Second Helping

Thanksgiving 1991, I was serving meals at the Salvation Army dining room in Great Falls, MT. My ex-wife had volunteered me to serve and help out with the evening meal. Each volunteer was given specific instructions as to how much food, and how to present the food to the guests. We were strictly forbidden to give out more than one serving, and repeatedly told not to give them more than one dessert.

I had been serving for about an hour, when one man entered the line. He smelled horribly of alcohol, urine and body odor. He obviously hadn't bathed in weeks, and nobody wanted to sit anywhere near him. It was my job to serve him and I did. He had the deepest blue eyes I ever saw, and was so very polite. He asked if he could get another serving, and I regrettably told him it was against the Salvation Army's policy. He looked dejected and asked if he could have another slice of pie instead. Again, it was against the policy that I had signed. I couldn't tell this man no, I went and got another slice and gave it to him. He looked up at smiled, as if heaven opened up and lit the room up. As he was eating the second slice, I had to serve others entering into the room. I couldn't help myself, and went to speak with my ex wife about this man. Here I was, married living in a small home we were renting, but did have a spare bedroom and bath. I asked her if we should bring him home and help him out. She was in the kitchen, and looked out and wanted to know who I was talking about. I pointed to the man in the corner, but she couldn't see him. I thought she needed glasses, or perhaps her contacts had fogged up. While we were there, her parents were waiting for us at home, waiting to share dinner when we came home. I told her I was going to ask this man over, and she said "whatever". I turned around and went over to ask him if he wanted to stay with us, but he had left. This is where it becomes unexplainable. The Salvation Army dining room is under a paved parking lot, and the tunnel is nearly 50 ft in length before it exits to the stairs. At the end of the tunnel is a fire door, which allows access to the stairs and the parking lot above.

I left the dining facility and looked down the tunnel, but no one was there. I raced down the tunnel, and up the stairs to the cold and blustery winter storm above and never found the man. While ascending the stairs I passed the security guard coming down. He was up above in the cold, watching the volunteers cars. When I looked around up above, then returned downstairs he asked me what I was looking for. I told him that I was searching for the man. He reported "no one has exited the tunnel in the last 10 minutes, and the ones that did before were a father, mother and two daughters, but no single men. My first thought was he must be in the restroom, so I checked that too and the dining area. He was not there. When I checked back into the dining room, I encountered the director who saw my perplexed look and asked me what was wrong. I told him about my encounter and that I was looking for this man, to talk with him further. He said he never saw this guy, and that no one had exited the facility without passing through him, because every person was given a take home meal before leaving.

The director then told me there was no one sitting at the table that I described. He said there wasn't anyone sitting where I described. Nobody had been sitting at that table for over an hour. I thought I was going nuts, as you might expect and had hallucinated the whole event, but I remember seating the people before and after him who refused to be near him in line, so I questioned them. They all pointed to the same chair and table where I said he was sitting and said he finished dinner, and got up and left. But the man literally disappeared into thin air.

Not until I was writing this story did I remember the details about the man's eyes and his politeness. His voice and gentleness was unexpected and no in character with his appearance. I couldn't turn the man down, he saw through me and I responded in kind.

John Mills