Lost and Found

Rod Stewart’s cover of Broken Arrow was playing in the store. He noticed because a person does not ordinarily hear that song in the mall. As he cocked his head to listen, a man leaning against the wall approached him.

“Do you like found objects?” the man asked.

“Not particularly.” He started to move on.

“Oh, too bad; they’re significant.”

“Why is that?” He wasn’t interested in either the man or his ideas, but a gentleman by nature, he stopped instead of brushing by.

“They find you. You think you’ve found them, but they wait for the right person to come by so they can reveal themselves.”

“Uh, okay,” he responded as he started to back out of the conversation.

“Ever been given one?” It seemed a challenge.

He was about to say, no, when he remembered he had. A faint smile tugged at his mouth “Yes, actually I have.”

The man considered him. “Then you are a very special person, and the one who gave it to you knows that.”

“Oh,” he said remembering he hadn’t been impressed with the gift. He wasn’t even sure where it was now. He blushed as the thought occurred to him that he might have tossed it in the trash.

“No matter,” said the man.

“I’m sorry?”

“It doesn’t matter what you did with it. It matters that it was found, picked up with you in mind, given to you, and that you accepted it.”

“Really, why’s that?” He still wasn’t sure about this conversation but was now a tiny bit curious.

“It’s the giving and the receiving that matters.” The man waved a dismissive hand. “I don’t mean it’s the thought that counts. That’s for ordinary gifts. I mean that it was noticed and chosen for you with special symbolism in mind, and you received it. You might not even realize its meaning. Did she tell you?”

“No,” he said wondering how the man knew a woman had given it to him.

“Mere curiosity. Doesn’t really matter. It’s like a spice or herb in a food. You don’t have to know what it is for it to add its particular flavor or for you to appreciate it.”

“I’m afraid I didn’t appreciate it.”

“Hmm, may I ask what it was?”

“A tiny shell.”

“Ahhh, what kind?”

“One of those scallop-looking ones, I think.”

“A clam shell. Interesting. The apostle is reported to have used a clam shell to collect alms. My guess is you share something important with him.”

It took him a moment to remember that “alms” was the old term for what beggars ask for. Amused and wondering if that was what the man wanted, he said, “I don’t beg for alms.”

“Oh, no, no, I didn’t intend to suggest that. What I meant is that what you have in common is a means to get what you need and with that, the accompanying blessings.” The man placed a none-too-clean hand on his sleeve. “I imagine you have other things in common as well.” With that, the man walked away.

He began to wonder about the encounter and felt it might be important to him. The manager hurried up. “I am so sorry. That bum has been warned to not bother people. I’ll call security.”

As the manager headed to the phone, he almost didn’t say anything, but then he called, “Please don’t.”

“I really should.”

“No, please don’t. He gave me a gift.”

“Really.” The manager was clearly skeptical and looked as if security should perhaps be called on him.

To change the subject, he smiled and asked about the item he’d come for. When he got home, he tossed his purchase on a chair and started looking for the shell. It had been months ago, maybe even a year, since she gave it to him, and the shell was smaller than his thumbnail, maybe even smaller than her thumbnail. It would be almost impossible to find even if he only had to search his office. He wished he had thought more of it at the time or asked her why it was for him. Abruptly, he laughed, quit his frantic search, took his keys, and drove to the beach to take a walk.

As he drove, he tried to remember what the shell looked like, but he’d not paid enough attention. He thought about the possible reasons she picked it up and thought it was for him and, even more, why he needed it, what it might have meant to him had he kept it. No, that was wrong. He still held the memory of her giving it to him: her excitement, his amusement. He realized it could still hold meaning for him through the memory of the giving even if he couldn’t remember the object itself. Mostly, he thought about broken arrows and why one person would think another person would want one, the kind of person who would want one, and the kind of person the giver would be.

He found his thoughts had taken him all the way to the beach. He parked and started walking on the slippery sand near the beach grasses. When he made it to the packed sand near the water’s edge, he started looking at the shells and other objects and had the thought, almost as if the man was still talking to him … It all depends on what you find important.

Notes:

Many stories have been written with the theme of lost and found. As an example, it is the start of a quest, a type of story about a hero who goes through various experiences to learn something new that makes things better for both him/herself and for the larger group. Quest includes Star Wars, Romancing the Stone, and the King Arthur legends, to name just a few. Quest may be the most used theme throughout storytelling history. In the story above, I refer to the Robbie Robertson song Broken Arrow. If you haven’t heard the Rod Stewart cover or seen the video with Rachel Hunter, it is worth looking up on YouTube. The opening lines, “Who else is gonna bring you a broken arrow, who else is gonna bring you a bottle of rain?” illustrate the giving and receiving of found objects.