Thursday, August 17

My Good Samaritan Story

Becky Streckel lives in a downtown Chicago apartment complex with her fiancé, Tom. She is a young piano teacher who gives lessons out of their house, while Tom works late hours at his engineering firm. With paper thin walls, the neighbors often hear the sweet melodious sounds of Becky playing piano in the evening. A Mormon Bishop named John Carrow lives with his wife below the Steckels. They enjoy listening to Becky’s performance over their after dinner tea.

Above the Steckels lives Patricia, a single mother of 2 young boys who works as a social worker at a home for the elderly. Patricia always thought Becky’s soothing performance help lullaby her boys to sleep.

The Steckels have another neighbor who they don’t know about. Ken is hardly ever seen and never acknowledge when seen. It has been about 2 years since Ken had been paroled. Never quite growing accustomed to living a legitimate life, he soon found himself struggling to keep a job and sleeping in an unlocked gardening shed in an alley along side the Steckel’s apartment complex. He walks the streets during the day begging for money, scavenging for food, and evading police who would find his current situation a breach of his parole. When darkness approaches, Ken returns to the shed to escape the chaos and cold of the city. He finds amazing peace as he lays there listening to Becky’s music flow out their open window.

On this particular Fall evening, the neighborhood was settling into it’s quite ritualistic hum. Becky opened her favorite playbook and picked a slow solemn song to start with. Hearing the intro, reminded Mrs. Carrow below that it was time to put the kettle on for their evening tea. When Patricia heard the melodies rise up through the floorboards, she took a moment to pause from getting the kids’ pajamas out of the drawer. Ken unrolled his mat he kept tucked away in the shed and left the shed door cracked just a bit to listen.

Becky’s fiancé, Tom, had been recently denied a promotion at work. Bitterness had been filling him where once there was self assuredness. His job lost satisfaction for him as he felt incompetent, fearful, and unappreciated. Furthermore, money was tight. Earlier in the day, Tom had been forced into being a scapegoat for an unfinished project by his boss. When he came home, his tone was sharp and his temper short. As he entered the living room of their 2nd floor apartment, Becky’s playing abruptly stopped and was replaced with the unpleasantries of arguing.

Below, the Carrow’s squirmed uneasily in their chairs trying to ignore the bickering above. The sipped their tea nervously. They heard a male voice growing louder and louder. Then there was a *smack* followed by a *thud*. Mrs. Carrow jumped in her seat, her eyes open large as she looked to John for reassurance. Surely as a Mormon Bishop, he had dealt with couples in these situations before. John assured her that he would call the police if it continued. But then it seemed to be over. There was the sound of the door slamming followed by stomping footsteps echoing down the stairwell. John said, “I think it’s alright now” as he flipped on the radio to drown out the crying coming from above.

Likewise, Patricia had been concerned by the noise coming from the apartment below. She was shocked to hear the progression of the climatic fight. She nervously scanned the boys who were finally asleep. She feared if it would wake them if it continued. Although she was a social worker, she didn’t come across cases like this in the elderly field in which she worked. When she heard the door slam, she thought to herself that if she ever heard them fight like that again, she would make a call to a social worker friend who worked at a battered women’s shelter. She worried that the echoing sounds of weeping rising up from below would infiltrate her sweet children’s dreams. She put on a quiet peaceful lullaby CD to cover the cries and tip-toed out of their room.

Ken shivered from the coldness out in the gardening shed. When the fighting began, he contemplated shutting the cracked door for more warmth. But he couldn’t seem to stop listening. He winced at the sound of the impactful hit. He was overcome with compassion at that moment. Not long after he saw Tom emerge from the building scowling as he stomped down the sidewalk and around the corner. He looked up to the second story window where sad sounds of sobbing escaped into the brisk night air. Ken thought of church downtown where he sometimes was able to get a meal. They also ran a shelter for women and children. He put on his shoes and buttoned his coat closing the shed door behind him.

Ken was nervous as he entered the building and climbed the stairwell. He knew that he wasn’t supposed to be inside the complex. The residents would disapprove. They may even call the police. He no longer passed as a normal person, as his appearance had grown so disheveled over the months without the ability to launder himself or his clothes. He felt ashamed of himself, as he approached the east facing apartment of 2b. His knock at the door startled the cries inside.

Becky frantically wiped her tears and blew her nose. She pulled her sweater sleeve to cover the still red marks on her arm where Tom had held her so forcefully. Her stomach turned as she felt that surely whoever was at the door would judge her. Again there was a light knock. She glanced at herself in the entry mirror and knew she would be fooling nobody. She cracked the door a few inches and peered out into the hallway where she found Ken’s kind eyes of concern and compassion.


“Maam, are you alright?” Ken stammered. “I don’t mean to pry but I kind of heard your argument and I thought maybe you needed checking. My name is Ken.” The kindness melted Becky’s façade as she began to cry again. She pulled the door open to this stranger and turned to stumble to her piano bench where she collapsed in her tears. Ken hesitantly followed her in. Becky expressed her hopelessness as her family was out in Boston and she had nobody to turn to for help. Ken told her about the Sisters of St. Francis shelter down on 8th and Turner assuring her that he was positive they’d know how to help her. Becky feared being home when Tom returned. She knew she must leave but she was scared. Ken knew that the 20 block walk to downtown would be insufferable for him as the cold wind would be sure to cut through his deteriorated thin coat and chill him to the bone, but he could see that Becky was in no shape to go this alone. He turned and grabbed her coat, scarf, and hat that hung on a hook by the door. She gratefully rose to her feet and allowed him to help her weak and aching body into her overcoat. She grabbed her purse and locked the door behind them, never to return to apartment 2b again. As she leaned on Ken for those 20 blocks, she was not once bothered by his stench.

1 Comments:

Blogger Yellow said...

Wow. This is great writing. Is there a part two?

11:55 AM  

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