Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: INSOUCIANT (06/02/16)
- TITLE: What Ed Said
By Cindy Duncan
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As I watched an old man with a metal detector scan the beach for treasure and a young man jog past him, I unfolded my chair and sat down. I took a sip of my coffee, and pulled my laptop from its bag, determined to get some work done. Suddenly, what I had thought was a pile of sand about fifteen feet to my left, moved. The pile of sand turned out to be my first encounter with Ed.
He had been sleeping under a tan colored blanket, blending in nicely with the sandy beach. When Ed sat up, I gasped involuntarily, and louder than I would’ve liked. “Whoa, I didn’t see you, buddy. I’m sorry.”
“No problem, Sir. That just means my camouflage is working.” Ed folded his blanket and tucked it into an equally dull-colored beach bag he had been using as a pillow. “They frown upon us sleeping on the beach, because they say it scares the tourists. Were you scared?”
“I was a little startled, but only because I thought the sand was coming to life. That could be the result of too many science fiction movies, though. Anyway, I’m not a tourist. I don’t have time to be a tourist.” I tried to focus my attention on the laptop, hoping Ed would take the hint and stop talking to me, but it was not to be.
“Sir, three years ago, I was just like you. All I did was work. I had to. I had that big mortgage, the car payments, the fancy clothes, well, you know.” Somehow as Ed talked, he inched closer to me, until he was sitting right next to me. “Then I came here on a business trip, just like you. I never went back to the mainland.”
“What happened to all your belongings?”
“My brother sold them for me, for a fee, of course. He wired me the money.” As Ed told me his story, he waved to several people passing by, sometimes calling them by name.
“So you have money?” I asked. “I thought you were homeless.”
“I am, but I’m not broke, and I’m not a freeloader. I still work, too. There’s always someone that needs help with something around here. Work is good for the soul. I just don’t let it work me. I don’t need all the stuff you’re probably working for. All I need is Jesus, this paradise, and a few friends along the way.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve still got that big mortgage of mine to pay for, so if you’ll excuse me.” I had heard enough. I was actually starting to be a little jealous of homeless Ed.
“Sorry to steal your time, Sir. It is the most valuable of our possessions, you know. You can’t replace it.” Ed stood up, slung his bag over his shoulder, and walked away. I returned to my work, but after twenty minutes, I saw a man approaching me. I kept my attention focused on my laptop, hoping he would see I was busy and not interrupt.
Ed quietly set down a chocolate muffin and a fresh cup of coffee beside me, leaned toward me, and said, “A man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses.”
Who was this guy? I watched as he walked toward the ocean, and then stopped to play Frisbee with a couple of teenagers. I closed my eyes for a moment, and listened to their laughter.
After about an hour of attempting to work, distracted by Ed’s interactions with the people nearby, I packed up my things and went back to my hotel room. I had a deadline to meet, after all, and I had to get busy. I worked through lunch, only quitting when the setting sun began shining through my window.
As I ate dinner in my room, I thought about Ed and his carefree life. He had none of the things I took so much pride in having. But there was something else he didn’t have that I had. Stress. I finished eating and called my wife.
“Listen, honey, do you still want to join me down here in Hawaii? I could use some time off.
“But I thought you had too much work to do.”
“I do, but I’ve been thinking all day about what Ed said.”
“I’ll be on the next available flight. But who’s Ed?”
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