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Driftwood People

When Vision Becomes Clear

By C. H. RichardPublished 8 days ago Updated 8 days ago 5 min read
Top Story - July 2024
Driftwood People
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Forever they roam

Those people lost

Without a home

Misunderstood

Discard like

Driftwood

Frederick held tight to the thin wood clenched in his fist. The cataracts blinded much of his vision these days, but he wanted to come, had to see for himself the charade to take place on this day, the longest of the year. Sweat trickled down his forehead as he watched his fellow churchgoing townsfolk dismantle the latest camp of homeless from the park. Center Park with its flags still flying around the statue of the Union Soldier from Memorial Day. Where every year the gazebo held the town Christmas tree for carolers and family photos.

Frederick held the wood just as he did when he was young living among those in the throw away camps. He was one of them, one of the faceless nameless, Driftwoods as the town folk would say. His circumstance unknown and really no one cared. That is how he was able to escape and blend into their world. No one saw his face when he was homeless. When he slipped away and found work on a local farm, no one questioned who he was or where he came from. He was labor and he was young. He worked and saved until he could buy a home himself knowing he was lucky to have become among them.

He lived a quiet life. He married Arlene who had long since passed and his two children left for other parts of the world. He stayed in this place, something remained for him. Something unresolved.

Every year the camps of homeless would be moved to the land of nowhere. It was always funny to Frederick that people felt for people without shelter during the New England winters. To see someone suffering in the cold felt inhumane. Shelters would be open at least for the nights so no man, woman, or child would freeze to death. It would after all not look good for a town trying to gain recognition as a seaside resort tourist destination. The idea had still not caught on as the only tourists that continuously came to the old fishing village were these people, these Driftwoods. Well during the winter months, the sympathies were plenty. No, they did not want them to freeze to death. These good Christian neighbors. However, temperaments would change when the sun of spring and summer would shine through. First the Driftwoods would be outside the community center, then camps would filter over to Center Park. Town meetings would be pitting neighbor against neighbor about what to do about "these others". Every year more folks became concerned about their tax dollar and the weight of the ones not part of their town. The camps in Center Park would be shut down. All the Driftwood People would be cast out and pushed away with nowhere to go. It was of course the right thing to do because how would they ever learn.

Frederick smiled as he thought of the townspeople and their misunderstood ideas.

Harry Feldman always remarked that they should “just get a job!”

Frederick used to debate him when he had the energy. “You going to hire anyone of them, Harry? Have them work at the Gas N Go? They must bring everything they own with them wherever they travel!” Harry just shook his head and waved Frederick off.

Melvina Muldoon was another very vocal critic about the Driftwoods.

“Honestly, those women don’t even get milk for their babies when given the opportunity!”

Frederick again would answer, “They don’t have a refrigerator! Do you drink a gallon or half gallon of milk all at once?” Melvina would tighten her face back into its knot and walk away.

After many years of this debate. Frederick had given up as they refused to open their minds. Frederick would take in the Driftwoods. As many as he could. They helped on his farm. He would contact the local agencies. Help those who were willing and needed support get started on treatment for substance use. Bring children to school. Shop thrift stores for clothes. They would move on eventually some to a better place, some needing more help than Frederick could offer. He would show up at the clearing of the camp every year and debate the Harrys and Melvinas of this town. Every year he would still be there.

Then there was this year. This year he was tired. He was feeling the pain of his aged years. His vision had diminished that this town would ever rise to its potential. Yet he came as he heard about the revival of an old ritual.

It had come up at town meeting that the Driftwood People could stay in Center Park until June 20th which was a longer extension than they usually were allowed. They could stay because on June 20th, the longest day of the year, a ritual from the past was being brough back. Originally it was done to bring the fish to a community dependent on seafood for its survival. This was to be a cleansing of the town; Harriet Bellows had heard about this cleansing from someone two towns over who reported it saved their town. This cleansing would be to rid themselves of all the impurities in the town’s midst. It would bring back the ways of truth and honesty. Purity.

They would need all in their community to participate in order for it to work. They needed to call upon the heavens during the late hour of 8pm before sunset which was the latest of the year. Large granite slabs had to be placed around the park which was full of everyone in town plus the hundred or so Driftwood people. Townspeople were instructed to close their eyes as was fitting Frederick thought. Harriet began the chant to drive away the evil that had encountered their village. Frederick watched and smiled from a distance. He continued to hold his thin piece of bark. He could hear Harriet leading his neighbors.

Forever they roam

Those people lost

Without a home

Misunderstood

Discard like

Driftwood

Frederick watched as the Driftwood people huddled together. He caught the eye of one young man and nodded his head to reassure him.

When Harriet finished the townspeople opened their eyes. There was a sharp distinct light from the sky. There was a stillness, a quiet, everyone looked around expecting that the Driftwoods had been removed. Yet they were still there. Nothing had changed but something was different. Frederick watched as each one of the townspeople seemed happier, lighter in their hearts. Their vision had opened brighter than before. They could see. Harry yelled “My vision is clearer than I ever have seen before!” He looked at the Driftwood People and could see them, actually see them. He saw children. He saw women and men with faces. He saw young people who had aged out of the foster care system and were left homeless. He saw a man his own age, James who had lost his wife to cancer and lost his home paying the bills for treatment. He ran down to offer James a job and a place to stay.

Melvina could also see. She saw Luz who escaped gang violence in her native country with her two daughters. Melvina asked them to come stay with her and handed Luz a tissue to wipe her eyes soaked with tears.

Harriet met Jack who was struggling with addiction and needed help to get treatment. Harriet wrapped her motherly arms around Jack as she would drive him to a clinic.

Frederick smiled as he his driftwood crumbled in the palm of his hand. His vision had also returned.

Short Story

About the Creator

C. H. Richard

My passion is and has always been writing. I am particularly drawn to writing fiction that has relatable storylines which hopefully keep readers engaged

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Comments (14)

  • Gael MacLeanabout 4 hours ago

    Your story works on so many levels. Nice work.

  • Nidhi Gohil 4 days ago

    Congratulations on top story 👏

  • Cyrus4 days ago

    Congrats on TS!

  • Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Rilee Arey4 days ago

    Obsessed with the driftwood analogy, I kind of feel that way most of the time.

  • Sam Avery4 days ago

    Really amazing interesting good work excellent.

  • Rachel Deeming4 days ago

    An uplifting story, C.H.! I started my day with this! Thank you.

  • Tattoos & Tarot4 days ago

    That was a beautiful way to tie in a ritual. I felt so heart-warmed by this story!

  • Andrea Corwin 4 days ago

    An extremely moving and beautiful story! See them! Feel their love ersinal stories and circumstances. Fabulous job!!

  • that is so fantastic!! It reminded me of an old man my mom and I would pass. He'd sit on the ground at a corner selling pencils for a penny. (never found out where he got the pencils) My mom never passed him by without putting a few cents into his little tin cup but she also never took his pencils. years later, the old man died and it was discovered he was worth a few million dollars. makes you wonder.

  • Liam Storm4 days ago

    What an amazing ending to a really great story!! "Just get a job" - a term I have heard before, it's never that easy ahaha Congrats on top story!

  • Babs Iverson4 days ago

    Heartwarming story with an awesome ending!!! Loved it!!!❤️❤️💕 Congratulations on Top Story too!!!

  • Cathy holmes4 days ago

    Oh my. Such a beautiful ending. Congrats on the TS.

  • Awww, this was so heartwarming! Loved your take on the challenge!

C. H. RichardWritten by C. H. Richard

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