Thomas F. O'Neill
A Positive Force In Life
Our story begins with a person who was once a lecherous fool who passed his time away in a drunken stupor.
His name is Roy Sudder and this is his story.
Roy found his solace every night in the form of a booze bottle. He didn’t care what he drank as long as it got him good and drunk. He never liked to drink alone, so night after night, he drank at the Corner Bar a few blocks from his run down apartment. The regulars he drank with were just like him, people with issues, who chose to drink their problems away rather than facing them head on.
Roy was laid off from a bottle cap factory and most of his unemployment checks were used up at the Corner Bar. The regulars there liked Roy good and drunk because then they could talk him into buying them rounds.
He was oblivious to the fact that one day his unemployment checks would stop and that he’d have to get a Job. Without a paycheck he would not have the money for what he loved most in life, being drunk. The alcohol came first in Roy’s life it was what he lived for. It didn’t seem to matter that it destroyed the relationship he had with his family. The family he hadn’t seen in years. Roy kept a ten year old picture of his wife and daughter in his billfold and in his drunken stupor he would take the picture out and show people his beautiful wife and daughter. When he was drunk he was unaware of the passing years and the amount of time the booze stole from him.
He drove a beat up 74 Pontiac that hadn’t passed inspection in almost two years. He rarely drove the car out of fear of being stopped by the police. On one particular morning he took a chance with his junker of a car and as he was driving through an intersection another drunk ran a red light. The other vehicle hit Roy’s car and sent it careening into of all places the side of the Corner Bar. Although he was unhurt he saw dollar signs and he remained in his vehicle for the ambulance. He pretended to be banged up and in serious pain. He also put on a very good show for the ambulance crew that arrived.
When Roy arrived at the hospital a homeless-man was being wheeled into the emergency room. The man was unconscious and barely alive. X-rays were taken of Roy and the other man and by some freak mishap their files got mixed up. The homeless man’s name was Ray Subbor and Ray’s x-rays and paperwork were put into Roy’s folder.
“Are you in a lot of pain, Ray?” the Doctor said to Roy.
“It’s Roy, Doc, OH!!! Yes!!! Doctor, terrible pain,” Roy said.
“Why in God’s name did you wait so long to come here?” asked the Doctor.
“I got here right after the bastard totaled my car,” Roy told the Doctor.
“My God, man, how can you tolerate the pain?” said the Doctor.
“It is not easy, Doc, the pain is excruciating,” Roy told the Doctor.
Roy thought to himself, “this is easy money, keep up the act with the Doc, and collect the Insurance money.”
“If you had gotten here sooner we might have been able to help you,” the Doctor told him.
“Doc, the ambulance brought me in right after the accident. How much faster could I have gotten here? for cry’n out loud,” Roy said.
“There is really nothing I can do for you but give you medication to help ease the pain,” the Doctor told him.
“Well if you think the pills will help,” In Roy’s mind he figured he could sell the pain killers for a few extra bucks.
“Is there anyone that you can stay with? That can take care of you?” the Doctor asked.
“No, Doc, I have been alone for quite sometime,” Roy said.
“You shouldn’t be alone not at this stage,” the Doctor said.
v“Doc, I can handle the pain,” said Roy.
“I don’t think you are seeing the big picture. Cancer has spread throughout your body and it’s destroying the bones in your body. That is why you are in such pain. If you came in sooner in its early stage we could have treated you. The Cancer is too far gone to treat you,” the Doctor told him.
“I am going to die, Doc?” Roy asked in shock.
“I would say in about two months” the Doctor replied.
* * * * * *
Roy stared at the whisky bottles at the Corner Bar. “I am not going to see my fiftieth birthday,” he thought to himself.
“Two months, Cancer,” he said to himself.
“Drink up, Roy,” said Margaret, a women sitting at the Bar.
Roy just then noticed how Margaret’s false-teeth shifted in her mouth every time she spoke.
“I only have two months left,” he told everyone at the Bar.
“Then buy us all a round,” said Hank, a Corner Bar regular who wears the same clothes everyday.
“Didn’t you guys hear me I only have two months left. I been drinking here with you guys for years. Don’t you guys care that I only have two frick’n months left. I am going to be dead as a door nail,” Roy said angrily.
“Lighten up, Roy,” said Margaret, “buy us a round.”
“Yea, if you only have two months left what is money to you?” said Hank, “buy us a round.”
“I can’t believe you guys. I thought you guys were my friends. I sat here night after night; I drank with you guys, bought you drinks. But, you were never really my friends at all.” Roy said.
“I will buy Roy a drink, it’s on me, Roy,” said Roy’s buddy Joe in a drunken stupor.
Roy looked at his old drinking buddies as if seeing them for the first time. He noticed how Hank never changed his clothes in all the years they had been drinking together. He also realized that in the years he had known Joe he never once saw the guy sober.
He looked at the Corner Bar regulars and wondered to himself, “can they comprehend that in two months I will not be around to share a drink with them,” he said to himself, “do they really care?”
* * * * * *
Roy laid on the couch in his apartment, gripped in fear. “I don’t want to be remembered as the town drunk,” he thought to himself, “Two months is not enough time to make a difference.”
“I want to be remembered for something,” he said staring at himself in the bathroom mirror.
He went for a walk and said to himself out loud, “No more Booze!!!! and the hell with those guys at the Corner Bar!!!!”
As Roy walked down the main street he noticed a little dog limping. The little dog was in pain. Roy out of compassion picked the little dog up and took it to a Veterinarian’s office a few blocks away.
“The little dog has a broken leg,” said the Doctor.
The Doctor set the dogs leg and put a cast on it to keep it in place. “I will remove the cast in a month,” said the Doctor.
“Can you bill me Doctor, I will take care of the little dog,” said Roy.
As Roy left the Doctors office he headed down the main street and a young woman saw the cast on the little dog’s leg.
“OH!!! what happened to your dog?” said the women.
“I saw him limping with a broken leg so I took him to the Vet, it really isn’t my dog, but I will take care of him,” Roy said.
“You are such a sweet guy,” she said, “what is your name?”
“Roy,” he said.
“My name is Victoria,” she replied, “Come I will buy you lunch.”
While they were eating sandwiches at a Coffee Shop, she asked Roy, “Why did you help that little dog?”
“I didn’t want to see it suffer,” Roy told her.
“Most people wouldn’t care,” she said.
“I think most people do care,” Roy replied.
Roy didn’t tell her what the Doctor told him about two months to live. He didn’t want pity from her.
“I had a serious problem with Booze and I just recently stopped drinking. I told myself this morning I don’t want to be remembered as the town drunk. I want to be remembered for doing positive things,” he said.
“If you were drunk you wouldn’t have noticed the little dog was in pain. So you did something positive today,” she said to him, “so you see it is working already. I can help you, Roy, I can help you make a positive difference in other people’s lives.”
“You can?” Roy asked.
“You bet,” she replied, “meet me here everyday at the same time.”
The next day she took Roy to a Veterans Center and she asked him, “Have you ever heard of Meals on Wheels?”
“Sure,” said Roy.
“Well Roy that is what we are going to be doing for the next two hours delivering food to the people who can’t get out,” she said.
“Hello, Sister,” said an elderly women to Victoria as she and Roy entered the woman’s home, “Who is your friend?”
“His name is Roy,” Victoria said to her.
When they left the home, Roy said, “She called you Sister.”
“Yep, I’m Sister Vicky with the Sister’s of Mercy,” she said.
“You don’t look like a Nun,” Roy replied.
“We gave up those Habits a long time ago, thank God,” she told him.
“You don’t act like a Nun,” he said
“How is a Nun supposed to act Roy?” she said with laughter in her voice.
“I am not a religious person but I just picture Nuns differently, that’s all,” he told her.
“Well Roy you can call me Vicky if it makes you feel better,” she said, “I became a Nun because I want to make a positive difference in people’s lives just like you, Roy.”
“I am not a religious person,” he said to her once again.
“I believe God works through people, Roy. People come into our lives for a reason. When you open yourself up completely, and trust that God is working through you, wondrous things, and possibilities, abound,” she said.
“I wish I had your faith,” he said to her.
“Just trust me when I say that good will come from what you do. Just do the right thing when the situations arise for the right thing to be done. You are a positive force in the lives of others already. You helped that little dog when it needed help and you helped me deliver food to people in need. You want to be remembered in life. Well, people remember kindness, Roy,” she told him.
The next day as Roy was on his way to meet his friend Vicky. He saw this young kid lose control of his bike and fall. The little boy had a flat tire and a skinned knee. He walked the little boy over to a near by gas station and he patched the bike tire’s inner tub and fixed the tire. He asked the gas station attendant for their first aid-kit and he cleaned up the little boy’s knee and put a large band-aid on it.
Roy enjoyed going out and delivering food with Vicky and he enjoyed their conversations.
“What happens to us when we die?” Roy asked Vicky.
“I really don’t think about it all that much. I figure we are here now alive and that there must be some intelligent reason for us to exist. I could never really comprehend the atheist point of view that we are just here out of some random means. Life is just too complex and ordered to have come about by happenstance. I believe that we are here to learn and grow with others. What happens to us when we die? Well, we will find out when that time comes,” she said.
“Do you believe in reincarnation?” he asked her.
“I think there are endless possibilities when it comes to life, Roy,” she said.
When Roy was walking home that same night, it began to thunder and large bolts of lightning filled the sky. Roy got caught in a torrential rain storm. He was trying to stay dry by standing under an awning in front of a store. He was then blinded by a large spot-light that was shining on him from a Police car. He heard a young kid say, “that’s him!!!.”
“Hey, get over here,” said the Police Officer.
“Yes, Officer,” Roy said in fear.
“Get out of the rain and get in the car,” said the Police Officer.
Roy got in the front seat of the Police Car nervously and the little boy sat in the middle between Roy and the Police Officer.
“I am Captain Gershen and this is my son Charley. Charley told me how you fixed his bike and patched up his knee. Anyone that comes to the aid of a Gershen is a friend of the entire family. Anything I can do for you, you just name it,” said Captain Gershen.
“Well thank you I just helped your son because it was the right thing to do,” Roy said.
Captain Gershen dropped Roy off at his home and as Roy got out of the car the Captain said to him once again, “anything I can do for you just name it,” the captain handed him a card with his name and number on it.
The next day Roy told Vicky what happened with the Police Captain.
“People remember kindness, Roy, material gifts can be forgotten, but the kind acts of others will always be remembered. What you did for that little boy will be remembered and embedded in that child’s heart.” She went on to say, “The true heroes in life are the ones who reach out to the people of the least influence, the unseen, the undetected, and the down-trodden, those who do not have the means to return the favor.”
Vicky helped Roy find a job not because he was the best qualified but because he was the better person. He was hired by an agency that helps the elderly and to his surprise, he went on living.
Captain Gershen was also determined to do something for Roy because people began to talk about Roy’s good nature and kind heart. When he heard about Roy not having a car the Captain conveniently lost the paperwork on a car that was seized by the Police Department in a drug arrest. The Captain gave the car to Roy and told him that it is his way of doing the right thing when the right thing needed to be done.
Months went by and Roy went on living. He became very well known in the community for being that nice guy who goes out of his way for people. In turn, people go out of their way to beep their car horns and wave to him when they see him walking down the street. Children yell out, “Hello Mr. Sudder,” when they see him. He became a different person a person who stands out not for his politics or wealth but for the little acts of doing the right thing for people.
On Christmas morning, Roy went to the home of his ex-wife and daughter and rang their doorbell.
“What the hell are you doing here, Roy?” said his ex-wife, “what -- you need money for Booze?”
“I haven’t had a drink in months,” he said to her, “I am not the man I used to be.”
“Roy we haven’t seen you in ten years and you show up now. Why? What for?” she asked.
“Because I don’t want to be remembered for the man I was. I want to be remembered for the man I can be. For the man I want to be in your life and my daughter Ellie’s life,” he sobbed to his wife Rachael.
“I can’t deal with your issues, Roy, not now or ever. Especially, on Christmas morning,” she said, “just leave.”
A little girl came running into the living room and a young woman ran over and picked her up. She turned and saw Roy standing at the door as she held the little girl.
“Dad?” Ellie said to her father.
“Oh great,” said his ex-wife in an agitated voice.
“What are you doing here? We thought you died,” said Ellie.
“Can I come in,” he said.
“Sure,” said his daughter.
“Who’s that little girl?” he asked.
“She's your Granddaughter, Megan,” his daughter told him.
“I am a Grandfather!” Roy said.
“It’s Biology, Roy, only Biology. It takes more to be a Grandfather than showing up after ten years. Not knowing if you were alive or dead! Now just leave, Roy,” Rachael said to him.
“Give me a chance, that is all I ask. Let me have the chance to be the man I want to be in your lives,” Roy said with tears rolling down his face.
“Dad, where were you when I got married? When I graduated High School and College? Where were you when I got my drivers license? When I became a Mother?” accused Ellie, tears welling up in her eyes.
Roy, broke down and sobbed once again. He walked over and held his daughter and said, “I am sorry for being the person I was. Sorry for the pain I caused. I am no longer that person and I don’t want to be remembered for the person I was or the pain I caused. Please forgive me and let me into your lives.”
“Why now, Roy?” Rachael asked him, “How do we know you are not going to bury yourself in alcohol?”
“I ask that you trust me. Let me be the person I want to be so that I can make a positive difference in your lives,” Roy said to them.
“I would rather you be in our lives than not be in our lives,” said his daughter with tears in her eyes, “Come on in and eat with us. There is a lot of catching up to do.”
Roy has become that better person with his family and he spends every Holiday with them. He gave his Granddaughter the little dog he found that had the broken leg. They grew to love Roy and found the grace to forgive him for the person he was.
He grew to understand that God does reveal loving presence through people in their small subtle acts of kindness bestowed upon others. He is learning with each passing day to trust in that higher power that is guiding him along so that he can continue to be a positive force in the lives of others.
He understands also that he is going to live and that Cancer is not taking his life away. He continues to go on living, however, as if he only has a short time to be the person he would like to be.
Roy will truly be remembered not for the drunk he was but for the man he has become in his community and within his Family because it is kindness that is remembered.
Thomas F. O’Neill
Yahoo Screen Name for chatting online: introspective777
Other writings of Thomas F. O'Neill can be found at the links under the Screen Name Introspective.