Luther hadn’t received a visit, but he had received yet another card from Cole with pictures of the little girls. How they had grown! He was so looking forward to seeing them as Cole had promised they would be down soon.
He put on a brave face and started the new year. He tried to soothe his sorrow by thinking of the abundant treasures yet to be found.
In true form, the next week he came home with bags full of books. Old man Barnes and Rufus came walking down the street and old man Barnes said “how many have you got today?”
Luther smiled and said “I have 26 today so I need to get working on some shelves. Cole and his family are coming down soon you know and I don’t want to be out in my garage building shelves when I can be playing with those little girls.”
“When are you expecting them this time?” old man Barnes asked.
“Well, Cole promised that they would try to make it down in a couple of weeks.” Luther said. “I have to tell you, I’m so excited and I think this time they’ll make it.”
Alas, Luther would be left wanting again. Cole said that things were just too hectic at work but he was taking some time off around Christmas and without a doubt, they would be down.
Soon Christmas was on the way and once again, Luther bought a tree and decorated it with lights and ornaments. He still had the bracelets he bought for the little girls last year and didn’t think it wrong to put them in their stockings again this year, along with two little porcelain angels he had picked out especially for them.
He ordered a turkey dinner from the local grocery store and had taken the good china out of the hutch. This was going to be such a wonderful Christmas.
For the front yard, Luther bought a set of reindeer whose heads moved back and forth. He thought the little girls would like them. As he was hanging the lights on the house, the neighborhood children rode by and said “Merry Christmas, book man.”
Luther smiled and waved and hoped that maybe they could come play with the little girls. He was also hoping that it would snow so they could make their very first snowman in grandpa’s yard. He had an old scarf, an old hat and some of grandma’s buttons. He had picked out two perfect limbs for arms and he made sure he had a carrot for the nose.
Christmas came and went. Cole and his family couldn’t make it but there was a promise of trying to make it after the first of the year.
Christmas night, nobody knew that Luther sat in his house next to the tree and cried.
The next day, as he dragged the tree to the curb, Luther’s despondence was clear to old man Barnes, who was finding it more and more difficult to hide his anger toward Cole. He asked Luther if he was angry.
“No, I’m not,” he said. “I understand. You know these young folks have a lot going on in their lives.” He sounded as if he was apologizing for Cole.
Old man Barnes looked at Luther and said “you’re a good man, book man.” Luther smiled and said “well, I try to be.”
One of Luther’s hopes had come true. It had snowed and everything was covered in a white blanket that lent a sense of serenity to the entire neighborhood. It was beautiful but how much more beautiful it would have been if there had been a snowman in the front yard, next to the nodding reindeer.
Luther carefully packed away the reindeer and then put the ladder against the house to take the lights down.
Just as he reached the top, the ladder suddenly slipped and Luther came crashing down. Old man Barnes and Rufus had already made it back home but two of the neighborhood children, out with their new sleds, saw him fall. They ran over to him and called “book man. Can you hear me?” One of them told the other to run home and call 911.
When the ambulance arrived, they asked the children if they knew his name. “Book man,” one of them said. The paramedic said “Mr. Bookman?” The child said “no. Not Mr. Bookman. He is the book man.
“Is there anybody at home? Wife? Children?” asked the paramedic. “No,” the children said. He lives by himself and he buys books.”
The medics loaded him up and took him to the hospital. Shortly after he was taken to a room, Luther slipped into a coma.
To be continued____________________