By O. Henry
BeeOasis Step 3
Prince Michael sat on his favorite bench in the park. The September night was nice and cool. It made him feel more alive. The benches were not filled. Most people are quick to stay home when the autumn weather becomes cool.
The moon was rising over the roofs of the houses to the east. Children laughed and played near the fountain. In the shadows, small animals ran around, unnoticed by everyone. A street performer sang a tune. Around the edges of the little park, cars drove by and trains roared like tigers and lions. Above the trees shone the big, round face of a clock in the tower of an old, public building.
Prince Michael’s shoes were so worn out no one would be able to repair them. Not even the trash collector would have taken his clothes. His face was covered with two weeks of facial hair that was grey and brown and red and greenish yellow. The hat on his head was so dirty and worn that nobody in the world would wear it.
Prince Michael sat on his favorite bench and smiled. He enjoyed knowing that he was wealthy enough to buy every one of those mansions that faced him if he wanted to. He had more gold, jewels, art treasures, and land than all the people in the proud city of Manhattan combined.
He could have sat at tables with kings. Anything he wanted, he could have whenever he might choose to take it. But his choice was to sit in rags on a bench in a park. He had tasted of the fruit of the tree of life. And, finding it bitter in his mouth, he had stepped out of Eden for a while. He needed a distraction.
These thoughts went through the mind of Prince Michael. He smiled under the hair of his multi-colored beard. Sitting there, dressed as the poorest of the poor, he loved to study people. Kindness and generosity made him happier than all his riches, his status, and everything life had given him. He loved to help people, to give favors to people who needed them. He loved to surprise people with unexpected and wonderful gifts, given with wisdom and fairness.
Note: The original title of this story is “The Caliph, Cupid, and the Clock.”