7.01.2010

A Prostitute's Birthday

"It was the middle of the night, but sometimes sleep just won't come. Especially if there are long plane flights and several time zone changes involved. So it must have been 2am or so when Tony finally gave up, got dressed and left the hotel for a little look around the neighborhood. His body said it was morning and was not accepting any different opinions. The hotel coffeeshop was long since closed, but he found a greasy spoon diner a block or two away that looked like it had been open forever, where he could get some of that life fluid, and a donut. The counterman poured a cup, wiped his hands on an old stained towel around his waist, lifted the lid, grabbed up a donut and dropped it on Tony's plate. Tony decided to eat it anyway..
As Tony sat there at the counter the door opened and in walked three young women, ladies of the evening they used to be called. They took the other stools at the counter and ordered coffee, too. And as they compared notes one of them said, "Did you know that tomorrow is my birthday?" What do you want from me, Agnes?," one of her friends answered. "Shall I maybe bake you a cake or throw you a party?" "I've never had a birthday party in my life, and I've never had a cake, and I don't want you to do anything. I was just making conversation." They soon finished both the coffee and conversation and went back out into the night.
The next time the counterman came by, Tony had a question. "Do those women come in here every night?" "The prostitutes? Sure, regular as clockwork, three am." "Could we have a birthday party for Agnes tomorrow night? She said it will be her birthday." The old counterman just looked at him for a moment, then called his wife from her place at the grill. "Come out here. This guy wants to throw a birthday party for Agnes here tomorrow night. What do you think?" "Let's do it," she replied, and the plot, as they say, began to thicken.
The next night, right at three am, the door opened and Agnes and her friends walked into the diner. Only it wasn't the same diner. Oh it was the same building, but there were streamers of crepe paper hanging from the ceiling. They were the same dirty walls, except one of them was covered by a pretty big sign that said 'Happy Birthday, Agnes'. It was the same counter, stools and booths, but tonight, in addition to Tony and the counterman and his wife, there were dozens of other people, too. Word had gone out and all the prostitutes in town were there, waiting to see the look on Agnes's face.

Agnes just stood there in the doorway, stunned. Finally her friends had to push her on into the room and up to the counter. There among the ketchup bottles and napkin dispensers was a birthday cake. Agnes's birthday cake. She just looked at it in silence. "Cut the cake. Let's eat," came the cry. Agnes didn't move. The counterman handed her a knife. "Cut the cake, Agnes. Let's see how it tastes." Do I have to?" "Come on Agnes, cut the cake." Raising her eyes, Agnes looked at the counterman. "It's so pretty. Do I have to cut it?" "Well, I guess not, if you don't want to."
"I've never had a birthday day cake before," Agnes said, more to herself than anyone else. "I don't want to cut it." Then to the counterman she said, to everyone's surprise, "I don't live very far from here, just a block or so. Could I take this cake home? I'll come right back." "Sure Agnes, go ahead." And Agnes picked up her birthday cake, and holding it like it was the holy grail, she waked carefully out the door, into the night.
Everyone was silent, stunned by what they had just witnessed. Finally Tony said, "Let's all say a prayer for Agnes." Everybody bowed their heads and Tony prayed aloud that God would bless Agnes and watch over her, and touch her life. "Amen."
"I didn't know you were a preacher," said the counterman, as conversation gradually began to grow. "I'm not. I'm a sociologist." "Well, what church do you belong to?" he asked. "I guess you could say I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3 o'clock in the morning.”"


Tony Campolo

2 comments:

Lovely Lauren said...

that campolo story never gets old

Josh Hopping said...

beautiful and powerful