They called him ‘Dopey Dan’. A kid had coined the nickname when Dan first drifted into town, on the back of a cool autumn breeze. The name had stuck, like the dirt that besmirched his threadbare clothes and weather-beaten face, but he’d made it his own. It was as good as any he’d had over the years.

Dan was enamoured with the once fine town houses he shambled past, the unkempt park where he could snooze in the pale sun, before kids might find and taunt him, and he admired the town’s majestic, though ancient bridge, beneath which he found shelter.

Law enforcement didn’t seem to bother Dan much and when they did, just before they were about to bundle him into a patrol car and drive him to the city limits, something more important would distract them and they’d depart with a skid of tyres and wailing sirens.

He’d spend most of his days walking the streets, humming tunes or seeming to converse with birds and other fauna. People used to shake their heads and gave him a wide berth, but he would still smile at anyone he encountered. Even those that had no time for him walked away energised and the sun seemed warmer on their backs after sighting him.

The park remained his favourite haunt and occasionally a passer-by would give him the remains of their lunch or a half cup of coffee, and he would bless them for their kindness.

Dan meandered through avenues and boulevards and the town prospered and grew. Revitalised communities came together and Dan’s beloved park regained its former glory. Even the young, so eager to escape the confines of the town when they could, no longer felt an urge to leave.

A year passed and Dan vanished just as the seasons turned and leaves took on shades of red and copper brown once more. His loss blew through the town like a chill wind.

Too late, people realised that he’d belonged to them, and they to him. The light had dimmed and now autumn shadows loomed large.

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    1 year ago

    Such a beautiful story. The people of the town should be honored to be a part of Dan’s life. We should all hold onto the joys we bring to one another. Thank you.

    Lotchie Carmelo
    Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
    1 year ago

    It is too late before they’d realize the value of Dan to them, that Dan belongs to them. It is a very sad and gripping story, Paul. Well written. 

    Last edited 1 year ago by Lotchie Carmelo
    Lotchie Carmelo
    Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
    Reply to  Paul Lewthwaite
    1 year ago

    You’re welcome, Paul. You portrayed it well with Dan.

    Linda Rock
    Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
    1 year ago

    The picture that accompanies your story is gorgeous, Paul. We never really know those who walk amongst us, do we, although we’re often quick to judge. Dan, as proved, is far from dopey. And we never know what we have until it’s gone. I loved your story of this gentle, kindly soul as warm as the colours of Autumn.

    Thompson Emate
    Thompson Emate(@thompson-emate)
    1 year ago

    Wow! An emotional one. Dan’s passing away was unexpected. I thought at the end, tables would turn around for him. A nice story, Paul.

    Carrie OLeary
    Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
    1 year ago

    There are some excellent stories in this competition so far, and this is another one of them, Paul. A very poignant story. Let’s hope that the next town that Dan appears in is more appreciative of this kind and gentle man.

    1 year ago

    A beautifully written story, Paul, with a title and picture that invite us in. I think of Dan as a being outside of normal time and space. I hope he pays my town a visit. Every community needs a “Dopey Dan”. When he comes, I hope we recognize him!

    Alan Kemister
    Alan Kemister(@alan-kemister)
    1 year ago

    Hello, great photo and great story. You’ve told a rather dark story, but made it light. And if he hadn’t moved on at the end, you wouldn’t have the same forceful message – we should all try harder to appreciate the Dopey Dans in our lives.

    Marianna Pieterse
    Marianna Pieterse(@marianna-pieterse)
    1 year ago

    Paul, I couldn’t help thinking that he must have been there for a reason, but the people didn’t recognise it until it was too late. That is so often the case in life. Although he was ‘homeless’ (although, if he is otherworldly – as seems to be the case, he might disagree), he seemed content. How often do we miss the good things in life just because it doesn’t conform to what… Read more »

    Christer Norrlof
    Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
    1 year ago

    I love your choice of words in the detailed and well nuanced descriptions of Dan and his town, Paul. Although he was a rough and poor man, he brought something valuable which made people better enjoy their days, and which made the town prosper. He was like a disguised light-bearer. Well done!

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