Isaiah Washington was sound asleep in his bunk at the homeless shelter in downtown Memphis when Green Jeans shook him awake.
"Cajun Jim froze—he dead!"
Isaiah sat straight up. Green Jeans told him how Cop Doug, a policeman and friend of theirs, found Cajun's frozen body in the alley behind Albert's Restaurant an hour ago.
Isaiah couldn't believe what he was hearing. He had dinner with Cajun just last night. That is to say, they shared a big tub of left over red beans and rice from Albert's in the alley. Cajun wasn't really a Cajun, he just loved their food. At least he had his favorite food for a last meal. Isaiah rubbed the tears from his eyes.
Isaiah had tried to get Cajun to come to the shelter with him last night because he knew it was supposed to get down to 10 degrees, but Cajun refused.
"I've slept through colder nights!"
Cajun hated shelters. People tried to rob you there, and Cajun always had money. He had a fine talent. He would go down on Beale Street and tap dance for the tourists, and they would tip him. Restaurant owners would even pay him a little to dance in front of their businesses to draw customers.
Cajun would always share his money with Isaiah. Sometimes they would get cleaned up and go into a restaurant and actually pay for their food instead of getting leftovers at the back door. Cajun knew every restaurant owner in downtown Memphis, and they all loved him. They could eat for free from the back door of any restaurant they wanted to, and would always take some to their friends.
Isaiah went to the alley where the body of his best friend was found and began to pray. Dear Lord, what will I do without him? How will I get along on the streets? Cajun was a real smart gentleman and Isaiah was a mite slow. As he started to cry, Cop Doug walked up with an envelope in his hands...
"We found this among Cajun's personal items, has your name on it." Officer Doug said.
Isaiah took the offered envelope and pulled out a letter and some kind of document. He tried to read the words, but his skills in that area were limited. Doug gently took the papers from him and read the letter aloud:
"This is all for you, my dearest friend, for being my dinner buddy all these years. You know how I hated to eat alone. Just make sure there is always plenty of food for our friends."
Attached to the letter was a will, leaving all of Cajun's worldly goods to Isaiah, all of his worldly goods which turned out to be a small fortune.
"He left you a house on Peabody Street and five hundred thousand dollars!" Doug gasped.
Isaiah almost fainted. The century old homes on Peabody Street were mansions! How could this be? Cajun never talked much about anything personal except his faith in God. He was always saving souls. He was poor, just like the rest of them, wasn't he?
The funeral was held at the First Presbyterian Church where Cajun and Isaiah attended every Sunday. The Reverend gave Cajun a fine send off and said he was surely in heaven.
"He was a man of God."
Tables were lined with every kind of cuisine imaginable. Hundreds of people, from the wealthy to the poorest of the homeless, dined on food such as steak, ribs, fried chicken, and red beans and rice. They then sang hymns and celebrated the life of Cajun Jim.
As it turned out, James Peabody (aka Cajun Jim) came from a very old and well-to-do family in Memphis. No one seemed to know why he preferred living on the streets. Isaiah felt he was just led there by God to witness for Him.
Isaiah, Green Jeans, and four other friends moved into the old eighteen room house on Peabody, and went to work restoring it. They found several lawn mowers in the garage and started a lawn service. Before long they were mowing all the grass in the neighborhood. They hired more homeless people and soon had a thriving business.
A few months later, with Cop Doug's help, a new homeless shelter opened on Peabody Street. Now Isaiah lays out a smorgasbord of food everyday, and there is a gold plated sign on the door that simply reads: CAJUN'S MONEY.
Lynn Gipson is from Memphis, Tennessee, and writes stories, poems, and articles of a Christian or Spiritual Nature.