John Smith hated his name. It was such an ordinary name. Millions of John Smiths were in the phone books of all the cities he had ever been to. Why couldn't he have a more interesting name, like Bartholomew Goldstein or Winston Williams. Anything would be better than John Smith. At least with a peculiar name he could get some kind of response even if it were only a raised eyebrow. John Smith was just ordinary, in fact it was less than ordinary. It made him feel invisible. Unknown. Unwanted. Unattractive. Uninteresting.Out of work and feeling rejected John was wandering in the opposite side of town. He had just had yet another sad interview from some uneducated, know nothing stand in. What on earth are these people looking for. Nothing specific to the job was asked, just pointless chatter. Maybe it was some sort of psychological yes. Well if it was, he probably failed immensely. He just wasn't in the mood for psycho tests. He wanted a job and he needed it yesterday. Being out of work just wasn't fun. John had been looking for work for six months now and every time it was the same old story: Sorry, but you are over qualified for this position. Why can't they simply be honest and say: sorry, we don't want to pay someone your age the expected salary, we'd prefer to pay a dirt cheap salary to some young college graduate who has no experience and will probably cost our company thousands in dumb mistakes.Where to now? John Smith hated his name even more after a rejection like that. He wanted a new name. It must be his name which causes so many rejections. They just don't want such an ordinary person. The plain name was enough to put any firm off from hiring him. Hands in his pockets, he kicks a pebble along the pavement. He slumbers up to it and kicks again. The pebble bounces off a rain spout and dances into a narrow alleyway. Not wanting to pursue a pebble John glances down the alleyway. A few meters away lay an old battered cardboard box. As John Smith stepped on and turned his head away from the alley something caught his eye. Did something move in that box. Maybe its a cat, or an abandoned puppy. Hmm, A little companion would be uplifting right now.Stopping, John turned on his heel and returned to the alleyway. He walked the few paces down to the box which was turned on its side. Something moved again. John looked inside but all he could see were some rags. Maybe rats, he thought. He prodded the rags gently with his foot. More movement and a slight groan. A tiny hand appeared and pulled down some of the rags. A tattered and dirty little girl looked up into John's eyes.My word, thought John, a little girl. What is she doing here? The tired eyes look up at John and the little girl smiles a weak smile. "Hello," she said with barely an utterance.John kneels to get a closer look at the girl. "Hello," he answers, returning the smile. Suddenly his own trauma was forgotten. That will have to wait now. "What are you doing here?" The girl looked too weak even to speak. He placed his hand on her forehead. "Wow, you have a high fever. Where do you live? Where is your mummy?" But the little girl could only look and smile and said nothing. Her eyes rolled upward and almost closed. John stood, pacing, wondering what to do. Call an ambulance. Knock on a nearby door. He remembered passing a hospital a few streets back. Stooping low John gathers the tiny bundle into his arms. "I'll get you some care. We're going to make you well again." The girl gives a weak smile.She looked about seven years old, yet felt so light and tiny. John's heart began to thump at the thought of the girl dying. He hurried the few blocks back to the hospital. Not knowing how else to do it, he signed in the little girl with him as her guardian. He didn't know the girls name. Feeling the urgency John persuaded the staff to look at the girl first and check her name later. They took her into an emergency room. A lady doctor looked at the child and then at John. Her face carried a huge sign of concern. This didn't look good.John was pacing again, this time in the waiting area down the hall from the emergency theater, when a nurse rushed out. "Mr. Smith, please come." John, startled out of his thoughts of concern about the child, looked up and hurried towards the nurse. Her eyes say it all. With a shake of her head she opens the door to allow John to enter.John hurries to the girl's side and takes her cold little hand. The girl opens her eyes, still manages a smile and opens her mouth to speak. John moved closer to hear. Very faint sounds emerged and John heard the girl say, "I love you." With that she breathed her last and slipped away as quietly as she had appeared. Gone, before John could even grasp the reality of the little girl's existence. He felt a strange emotion rising from within. Gasping he held his hand over his mouth and began to sob uncontrollably. With both hands over his face, John cried out between gasps, "I don't even know who she was." The nurse was doing her best to comfort this strange man who brought the dying unknown child into the hospital."You did the right thing," she said not able to hold back her tears."There's a note in her hand," announced the doctor as she cared for the tiny corpse. John, wiping his face looked to see what the doctor had found. Crumpled in the little girls hand was a dirty piece of paper. It was a photo of a smaller girl. On the back was written in a child's hand, "Dear John Smith, thank you for taking care of me. I love you forever. Please look after my little sister, Jen." The note was signed, "Gaby."Puzzled, John looks at the doctor and the nurse. "How did she know my name? I don't know any Gaby." John looked at the note, the photo, and the dead little girl. When did she write this? This isn't possible. Of course, it must be some other John Smith. After all there are millions of them. John offers to take the photo and try to find the girl's parents. He walks back to the area where He found her lying, dying in the cardboard box. He starts by asking some other children if they knew the little girl in the photo. He then asked some passersby. He walked into a couple of small stores and asked the shopkeepers. No one knew the girl in the photo or had heard of a little girl living in a box.John walked up and down the entire area, street after street, sometimes knocking on doors, but no one recognized the photo. Exhausted he returned to the alleyway where he found the dying girl. The box was still there. John stepped up to the box in the darkness. Not really knowing why he stooped down to look into the box. He used his mobile phone to shine a little light. It was just a cardboard box, nothing special, no cushions, no blankets, no food scraps. Just a dirty cardboard box. For a strange reason he felt compelled to know what it was like for the girl to sleep here. Crouching lower he pushes himself into the box as much as he could fit. Chest, shoulders and head fitted in and he rested against the side touching the wall.It was dark, a strange smell came from the damp cardboard and the garbage in the alleyway. A black cat strolls by, pausing in mid step to look at the strange human half stuck into a box, then moves on showing total disinterest. Distant traffic could be heard, a shout streets away. Silence. Darkness. Stillness. Loneliness. That was it. That is what the girl felt the most. And perhaps that is why John felt so much in harmony with the little girl. It was loneliness. She had been lonely. He was lonely. He was her only friend and he didn't even know her name. Yet she somehow knew his. It was almost as if she knew he was coming.But there were millions of John Smiths.With a jump John woke. He was still in the box, but the darkness had given way to the light of a new day. A new day, new hopes. At least that is what he tried to tell himself every morning for the past few months. It kept him going, even though he could no longer pay his rent. And he loathed to go to the social. But maybe that's what he needed to do. Or live in a box, like his little girl. "His little girl", he thought. He stood up and stretched dusting down his suit with his hands. Not very interview ready now I'm afraid, John thought to himself looking at his wrinkled trousers. His stomach rumbled. There's got to be somewhere to get breakfast. At least he still had some money for food.Leaving the alley John turned towards the hospital. There was a cafe of sorts on the way which he had seen the night before. He found it, entered, ordered coffee and scones and sat down at a table. His phone rang. It was the hospital. They wanted to know what they should do with the body. John tried to explain he was still looking for the girl's family. Maybe they should inform the police to help. When the call ended, The proprietor came over to John. "Excuse me, I couldn't help overhearing. You looking for a girl's family?" John looked at the enquirer."Yes. Its the family of a little girl who died last night. I found her lying in a box in the alleyway.""That's sad. Is that a photo of the girl's family?" John had been fingering the photo."Yes. This was found in the little girl's hand. This must be her sister.""Mmm. Looks kind of familiar." Reaching out his hand he said, "I'm Bob. I'm the owner here." John took his hand and exchanged names. "I'll ask the customers if they know who she is.""Oh, that would be great," thanked John. Just then a hustle of people started streaming into the cafe."Well, got to go. My busy time of day," Bob said as he attended to his customers. John watched as he finished his breakfast. Bob was alone and almost run off his feet. He was a little overweight and struggling to keep up.Picking up his dishes John brought them to the counter. "Hey, Bob, you could use some help. Look I'm free, why don't I help a bit. Maybe we'll get a lead on the photo.""Hey, that's kind of you, John. Of course." And John took off his jacket and tie and hung them at the back of the shop.For the few hours the little cafe was busy serving breakfasts and coffees and teas. A new delivery of fresh bread came in and John was managing taking orders, getting them ready, pouring the drinks and serving while Bob was busy with the delivery. "I usually have help but she hasn't shown up for a while and I just haven't got a replacement." Bob apologized for the work John had to do. "I really appreciate you stepping in like that. You know, I can pay you for this. I really appreciate it."John was pouring anther coffee for a customer. "You're welcome Bob. You know I'm finding this kinda fun." I'm out of work you know. So I don't mind stepping in until your girl gets back." Bob looked at John with a short consideration in his eyes."She won't be back. The job's yours for as long as you want it."John could hardly believe his ears. Here he was in his wrinkled suit and no tie and he had just been offered a job. A new day, new hopes. "Thank you, Bob. I'll gladly take it on."The cafe was slowly calming down after the lunch rush. The door opened and the bell above the door rang its single chime. Busy cleaning tables John didn't take any notice. He was vaguely aware of a woman and a child walking over to the counter where Bob was standing. "Do you have any stale bread? My little girl is hungry," said the women in a very shy, perhaps embarrassed voice. John looked up to see what kind of woman would be asking for stale bread.The woman was a sorry sight. She was haggard and thin, her hair in a mess and her clothes had more wrinkles than his. But it was the little girl at her side which caught his attention. She was only a toddler, about three years old. She was looking straight at John with a wide smile. John fumbled in his pocket and removed the photo. Yes, there was no mistaking it. This was the girl in the photo.Just then the little girl spoke out loud pointing to John, "Are you John Smith?" John stood frozen in his tracks. Bob stood watching the trio. The woman had turned to look at John then shushed the little girl in her hand."Are you Jen?" John managed to ask.The girl nodded her head and said, "and you're John Smith.""Shhh, Jen. Don't bother the man." Then the mother realized he had spoken his daughters name. Looking at him with hopeful suspicion she asked, "How do you know my daughter's name?" Bob and John's eyes meet. Bob was indicating, say nothing and making an eating movement with his hand and pointing to the two new guests. John understood. Bob wanted to serve them some food first, before breaking the bad news."Why don't you take a seat," offered John. "We'll give you something to eat. Some warm pizza to warm the little girl's tummy." The toddler was still looking at John and smiled. "Thank you, John Smith." John said nothing and proceeded to help Bob get them some pizza. The two men kept away from the two females as they devoured the slices of pizza served to them.Finally the mother looked up and thanked them. She was getting up to leave when John approached and said, "Please wait a moment," and he took a seat at their table. He pulled out the photo and showed it to the woman. The woman stared then grabbed the photo. Tears welled in her eyes."Where did you get this?" she asked, almost demanding. Then she turned it over looking at the scribbled note then looked at John. "How did you get this? Where is my baby?" The tears were now streaming down her cheeks.John took out his driving license and showed it to the woman. "I'm John Smith," he said matter of factly. The woman looked at the name of the license, then at the photo's note, then at John."I… I don't understand," she stuttered."Neither do I," agreed John. "I found a little girl in the alleyway last night. She was grasping this photo. Unfortunately," John could already see that his choice if word already said it all without saying. "After carrying her to the hospital, she died." John waited for the news to sink in. The woman wide eyed and silent. "That's where she is now."Deep gasps emerged from the woman's chest, then she groaned loudly with a painful cry. She cried in pain and huge sobs as the little toddler at her side watched and kept a close eye on John. Every time she looked at John she smiled. "You are John Smith," she said shyly.John and Bob allowed the mother to cry it out. They could only guess at the circumstances surrounding Gaby being alone on the street. For John guessed that Gaby was the name of the dead girl. Jen's big sister. Bob cleared the plates away and John took the woman's hand. "I'm sorry," he said, barely holding back his own tears. "I did what I could." The woman looked up at him, her face torn with pain and smudged with dirt and tears."Thank you," she said. "It's all my fault. You see when my husband left us three years ago, just after Jen was born," her loving caress on the child's head didn't go unnoticed by John or Bob, "I couldn't find permanent work then I… I started drinking." More sobs and she covered her face, her right hand still held by John. Sniffing she continued, "After two years of drinking and screaming Gaby eventually left to look for you. I haven't seen her in six weeks." John was puzzled. But the woman motioned with her hand for him to wait. She went to explain."You see, Gaby began talking about a man who would come to save us and help us, bring us food and give us a nice home. It was fun to think about, and when I asked what was this man's name, she grabbed a phone book and opened it. There were pages and ages of Smith, John. So that was the name she picked. And from then on it was John Smith this and John Smith that, and it would be John Smith who would come and save us." She paused to look at John more intently. A wide smile breaks on her face, "And your name is John Smith! That's… that's…""Amazing! I know. I find it hard to grasp myself." John was stumped at this revelation of little Gaby's invention of her savior, John Smith. Yet Gaby appeared to know when he arrived. Or perhaps it was her faith which assumed that he was the one. Too late for Gaby, thought John, but what about her Mum and tiny Jen? They've just been fed, just as Gaby predicted in her fantasy. Or was it fantasy. Looking up to Bob standing nearby John says, "Somewhere I remember reading something about… what you hold in your mind with intense desire will eventually come about." Bob walks over to a picture on the wall and turns it around to show the reverse side. There in bright letters is painted the words "Believe and you will Receive.""I look at those words when I feel down," admits Bob. "It reminds me to have faith, to believe in something, to believe in what I'm doing. And what I'm doing is feeding hungry people." Bob said this with such passion that all three, even little Jen, were looking at him.John was scratching his head. "Then even if it was a fantasy of Gaby's, she believed it enough and…, well here I am, here we are." John thought of the start of the previous day, how he had hated his name, yet this story with this mother and her two daughters, one now dead, were centered around that name, his name.His eyes met the mother's. "What is your name?" he asks."Sue." John loves the sound of the name. He feels drawn into Sue's eyes, into her life, into her sorrow.A shake on his arm brings him back to the present. "You are John Smith and you help us. Thank you for the pizza." Little Jen spoke loud and excited and was smiling up at John with her big eyes."You're welcome," he says stroking her hair."Where do you live?" John wanted to know. Sue looked to the ground then met John's eyes again. We don't have a home. I couldn't pay for one. We live in hostels and churches and such. Her cheeks flushed pink in embarrassment and she looked away. John be-wondered the woman whose life was torn apart by circumstances. But it was circumstance which now offered her hope. Or was it more than just circumstance? Gaby's story was being fulfilled before their very eyes.John stood and looked to Bob, not knowing what to do. His own apartment was about to be reclaimed because he hadn't paid his rent in months. Bob understood. The big man smiled, placed his fists on either hip and looked at his three new friends. "Above the shop is a two bedroom apartment waiting for new tenants. John has a job, working here, why don't you three move in up there and get that young lass some warm clothes. There's a bed there will do Jen, the rest we can find, no problem."The offer seems too good to be true. A job, an apartment, and a family, all in one day. John couldn't hold back his pleasure, then the tears. He picked up Jen and held her in his arms. It all felt so natural, so… belonging. Jen looked at him and pointed with her tiny finger. Shrugging her shoulders she whispers, "You are John Smith." Sue stroked Jen's back, coming nearer. Smiling she said, "That's right, Jen. Your sister Gaby's dream has come true, and Gaby has gone to heaven." Jen wrapped her arms around John's neck. "I love John Smith. Gaby's John Smith."John felt the warmth of the embrace in his entire being. Such a feeling he had never known before. Sue looked relieved, Bob was ablaze at his bright idea, Jen was content in his arms. And he? John thought for a moment. Then looked to Sue, then to Bob and said, "I love my name."
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