the Composition
for Honours Class,
Howard University,

  Authors & Artists


Faces & Voices 4
Faces & Voices 5

Love Thy Neighbor
Charlene Talbot
Orlando, Florida - Print Journalism

        On a particular Monday, tucked into a corner formed by Winter Street and Park Avenue, a young boy stood tantalized by the sight of fortune cookies that sat in a jar in a coffee shop window. The boy solicited from his father the nickel that would win him the satisfaction of nibbling at that morsel which teased him. The young boy entered the shop, but as he reached into his pocket to exchange the nickel for a fortune cookie, all he found was a hole where the money should have been.
        The storeowner, realizing the boy’s dilemma, handed him the small, packaged dessert and waived the payment. The boy delightedly took it from her, broke his gift in two and ate one half of it. He handed the other half to the owner and politely asked her to read what the red letters on the paper slip said. She took the paper out of its hiding place and handed the half of the fortune cookie back to the boy. “Love thy neighbor,” she read and handed the small slip to him. Familiar with the phrase from Sunday school, he tucked the paper into his pocket (the one without the hole) and the words into his heart.
        That night, he decided to do a kind deed for his mother as he watched her fall asleep on the couch. He kissed her goodnight and went to the kitchen to prepare her breakfast for the morning. When he was finished, he slipped the red-lettered paper into her wallet as a gift to her. In the morning, the mother read this note, written by the father, on the fridge: “Your son made your breakfast last night. He insisted on it. It’s in the fridge.” Though the cereal was soggy from soaking in milk while she’d slept, it was the best breakfast the mother had ever had.
        In high spirits, she left for the same shop her son visited the day before and ordered her customary cup of java. Mistakenly, she had laid out a twenty-dollar bill for the waiter’s tip. When she went to retrieve it, she remembered her son, was filled with his thoughtfulness, and left the money on the table.
That morning, the waiter felt relieved to finally see green paper from one of his customers. Usually, they left mere change for his stupendous services. But when he saw that this customer’s tip was more than Washington, Lincoln, and Hamilton combined, his anger softened and melted into a gentle tranquility. He scooped the cash into his apron along with the coins already there and took with the money the little piece of paper that had unwittingly been laid out as well.
        On his way home, the waiter met a lady whose hands were fumbling inside her pocketbook to find change to fill an expired parking meter. Cheerfully, the waiter reached into his pocket, pulled out all the change that he had made that morning and offered it to her. Astonished, the lady accepted the coins, but when she sought to hand back the excess, the waiter was already on his way. She noticed a tiny piece of paper among the handful of coins, but she paid little attention to it.
        She hurried into a bookstore and continued to read the novel in which she had been thoroughly engrossed. Hours later, when she looked at the clock, she was alarmed at the time. She jumped up and searched frantically for something to mark her place but found nothing at hand. She remembered the little piece of paper that she had dismissed as insignificant, pulled it out from her pocket, and set it between the pages. She rushed out of the store, nearly smashing the small door as she slammed it into its frame.
        The bookstore owner paid little attention to that because his thoughts were elsewhere. As he prepared to close his shop, his mind was on the house across the street from his own. There was where his love lived. They both had each other’s hearts for some time, and he was entertaining the thought of proposing; however, he was still uncertain. He’d been pleading for God to show him a sign, and when he went replace the book the woman had left on the table, he found what appeared to be it. There between some pages was a tiny slip of paper that read, “Love thy Neighbor”. He, being enraptured with love set a pause between the first and second words, thus he altered the meaning of the adage. Was his neighbor not his love? He pondered. And was his love not his neighbor? He answered his questions in the affirmative.
        Not far from the bookstore, a young lady returned home from work, and much like the owner of the bookstore, her thoughts were weighed down by love, or, rather the likelihood of its rejection. That experience had touched her too many times, and she was certain that she knew the scent of a lost love. She stood at the window looking down the sundrenched street, but seeing only the blue shirted bowlegged postman as he slowly made his way from house to house, the bulging post bag bouncing heavily on his hip. When he stopped at her gate her heart nearly skipped a beat in agonizing anticipation. She was expecting a letter, but not the one that she received. Enclosed in a red envelope was the bookstore owner’s proposal, and at the bottom of the letter, the bookstore owner had taped the well-traveled little piece of paper.
        The next day, at the coffee shop, when the boy returned to pay the nickel that he felt he owed, he noticed a shining stone on the coffee shop owner’s finger.

© 2002 Howard University
(First Published in limited print edition, An Anthology of Verse, Prose & Art, by the Composition for Honours Class, Howard University, Spring 2002. Professor E.R. Braithwaite)
HOWARD UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, 500 Howard Place, NW, Washington, DC 20059.  Phone (202) 806-7234.