Pottersville — A Return to the Past
I’m finally able to type again after suffering pain and neural tingling in my right hand from a disc herniation. I couldn’t let the year end without a blog post. I’d like to share a short story with you. I’ve often wondered what happened after George Bailey’s friends saved the day in my favorite movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I hope you have seen this movie. If not, please, please watch it before 2013 is history. So, for your enjoyment here is my imagination of what happened to George Bailey and his nemesis, Mr. Potter. And, I know the movie is copy written so this is just for fun. Enjoy!
Happy New Year!
A Bedford Falls New Year!
The jail cell was cold and dank. Someone had forgotten to replace the light bulb and only a few strand rays of limpid light fell through the barred window. Even through the thick, ice covered glass of the window, the man sitting in his wheelchair could hear the revelers outside. He snorted and sniffed in anger as he tried to ignore the voices raised in song and celebration.
He rubbed an arthritic hand over his pale face, massaging his downturned mouth. He blinked his heavy eyelids and peered into the dark shadows of his cell for any sign of relief.
“I want to speak to my assistant, do you hear?” He bellowed, not for the first time. His words fell on deaf ears, swallowed up by the cold indifference to his very existence. “Do you know who I am? I’ll have the sheriff throw every one of you in jail!” He grabbed the wheels of his chair and tried to push himself toward the door to his cell. It was a dark, rust stained metal door with a barred window too far above his head to do him any good. He gasped for breath as he tried to push his chair closer. He was not used to moving his own chair. His assistant pushed him everywhere. He realized this was a sign of weakness. He should never have become dependent on another human being.
He came within an arm’s reach of the cell door and banged his fist against the metal. It was cold and rough with bits of rust. “Let me out of here, I tell you! I own this town! I own the sheriff! I’ll foreclose on everyone of your houses, you vermin!”
A shadow eclipsed the wan light coming from the hallway and a face appeared in the window. “Sir, you need to be quiet or we will have you physically restrained.”
The old man squinted toward the window. “This is outrageous! Let me out of here!”
“I’m sorry, but you have been arrested for theft.”
“I want my lawyer.” The old man wheezed and began to cough.
“It’s Christmas day. We can’t find your lawyer.” The man in the window said. “Can’t tell you how good it makes me feel to see you in this jail cell. I was telling my friend, Ernie, how wonderful it was to actually arrest you and throw you in this cell! Let me ask you something. You own the bank. You own every business in town, but one. Why would you throw all that away by stealing $8000 from one of your own bank customers!”
“It was a mistake, I tell you.” The old man wiped tears from his cheek as his coughing session finally ended. “I found that money in my newspaper.”
“Found $8000 just lying around tucked inside your newspaper? Who in their right mind would let something like that happen?” The man in the windows asked.
“That crazy old accountant, that’s who. He’s lost most of his mind. He’s daffy!” The old man pointed a gnarled finger at the window.
“Oh, so you saw the accountant put the money in your newspaper? If you didn’t want to steal it, why didn’t you tell the accountant he had misplaced his money? Seems to me, you saw a chance to steal something you could never get your hands on, and you took it. And, I’m not talking about the money. I’m talking about the business . . .”
“I know what you’re talking about! I swore out an arrest for the real thief and he should be in here instead of me. Now, go do you job and arrest him and let me go.”
The man in the window pulled away and the old man heard another voice in the hallway.
“Bert, I want to talk to him.” The old man recognized the voice immediately and his face grew hot with anger.
“George, you should go home and be with your family.” Bert said.
“I need to talk to him, Bert. Just a few minutes.”
The old man wheeled himself painfully away from the door and grit his teeth. How should he handle this? He could still get the upper hand. If he planned this carefully . . . The door grated and opened. A tall man stood silhouetted against the light in the hallway and his shadow stretched across the jail cell and covered the old man in darkness.
“I suppose you’ve come here to gloat?” The old man said. “Well, you can just turn around and go back to your scruffy little family. I’ll be out of here in no time and I plan on launching a law suit against you and your firm that will finally crush your building and loan business.”
George stepped into the room and moved to the side to sit on the room’s only piece of furniture, an old Army cot. He held a fedora in his hands and he placed it on his knee. He wore a nice suit with some fraying of the threads along the lapels and a jaunty tie with red and green bows on it. He wiped at his long face and blinked.
“Mr. Potter, I know that I should just sit here and soak all of this in. Imagine. The great Mr. Potter sitting in a jail cell. Who would have thought such a thing was possible?”
Before Potter could open his mouth something exploded against the outside window. Potter jerked and George glanced over his shoulder. Red pulpy flesh dripped down the outside of the window. “Waste of a good tomato.” George said.
A voice echoed from outside the window. “I hope you rot in that cell, Potter!” Other voices joined in, rising in volume, blending into a cacophony of cursing and threats. A whistle interrupted the voices and Bert’s voice was heard ushering the mob away.
“I suppose you put that unruly mob up to this, George. I’ll add that to the law suit.” Potter growled.
George sighed. “Mr. Potter, I don’t have to say a word for the people of this town to rise up against you. You’ve held so many things over their heads for so long that now you’re locked up, they realize you can’t hurt them anymore. No, I don’t have to speak a word. You are your own worst enemy.”
Potter rubbed his hands together. “Well, I guess you’ve finally won, George. So, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’ll speak to the bank board and the city attorney about this mixup in the money and have them drop all the charges. I’ll even forget the law suit. You can go on taking care of your unruly mob of friends and I’ll get back to the real business of running the business of this town.”
“And, the $8000?”
“You realize it was you’re own dim witted uncle that lost that money?”
“And, it didn’t take you long to find it, right?” George said. “Mr. Potter why didn’t you just call up my office and tell me what happened? We could have avoided all of this.”
“George, your building and loan has been a pain in my backside for years. And, suddenly, I was handed the very tool I needed to bury you.” Potter smiled. “I did nothing wrong, George. It was all the doings of one of your employees. He lost the money and your business should have gone under. I refuse to back down from that. But now that you have beaten me, George, I’ll give in. I’ll put you on the board of directors of the bank and award you a sizable portion of the stock and bond options. You can finally have enough money to get everything you want. What do you say?”
George smiled. “Mr. Potter, last night I almost threw away God’s greatest gift to me, my own life. He showed me that the most important thing in this world is not money or stocks or bonds or positions of power. It’s people, Mr. Potter. Friends and family whose lives have intersected with mine. God has used this measly little old building and loan clerk to change the world, Mr. Potter. And, you want to hear something amazing?”
Potter raised an eyebrow. “Do I have a choice? Go on with your sentimental hogwash.”
“He used you, Mr. Potter. You were part of this grand plan of His, too. Now, when Bert handed me this bunch of papers a while ago,” George pulled out a folded bunch of documents from his inner coat pocket and tapped them against his leg. “I was understandable elated. You see, Mr. Potter, the board of directors of the bank met this morning and stripped you of everything. You are no longer the president and owner. They seized your stock and bond options. Then, the bank turned over all mortgages and loans to me. Imagine that, Mr. Potter. The world has turned upside down. I’m in charge of this town now. Not you.”
Potter gasped and his face grew pale. “I don’t believe a word you’re saying.”
George stood up and placed the papers in Potter’s lap. “See for yourself, Mr. Potter. You’re finished, kaput, gone with the wind. You’ll spend the rest of your life right here in this cold, dank jail cell. Even your own assistant turned against you and right now, the sheriff is searching your home for more hidden skeletons in the closets.”
Potter grabbed the papers and squeezed them tightly as veins stood out on his forehead. He hurled them aside and they separated in the air, raining down on the floor in a gentle susurration. “You scurvy little rat! This is far from over, Bailey.”
“I’m afraid it is, Mr. Potter. I’m afraid it is. Now, if you are interested in turning your life around, all you have to do is say a little prayer for help and my friend, Clarence will help you gain a new perspective on your life.” George walked toward the door.
“Who’s this Clarence?”
“An angel, Mr. Potter.” George paused and looked around the cell. “There is one thing you were right about. I came her to gloat. But, I realize I’ve been given a second chance at life so I can’t hold anger and bitterness against you anymore. Mr. Potter, I forgive you.”
“Forgive me? How dare you!” Potter sputtered.
“You might want to consider asking for forgiveness for yourself. Because, when I close this door, either you’ll spend the rest of your days with an angel. Or,” George slowly closed the door until only his face could be seen through the tiny door’s windows. “you’ll spend it with your own private demons. Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter.”
Potter opened his mouth to respond as George disappeared. He glanced around at the dark shadows of his chamber. “Me, ask for forgiveness. Never!” He screamed. “Do you hear me, never!” His voiced echoed into silence and through the window he heard the voices of people singing Christmas carols. “Never!” He whispered.
The papers stirred around his feet and something moved in the blackest corner of his cell. He peered into the shadows and two tiny red eyes blinked.
“Seasons Greetings, Mr. Potter!” a raspy voice echoed through the chamber filling Mr. Potter’s heart with an unfamiliar sensation, dread.
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