The Park

Posted: April 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

“We’re going to have to let you go.”

He already knew they were words that would forever stain his memory.  They were so unexpected.

“What?” he had asked.

“We’re going to have to let you go, Daniel.  It’s just not working out.”

“Oh.”

Everything after that was a muddle, but those first eight words were there to stay.

*    *    *

A breeze blew his hair across his eyes and he brushed it back as he stretched out his legs and folded his arms across his chest.  He stared in the direction of the fountain, unaware of the trickling sound as the streams of water splashed in the pool below.

What was he supposed to feel?  Anger?  Humiliation?  Resentment?

He looked away from the fountain and scanned the park.  He was alone.  Being alone wasn’t so bad.  It was a beautiful place.  Tulips were blooming.  The grass was greening.  As if on cue, a squirrel scurried in front of him, stopped and gave him an inquisitive look, then darted up one of the newly planted oak trees.   Daniel managed a smile.

He uncrossed his arms and ran his hands over the smooth wood of the teak bench.  It still had that new wood look.  Another year or two and it would take on a grey, silvery tone.  He looked around and saw that there were at least a dozen benches in the park, all looking pristine.

At the far end of the park, movement in the sculpture garden caught his eye.  It was a kid on a bike.  No, wait.  Not a bike, a wheelchair.  And not a kid.  It’s that guy.  Figures.

Daniel glanced around the park, looking for someone else.  No one.  He stuck his hand in his right pocket and felt the two one-dollar bills.  In his left pocket he felt the larger folds of cash.

“Hey, buddy, can you help me out?” the guy in the wheelchair began when he was still ten feet away.  “I need a few bucks to get me some dinner.”

The man looked pitiful.  He was dirty, his clothes were ragged and he wasn’t wearing shoes.

“Will a couple of dollars help?” Daniel asked.

“God bless you, son.”

The motor on his wheelchair whirred and in seconds Daniel was again alone in the park.

“Not a bad idea,” he thought.

*    *    *

He had been walking for about ten minutes, lost in thought, when he scuffed his foot on the pavement and lurched forward.  He looked back and saw the warped brick, typical of the Old Town district.  He looked ahead, eyeing the mishmash of unmatched pavers, the result of years of unskilled repair jobs.  He skirted around a mulched tree pit, its occupant somehow thriving in its less than ideal environment.

From across the street the smell of steaks grilling at B.J.‘s tempted him to cut his journey short.  Maybe later.  After all, he had plenty of free time.

In front of the Antique Attic, an old rocker, a white breakfront, and other pieces of grandma’s furniture blocked most of the sidewalk.  Daniel stopped and let an elderly couple pass by before he edged along the curb and passed the collection of yesterday’s treasures.

It had been a few months since he had stopped by the Renaissance Cafe, or the Cafe as it is known by the locals.  It was November.  Maybe late October.   It had been an unusually warm afternoon and there had been quite a crowd on that day as well.

He weaved through the bistro tables toward the front door.  A good mix of people.  Some tourists with cameras dangling from their necks.   Young lawyers in their crisp white shirts unbuttoned at the collar, ties hanging loose.   Teens thumbing on their phones.  A woman looked up from her laptop and smiled as he pulled open the front door.

Inside, it seemed even more crowded.   Across the room, he saw a familiar face. John Bartrum. A client.  An ex-client.  He started to look away but he had already made eye contact.  He waved and turned back to the counter.

“Tall dark roast and a cookie, please.”  With his order in hand he turned to wave again to Bartrum but he was gone. “Just as well,” he thought.

Outside, a scruffy teenager had taken out a guitar and was playing for tips.  A few people turned to look as he started singing, but soon turned back to their conversations.  Daniel looked for an empty table and was surprised to see the wheelchair guy , a cup of coffee his only companion.  As he walked by, he put his cookie on the table and patted him on the shoulder.

A few feet up the street, he took a seat on the ledge of a planter in front of an art gallery.  Others were finding similar makeshift benches.  The steps to the law office seemed to be popular.

He sipped his coffee as the breeze again blew his hair across his face.  The strumming of the guitar proved soothing against the backdrop of the gentle chatter from the coffee shop.  Daniel knew he was at one of life’s crossroads.  Serious thought and contemplation were in order.

But not now.   Not in this moment.

“That guy’s pretty good.”

A few seconds passed before the words registered.  He turned in their direction.  She was smiling, and glanced toward the guitar player.

“Oh.  Yes.  The music.”  He turned back to her and smiled.  They sat silently for a moment.

“Perfect end to the day, isn’t it?” he said without looking in her direction.

“Couldn’t be better.”

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Comments
  1. This is beautiful and mysterious.

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