Story by Irene Budzynski
I couldn’t believe what I had just heard! Hands cupped around his mouth so his words wouldn’t travel to the ears of eavesdroppers, and flipping his head from shoulder to shoulder to ensure no one would be privy to his divulgence, David repeated his whispered announcement: “I have $500 saved.”
This wouldn’t be such a shock if it weren’t for the fact that David is a mentally challenged adult. Where on earth did he get that kind of money? He pulled me aside and answered my unspoken question, so excited that his words tumbled pell mell off his lips, faster and faster until I could barely keep up with his stream of consciousness. Eventually I got the gist of his monologue.
When he was a little boy he had made weekly trips with his mother to a local department store. He was mesmerized by the window displays and eagerly stood with his nose pressed against the glass until his breath clouded his view. Then came the display which would change his and many other lives 30 years later. It was a Victor Five Victrola, the kind that needed to be wound by hand before placing the needle on the record, the machine which bore the symbol of a black and white dog, ear cocked to its side. Not missing a beat, he expounded on a history lesson about Columbia Records and their music machines, information gleaned from his trips to the library. There was nothing he didn’t know about that golden age of music.
His mother died, and he eventually was able to live independently, supervised by an agency. It was through the agency that he obtained work, cleaning toilets of public facilities five nights a week. Every week he squirreled away his paycheck, never forgetting the Victrola. He was on a mission to find and buy a phonograph like the one he had once admired through plate glass.
Visibly exhausted from revealing his secret, David paused long enough to pull out a tattered Polaroid photo from his back pocket. He lovingly waved it in front of my eyes and proclaimed, “There it is! Victor Five!” He had found the object of his desire exhibited at a museum and had been faithfully visiting it every chance he could get. The colored piece of paper was a constant reminder of his goal.
I tucked away his confession into the back of my mind, only to dust it off when I wandered into one of my favorite antique shops a few months later. In the back of the shop, tacked in the corner of a bulletin board over the owner’s desk, was a Polaroid picture just like the one David had shown me. I hastily inquired as to why it was there and unknowingly opened the door to a personal witnessing of the triumph of the human spirit.
David had gone to every antique shop in the city and had left a picture of his beloved Victrola with each of the shopkeepers. If any one of them was to come across a Victor Five, he wanted to buy it. Rain or shine, the owner at Century Antiques counted on David to stop at his Waterbury store at least twice a month to check on the success of his quest. He hadn’t put any effort into looking because he honestly didn’t think David had the money for such an expensive piece. After all, David was, well, not “like us.” Didn’t he know that it was next to impossible to find that particular antique? But, being a kindhearted soul, the dealer had taken a liking to David and posted his Polaroid.
I commanded him to take the mission seriously. If David was short the required amount for the purchase, I knew it wouldn’t be impossible to find enough people to chip in to make up the difference. There was a core group of people in our church who were fond of him and would dig into their pockets to help him reach his goal.
It took some time, but the antique shop came through with flying colors. For months, the owner’s son, Chip, had made phone call after phone call in the tri-state area and eventually struck it rich. A Victor Five had been found! He personally drove to the source, brought the machine back to his shop, and called me with the news. “I can’t believe it. It’s a miracle that I found one in such beautiful shape, or that I found one at all!”
The cost to David? Not a nickel more than what it had cost the dealer.
The profit for the dealer? The pure joy of seeing David when he flung open the door to the shop, stopping speechless in front of the phonograph, clapping his hands together in prayer, and looking up to heaven and saying, “Thank you, thank you for my Victor Five.”
So, if you drive down the street past David’s apartment, you will most probably hear music. David will be playing his Victrola, and the world will be a little nicer.
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