Alone

  A visit to the park                 

 small Midwest town church

A drab, older model, olive colored Chevrolet Monte Carlo pulled up directly across the street from the bright white colored Protestant church.  The driver of the car liked that particular spot because he enjoyed looking at the church with its impressive steeple and large cross at the top.  He was not a member of that church or even of that denomination.  He just liked looking at the church.  He never went inside and could not tell you why he liked it so much, he just did.

Harold exited his dependable vehicle.  It had taken him around town for a dozen years already.  He guessed it was good for a few more years, just like Harold himself.  His parking spot was not far away from Harold’s modest home in the small Midwest town, but it was a little too far for Harold to walk.  He did not walk much at all anymore, although he would be the first to tell you that he really should get more exercise.  He would tell anyone that, if only someone would ask.

Across from the white church with the tall steeple that could be seen for miles was the town park.  It was well-kept and was the pride and joy of the town.  It had a small pond stocked with swans, who could come and go into a little house where they were fed and cared for.  The door of the house was always open.  The pond was fenced in and the little house was inside the fence.  The fence was certainly to keep the people out.  Swans were to be looked at, but not touched.  They may look nice but could be downright mean. There were none around for Harold to see.  Maybe they went south for the winter, maybe they were inside the little house, maybe the town puts them away somewhere before winter.  Harold did not know and really did not give it much thought.

He took the path that led to a magnificent gazebo which was just about in the center of the park.  He could imagine bands playing there on summer nights to the joy of small town Americans with lemonades or ice cream cones in hand.  He had to imagine it because he had never actually seen it.  He stayed away from the park on summer nights when they had activities of any kind.  There was never a parking spot close by when bands were playing and Harold simply was not going to walk for blocks to go to an event where he knew no one and would have nowhere to sit.  Rocking away the evening hours on his front porch was his main summer evening activity.

When he reached the gazebo he went up its three steps and walked into the center.  It was on slightly raised ground and he could see all around the park.  “What a beautiful autumn day,” he said confidentially to himself.  “We are lucky to have such a nice spot.”  The “we” at that moment was actually just Harold.  Although the temperature was pleasant for that time of year, the breeze was alluring and sun was falling softly between the clouds and across the beautiful green grass, no one else came to the park that Thursday afternoon.  Children were in school, most adults were working and the rest did not know they could put on their best fall outerwear and join Harold in the park.

Having exited the other side of the gazebo, he looked down the path that led to the main street in town.  Right before the road was a tall flag pole with the American flag flying proudly in the autumn afternoon.  There were shorter flag poles on either side flying the flags of  the military services.  They were put there by the local VFW and the bushes and flowers that surround them were cared for by VFW members.  Harold wondered why he had never joined the VFW.  Of course, he was not sure if there was anyone he knew in the VFW and he certainly was not assertive enough to find out.

Rather than take the pathway, he decided to cut across the grass to a park bench he spotted across the way along another path.  Leaves were gently pushed out of the surrounding trees and were falling around the bench.  He thought it would be a pleasant place to sit down for a while and rest.  His slow movement across the lawn would have revealed a slight limp if there had been someone, anyone there to see it.  No one knew of the limp, however, except Harold and he was not about to tell anyone of it.  There were plenty of things Harold kept to himself.  He could not think of a single person he could tell.  There were no family or friends left.  He guessed he had outlasted them all.

When he reached the destination, he sat down on the cold metal bench.  The old wooden ones were more comfortable but these were going to last longer, if properly maintained.  With the awkward spacing of the metal slats, no one was ever going to get comfortable,  even Harold.  From a distance the bench looked quite inviting, but it turned out to be a poor invitation once you sat down, especially when the weather was turning colder.  It was of little matter to Harold, he was not going to stay long anyway.  First, he looked at all the trees and saw the yellows, oranges and even some greens.  Some trees had their colored leaves neatly decorating the green grass below.  “I wish I could get a thick, green lawn like that,” Harold murmured to himself.  “I wonder how they do it.”  Then he looked down the path to the right to admire some bushes with bright red leaves.  They were probably the brightest red leaves he had ever seen.  Finally he gazed off to the left to admire the white church.  He thought he should bring a camera some day to get a picture of the church from this beautiful vantage point.  Actually, he had that same thought many times before.

When he got on his feet again, Harold discovered that he had stiffened up in the cool breeze.  He moved slowly across the lawn feeling the effects of age and inactivity.  The slight incline toward the gazebo now seemed like a small hill but he conquered it just like he had conquered small battles in the past.  His impulses told him to turn around and take in the view one last time.  Across the lonely park he spied the black, metal bench sitting there all alone, just like he was doing not long before.

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