Roscoe likes touching things.
|It was one of those beautiful breezy, sunny days in May, when Roscoe strolled through the entrance of Mayberry Park. The arched entrance was made of natural stone, quarried locally in Mayberry, Illinois. Roscoe paused to admire the structure’s granite; the way each stone fit in place with its neighbor and the way the sunlight reflected off the hard surface.
Roscoe followed an impulse, leaned his cane against the arch, and laid both hands on the stone. He liked touching things. Roscoe had changed the meaning: “Eyes are windows to the soul.” He’d say to anyone that would listen, “Touch is the window to our souls.”
A long time ago, before Roscoe reached manhood and worked in the quarry, he would hide in his bedroom and clutch his pet gerbil against his chest, holding it close to his heart. He felt safe in his bedroom, away from his mama and papa when they argued and screamed. He hated it when they drank beer. They smelled bad, they hit each other and sometimes they hit him.
The little boy found comfort with his pet. He would caress the rodent’s soft fur for hours while his parents fought. Then one day, he held his pet tighter and tighter as the noise from the kitchen grew louder and louder.
“I’m going to kill you someday, bitch,” Roscoe’s father screamed, followed by a thump on the floor.
His mother answered, “Yeah, you don’t have the balls, you stinkin’ bastard.”
Roscoe looked down at his gerbil. Its beady little eyes looked back, but it wasn’t breathing, wasn’t clawing and wasn’t seeking freedom. The gerbil went limp as Roscoe rubbed its belly. He whimpered, and then he realized, this was better. His gerbil was more fun to play with dead than alive and he could touch the fur anytime he wanted, too.
Roscoe wandered over to a bench, a nice spot in the shade and sat down. His fingers ran along the bench’s polished surface. He liked the way the worn patina felt on his finger tips.
Soon, his attention went to the nearby children's play area and a wooden structure in the middle of the graveled square. The structure was a ship replica made of timbers, embellished with canvas sails and swings hanging from the spar. A little girl, wearing a pink dress, was swinging.
Each time the little girl swung through the air, her blonde curls swayed in the wind, her pink dress would flutter and she'd squeal with laughter.
“What would those curls feel like?” Roscoe wondered. “Soft, I'll wager.”
Roscoe moved his feet and cane as a jogger went by. He felt the warm summer breeze on his unshaven face and listened to the ship’s sails flapping in the wind. He touched the stubble on his cheek. “Need a shave," he said to no one.
Roscoe worked his way to his feet and went closer to the play area, closer to the girl in the pink dress. The little girl continued to swing like a pendulum…one direction then another.
Roscoe went closer.
“Where’s your Mommy and Daddy, little girl?” he asked.
The six year old continued swinging. “Across the street,” she answered.
“Do they know you are here; swinging in the park?” Roscoe asked.
“I ran away,” she answered.
Surrounded by a thick stand of pines and sprinkled with lilac bushes in full bloom at their trunks, Roscoe felt safe. He looked in all directions, down the jogging trail and toward the stone entrance. He saw no one.
When the pendulum swung in his direction, he dropped his cane and grabbed the little girl. She should have screamed, but she didn’t and then, Roscoe clamped a large quarry hardened hand over her mouth.
She struggled and kicked to no avail. Then, like the gerbil, she went limp.
The strong, sweet, heady scent of flowering lilacs filled the air, engulfing Roscoe and the little girl beneath the shrubs.
“I’ll look after you little one, we’re safe here,” Roscoe cooed as he stroked the blonde curls.