Zigzagging at the Value Village

The two men in the parking lot didn’t make any sense. One figure moving erratically at warp speed–first doubled over and zigging to the left–then head reared too far back and zagging to the right–finally an abrupt stop that flung his body over the “handlebars” of his metal walker. The craziest motions, no rhyme or reason, a St. Vitus Dance. He looked like a turbo-charged puppet with a bipolar master.

The other figure was just as curious. Apparently, he was the puppet man’s protector and a sort of physical therapist. He struggled to stay with him, amid the jerks and flailing and dystonic storms. Somehow he was able to keep right behind the puppet man, wrapping his arms around him and fixing his grip on the walker. The walker had wheels, so the protector’s firm grasp was required to keep the puppet man from spinning out of complete control.

Upon getting closer, I could see why they were in an empty parking lot: a vast space was needed to accommodate puppet man’s involuntary–and lightning fast meanderings. 

The vision of those two was downright bizarre. They resembled a couple competing in a Ballroom Dance Contest for the Possessed–with the demon leading.

Beginning in late-winter, I’d see them there early every morning–even before the sun rose, bundled up in heavy coats and toboggans. “They’re making a gallant effort,” I thought. “But there’s no way that guy is going to be able to walk in a straight line. His injury is too severe.”

By mid-summer, they were still there. But the dance was smoothing out a bit, despite high-wattage jolts and falls. I began to wonder about their story. Who were they? What’s their relationship to one another? How in the world do they continue to show up daily and attempt the impossible?

I wanted to park my car nearby to study them but couldn’t do so without being detected. I dared not make myself known. To intrude would be to trespass on holy ground. I recognized by then that the men were living lamps of hope, faith, courage, and love. Sacred things. In the gritty parking lot of the Value Village Thrift Store, on an infamous strip in Southwest Atlanta.

The last time I saw them it was autumn. By this point, the puppet man was moving in a somewhat straight direction, without the aid of the protector. He wasn’t exactly steady, but his progress was beyond explanation. Rational explanation anyway.

I felt like a louse for doubting them but was elated that I had been so wrong. Just before passing them, I caught a final sight: the puppet man turned and flashed a huge smile at the other fellow. A smile that was pure shimmering benediction.

Overcoming even the most daunting challenge is possible, as this photo so beautifully illustrates.