Of Breadcrumbs Lost (a Thanksgiving tale, of sorts)

What caused me to speak to the man, I cannot rightly say, for I do not make it my business to chat with homeless people. They are a dime a dozen in the city in which I live and work and if I regularly engaged with them, I would never make any of my appointments on time. But there was something about this man with the sun-faded, barely legible cardboard sign, something in the deep well of his eyes that beckoned me.

He told me his name was Horace as I patted my pockets to add validation to my claim that I had no money to drop into his dingy paper coffee cup, a statement I made before he even asked. In truth, he never asked. I simply went into automatic defensive mode, not wanting to seem heartless, but not offering any charity, either.

“We all drop breadcrumbs in life,” Horace said.

“Do we?” I asked, struggling to mark his intention.

Horace nodded. “Even the most carefree among us, and we do this because normalcy comes well-equipped with comfort zones. You may take exception to the word normalcy but it has nothing to do with the definition society places on the word normal. Here it applies to the recurrent patterns in your life, the things you’ve grown accustomed to.”

“I don’t follow you.”

“The breadcrumbs are used to lead us back to the path of familiarity when the detours we take spiral beyond our ability to control and/or accept.  I stray from the path constantly chiefly because my path is an uneventful one, which many people would kill for, but I find boring. I ought to be a baker with the number of breadcrumbs I’ve dropped over the years.”

“Um, I’d love to chat, but it’s Thanksgiving and I really must be on my way.”

“Since I’ve always been able to find my way home I never had a problem tearing my life apart,” Horace continued as if he hadn’t heard me. “Going on concrete jungle pilgrimages, and returning to my path at some later date to rebuild things from scratch. But this time is different. This time the demolition wasn’t of my choosing and there’s something about the way events have been playing out over the past six months that have clued me in on the fact I am near the end of the race.”

“You’re dying?”

“Homeless yet again, despite my best efforts to avoid it, I have this sinking feeling deep in my marrow that this will be the final time. There’s no way out and no way back. All the breadcrumbs I dropped to lead me back to the main road of rebuilding my life are gone. Most likely eaten by the crows of a fate long overdue. I guess you can only hit the reset button so many times in life.

“And I can’t honestly say I didn’t see it coming. Life stopped making sense about three years ago, though not all at once. Little by little, all the rules I had ever learned, all the tricks I added to my arsenal, no longer applied. Now, life, the daily routine that the majority of the population manages to perform without a second thought or breaking a sweat, is a game I no longer know how to play. Existence no longer makes sense to me.

“Needless to say, it doesn’t help matters that I have always possessed a nihilistic bug in the back of my brain that constantly questions the logic of struggling to achieve anything when all roads lead to death.

“As you can probably work out, I do not believe in the afterlife. So that we’re clear, this is not an invitation for proselytizers to dust off their soapboxes. I am an aspiritual entity and I’ve made my peace with the fact that I shall not receive salvation. If religion works for you, good on you, I wish you nothing but the best.”

I stood there in silence, wanting to walk away, but also wanting to make sense of this interaction. As if reading my mind, Horace said,

“The purpose of my stopping you from your events of the day and rambling on about things which bear no significance to you is to pass on as many of my thoughts and impressions before I lose my sanity to the streets and become one of the wandering bagmen screaming at invisible antagonists.”

And it finally dawned on me. “You want to be remembered,” I said.

“Who among us doesn’t want to be remembered?”

“You wouldn’t happen to be hungry, would you?” I asked.

“It was not my intention to solicit charity from you, sir, at least not of the monetary kind.”

“I didn’t say anything about giving you money. I need to put something in my stomach before I go on the search and I don’t like eating alone.”

“What are you searching for?”

“Breadcrumbs,” I answered. “You said you’ve been dropping them all your life. I’m sure there are enough lingering around somewhere to get you safely back on your path.”

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Wishing all who celebrate the holiday (and even those who don’t) good food that fills your belly, good health as you strive for your unique brand of success, and good times with family and friends. May you have all the best delights in a life filled with moments that are as sweet as pumpkin pie!

25 responses to “Of Breadcrumbs Lost (a Thanksgiving tale, of sorts)

  1. This is so damn heartwarming, the way he explains his cycle of homelessness perfectly and he’s very obviously an intelligent person…so sad 😦 Let this be a lesson to stop disregarding homeless people like they’re not human! Great story, Rhyan, and a Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One of the things I’m thankful for this year are the stories you provided for our entertainment, especially this one. It’s so sad how people don’t have homes or money for food and it’s especially sad when you don’t have anyone to spend the holidays with. Kindness costs Nothing, but means Everything! Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The flip side of that thankful coin is having a readership, however small, that takes to the time to read my offerings and comment on them. So, your kindness is noted and most definitely appreciated! Happy Thanksgiving to you as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Another mini-masterpiece. This one hit close to home, actually, as I’m disabled and I’m one emergency/catastrophe/evil political stunt away from being homeless myself. I’ve written several pieces of poetry regarding the homeless. You gave Horace dignity and integrity and respect. I only wish more people would recognize the homeless as being human beings rather than nuisances that clutter the sidewalks, alleys, and parks of our lives. Thanks for writing this, Rhyan. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mike, first of all, let’s hope that emergency/catastrophe/evil political stunt never comes to pass. Were I a religious man, I’d keep you in my prayers, but you’ll just have to accept being in my thoughts.

      This is a piece that hits close to home for me as well. I lost my wife and daughter to illness some time ago, suffered a mental breakdown and gave up on life to the point that I lost everything and became homeless for several years. And I’m not talking “living in my car” homeless, either. I was one of those cluttering up the sidewalks, alleys, parks, and subway nuisances that people felt comfortable spitting at and verbally abusing. And when I was at the end of my rope, I was the recipient of a kindness that I can never repay even if I lived a thousand lifetimes, from an absolute stranger, who helped pick me back up and dust me off, and helped me find my way back to the road of relative normalcy. I’m still a shade of the man I used to be, but nowhere near as bad off as I was.

      I don’t know your circumstances and wouldn’t dream of offering you unsolicited advice, but hang in there. The world is full of people who care, and miracles do exist and they happen when we least expect them, whether we think we deserve them or not.

      Thank you for sharing a bit of yourself, and have yourself a magnificent Thanksgiving weekend, my friend!

      Liked by 3 people

      • Rhyan, I’m so sorry to hear of what took place in your life, the unimaginable losses you’ve suffered, and how those things changed your life for the worse. I read your reply through watery eyes and it’s left me wondering if mere words can even come close to expressing how I feel right now. I am so, so glad a kind stranger helped lift you back to your feet. I’m so glad to know you’re forging ahead and back on a better path. Please know your writing changes lives, which is why I’m so drawn to it. There is so much light and life in your stories, and now I understand why. All I can say right now is thank you…for sharing your story and for your kindness. What I thought would be yet another empty, lonely Thanksgiving has suddenly taken on new meaning. Thank you for that, too. I’m gad I found your blog. Enjoy your Thanksgiving, good sir. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kind words, Mike, and they are greatly appreciated. There’s no greater honor for a writer than to know that their words are being read and on some level, they matter or make even the slightest difference in someone’s day. You’ve given me something additional to be thankful for this season. Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing this story and I wish peace and love for all the people who are struggling with their lives. Remember we have to count and focus on our blessings not our sorrows. I had lots of problems but I am thankful now that I am healthy and happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for providing this Thanksgiving story. I read this to my 6 year old daughter today. Truly amazing story for world changers and future world changers. We should never become a people that allows the less fortunate to be ignored. 💖💜❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I hope you had a good Thanksgiving, Rhyan. I wish you the best always and pray that each coming day for you is peaceful and filled with stability and good health. I love the concept of breadcrumbs and how they always lead us back to familiarity. I think wandering off is alright and forging new paths is necessary, but never forget where you came from and where you are headed. It keeps a person grounded. This is a great intellectual piece of writing. Let’s leave judgments behind us and may we open our eyes to love and acceptance. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s really bizarre how people can become invested in the lives of fictional characters yet overlook or ignore those less fortunate in real life. We’re a society in need of constant reminders that despite a person’s circumstances, they’re still a human being who needs to be acknowledged. Sometimes a simple kindness, the smallest positive exchange, can make a huge difference in someone’s day…and even their life.

      As for your good wishes, thank you and of course, I wish the same for you and yours. As always, your taking the time to read and comment is greatly appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for posting this. We have all seen the homeless, they are nature’s way of proving Darwin’s observations on finches to be applicable to all homo sapiens, worldwide. Streetlife, unfortunately, abounds in every country in every city even in the smallest hamlets – we had a summer “wanderer” in our small village, population 98, this year. Yet few are as eloquent as your character here. He must have been a writer with sentences such as, ‘Needless to say, it doesn’t help matters that I have always possessed a nihilistic bug in the back of my brain that constantly questions the logic of struggling to achieve anything when all roads lead to death.’

    Your writing, with phrases like ‘eaten by the crows of a fate long overdue,’ and gave me pause for thought and the urge to reply. Thanks for starting my day off in a good way, by reminding me that there are people less fortunate but everyone has a jewel of wisdom, if only we could find it.

    Happy Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wisdom comes in many forms and those with open minds can receive teachings from all living creatures, regardless of their station or position in life. I’ve met many a homeless person who were intelligent enough to have taught college courses. Sometimes life deals out hands where the wrong people prosper and good people are the victim of unfortunate events and we shouldn’t be quick to praise or dismiss someone based on their appearance or social status.

      I thank you for taking the time to read, digest and respond to this tale, the effort is greatly appreciated!


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