touched.
The poor victim came down to earth with a sickening thump and both arms and legs twisted at impossible angles. A small river of blood started flowing from his head towards the kerb. He was clearly dead and there was nothing anyone could do.
Now, if you have ever seen something like this, you will know that time seems to slow down as your senses try to take it all in. Indeed, there was a resounding silence before Mervyn slowly turned to look at the smelliest, dirtiest and shortest man he had ever met. He could not help but notice that, for the first time, the purple and red face seemed to be returning to a more normal colour as the man started to breathe more slowly. Mervyn tried to speak, “That …..that….that should….. have… been….. me. You’ve just saved my life.”
The reply was short and simple, “Yes. I had a bit of a rush getting here.” Later on Mervyn reflected these were the only other words the man would say to him.
Mervyn was totally unaware that he stood there with his mouth wide open unable to speak. Anyone looking at him would surely have described him as “gobsmacked”. His mind was racing through all the incidents of meeting this man and how he had always been in a hurry.
Two sirens were now very loud as police cars started to arrive and Mervyn looked, as somewhere in his mind he understood the need to stay and give a statement. He was a first hand witness.
A sudden moment of clarity flashed back into his confused mind and he turned with so many questions on his lips just to catch a glimpse of that short figure disappearing into the steadily gathering crowd. Mervyn immediately started trying to push his way through this throng of people. His mind was screaming, “I have serious questions that need answers”. Unfortunately for once, Mervyn was the one with the wrong shaped body to fight against such a tide of people. After a couple of minutes he was forced to give up.
As a final thought I can tell you now that, until the present day, Mervyn has not seen that smelliest, grubbiest and shortest of men.

Now the whole point of a story such as this is to let you think about it and then put forward your own ideas on what was going on if anything at all.
I will tell you though, that Mervyn, in a state of shock, went home instead of work and wrote it all down. When he had finished he wrote what he considered to be his own conclusion, which I am happy to share with you. However, you must be sure not to let it interfere with your own opinions. Perhaps Mervyn, being wrapped up in the middle of it all, is the very worst person to try and “work it out”.

Mervyn’s Final Thoughts
Mervyn says that when at school he read bible stories and he was always greatly impressed by any pictures of angels with their glowing, brilliant white wings and halos, usually standing on clouds with the rays of the sun in the background. They looked so magnificent.
His conclusion, whatever other people might think, was that he had his own guardian angel. Only this guardian didn’t look magnificent in any way. No brilliant white glowing wings for this angel. No, this guardian angel was almost wider than he was tall and very grubby. He smelled terribly, had green, mouldy food stuck to his sweat stained clothes, very bad eyesight and just about every other human being on planet earth would do their best to avoid him. Mervyn however, would love to see him again and whatever state he was in, Mervyn would like to shake his hand and thank him for going to so much effort to save him.


You might like to know that Mervyn went on to become a very successful businessman who had a mission to carry out good works in life. Perhaps that single fact is the most important part of this story.