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The bag was heavier than it looked … no wonder the old man hadn’t wanted to carry it through the streets!

Frank grunted as his foot slipped on a patch of ice, and he stopped to catch his balance. It was a couple weeks after Christmas, and January’s gloom made dusk feel like midnight.

“Look, mister …” Frank turned to face the bum who had accosted him, but he was alone.

Frank pursed his lips and grumbled. Why had he agreed to carry this burden for a stranger?

Because the old fella looked so haggard, so desperate, mostly.

“I’ve been on the road a long time, and I could really use some help,” he had pleaded.

Frank should have kept walking.

“What’s in it for me?” he had blurted out instead.

The answer was a moon pie, with the promise of a larger reward when he arrived at the old man’s house.

Moon pies were an old favorite, and Frank couldn’t resist a potential windfall.

He swallowed the last bit of sweet and turned back to the deserted sidewalk.

He soon realized, though, that there were people tucked up into doorways and crouched behind benches, or just leaning against buildings for warmth.

He could have sworn some whispered “thank you” as he passed.

The bag felt lighter as Frank moved along, and he arrived at the address the old man gave after what seemed like just a few minutes.

It was an empty lot.

“Thank you, sir,” a small voice said behind him.

Frank whirled to face a beaming little girl snuggling a doll tight to her chest. Behind her, a line of grinning people clutched gifts of their own.

Half a block away, the old man winked at Frank, then disappeared into the night.

The empty bag dropped from Frank’s fingers.

Published inFlash Fiction

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