by Rosko Tzolov
Andy can't do his work at home so he goes on a walk to clear his head...
Andy was trying to do his job--writing--which he found nearly impossible.
Tommy, his six-year-old son, dressed as a cowboy, was slamming a toy truck on the floor, as he usually liked to do--at least so it seemed to his father. His nine-year-old daughter, Sarah, was talking to the dog, who was barking, and the main part of the whole chaos, as if deliberate, was headed by Laura, his wife, talking in a shrill voice, telling the children to keep silent and let their father work; in the meantime, she was trying to calm the crying baby, Lina, who she carried around with her.
Andy grabbed his head. He was a somewhat successful writer--at least he could support his family with writing. He had been given a cash advance for a collection of stories, as he had said he had a lot of ideas. It turned out that there were not so many ideas, but the work on the book was still progressing--albeit slowly, and the deadline was closing in. How much better it would be if he wasn't so distracted all of the time. If there was just a little silence...He had almost finished the collection of twenty stories. He had nineteen of them. He was somewhat pleased with the quality of what he'd written so far, but he needed a flagship story, the first one of the book. It had to be a strong story, the best one. The problem was that he couldn't come up with a good one. His computer was full of stories, most written only halfway. Much of the blame for this was the constant distraction from the children and his wife. The more he thought about it, the more pissed off Andy became. While he struggled for the family, they did nothing to help him, to make it easier, but on the contrary, did everything possible to prevent him from doing his job.
Tommy slammed the truck on the floor once more, accompanied by a loud:
"Stop it," Andy shouted as he took the truck from Tommy and threw it out the window. The child watched with some surprise as the toy disappeared, even smiling, but then, realizing that he would not get it back, began crying noisily. Laura heard the crying somehow and went up to the second floor to her husband's office and caressed her child with her free hand.
"What happened that time?" she asked Andy, who was leaning against the window frame, looking out.
"What could happen? Noise happened. Some people try to work. Is it possible? I will give you a straight answer--no!" Andy raised his voice.
"Oh my God--same old. Can't you even babysit your son for a minute?"
"Babysit him? Endure him--that's the correct word..."
"You have to be more patient with him, don't you think?" Laura asked, "And spend more time with your children? Take a break from time to time."
"I am here all day long..."
"Physically, but mentally you're in your world of make believe."
"Oh, really? And who will earn money if I'm not? These kids eat, go to school? You know."
"You know what you have to do, Andy. Later in your life, don't regret what you're missing now," Laura said, took Tommy by the hand, and
descended the stairs to the lower floor.
"It isn't fair. It's just not fair," he shouted after her.
"There's enough time for your work and your children," she replied.
Andy thought a little, after which he went down after Laura, then outside with the intention of bringing the toy truck back in some form of reconciliation with Tommy, but when he approached the toy with anger, he was surprised of, stomped on it until only a few pieces of plastic were left. Then he walked out to the front yard of the house, took his bicycle, and descended the path out the yard to the street. He climbed on the bike and rode down the street aimlessly.
Unconsciously, he rode toward the park close to their home, at the river that crossed the city. The park was pleasant--small, with weeping willows planted along the banks, their branches caressing the river gently as it flowed beneath them slowly. There were roses planted at one end, and they filled the air with their pleasant fragrance; there was a bronze tile in the middle of the park with the city's history, the location of which was connected to the river somehow. Andy had never read and didn't want to read it.
The place was called the Park Down at the River, which, if not the most inventive, was at least descriptive.
Andy propped the bicycle against a bench and walked down the bank to the river. He leaned on a willow, stared at the river, and thought for a while. He thought his wife had no idea what he was going through. He loved spending time with his family--they stimulated him, they were his nourishing force. At the same time, though, he had to work, work, work, had to make money.
He felt bored leaning on the willow, looked around, and when he saw that there was no one nearby, he took off his shoes and socks and rolled up his pants' legs. Then he waded up to his knees in the water. It was cold and refreshing, and he could feel the sand and pebbles beneath his feet. Andy sighed contently. He stood in the water for some time, then went back out on the shore. After he waited for a while to dry, he put his socks and shoes back on.
Andy stepped back into the park and stood on the plate that described the city's creation.
"Good day," said a voice behind him.
Andy turned, surprised. An elderly white man sat on a bench beside the roses. He must have been there all the time, but the bush had concealed him. He was dressed like a cowboy--brown boots, black pants, a red shirt, a blue cravat, and a yellow, wide-brimmed hat that complemented his look. There were two toy revolvers on a belt at his waist. It looked like he had come out of some Marlboro ad for children.
"Good day," Andy replied.
"It's a nice afternoon to get your feet wet."
"It relieves the stress," Andy tried to explain.
"Of course. The cool water of the river is suitable for this. Well, not when it's too cold," the old man said.
"Have we ever met before?"
"I don't think so," Andy said. He studied the cowboy closely. His clothes looked cheap. A small, hunched old man and his clothes could be
made for a kid.
"I'm a cowboy." the old man said, pointing at his pistols, "I keep the city free of Indians."
"Can't you negotiate with them?"
"Interesting. I actually would have suggested the same thing," the old man laughed. Then he added seriously, "I'm not a real cowboy. Even the revolvers aren't real. See." At that, the old man pulled out one of the revolvers, and seemingly just in case, pointed it at the river. He pressed the trigger. The gun made a dull sound: Bam, Bam, Bam.
"Garbage," the old man concluded.
"I agree." Andy thought a little. "You probably live nearby?"
The old man leaned forward as if to tell a secret:
"I live in the Fort on the hill."
For a second, Andy got caught up in it. He thought the guy was crazy. Then the old man laughed.
"Honestly, I have no idea where I live. Somehow, I found myself here on this bench, in this park. I sit, watching the river, the birds, the trees, and, from time to time, someone passing by. It's nice, but I have no idea where or who I am. And that's important...somewhat. I never asked anyone about those things, hoping that I'd remember. I decided to talk to you, though. Seeing you getting into the water made me feel close to you somehow. You are kind of... lost too, right?
"Lost? Not exactly, but it's not been easy."
"It's hard to explain."
"Try anyway. At least I can keep secrets," the old man winked.
Andy thought, then shrugged shoulders:
"I have to work, and on the other hand, pay enough attention to my family. It's a tough balance.
"One has to pay attention to his family."
"Of course. I have three sons--George, Andrew and...what was his name? Yes--Johnny. The youngest," the old man began to recall slowly.
"Great," Andy said. "You've already started to remember. By the way, may I check something? Just let me see your wrist."
With these words, he pulled up the old man's shirt sleeve and indeed he found a wrist band. The old man was called Gordon. The band said
that he had dementia and that he lived in the nursing home on Main Street in town. There also was a phone number to contact. The home was nearby. The old man, even with memory problems, seemed quite vivacious. He also must have gotten to the park somehow. Andy decided not to phone, but to accompany the old man to the nursing home himself. Strangely enough, the conversation with him was pleasant.
"Gordon?" Andy asked.
"Is that what I'm called? I like it."
"Yes. I'm Andy. Do you want me to show you where you live?" Andy asked the old man.
"Of course. Is it far?"
"Not really. Five blocks. We'll be there in fifteen minutes."
"Let's go then."
Andy collected his bicycle and they walked next to each other slowly, out of the park and down the sidewalk.
"You don't know who you are, but you remember your children..." Andy mused.
"Interesting, isn't it? It came to me from somewhere..."
"When was the last time you saw them?" Andy asked.
"I don't know."
"Do you call them on the phone often?"
"I'm not sure. I don't think so."
"Maybe you call them? How come you're sure if you don't remember?"
The old man thought. Then he said,
"I feel like I'm not a man who likes to bother others. I wouldn't want to be in someone's life if they don't need me. If they call, I'll be glad, but
they must be the ones calling."
"Do you have any grandchildren?"
"I think I do. Many grandchildren. I think they came to see me for my birthday--wait, let me see if I remember--Jessica, Sarah and Jessica, and
then Sarah...I don't remember."
"The point is, they've come. You'll remember later, "Andy said.
"Yes. I wonder if they come home to see me often. After all, does it matter? I don't even remember much if someone is coming or not."
Gordon stopped in his tracks:
"It would be terrible if I can't remember because they don't come often--because I was a bad father. Even if I couldn't remember it."
"No. I don't think so. You're a kind person. You were certainly a good father. Just asking yourself that makes you a good father. Do you see how that worries me as a father, though?"
"If you're wondering if you're a good parent--try doing a better job--even for your own sake. I hope I've been a good father. It's a shame that I don't know," Gordon said.
"I guess I live in the now. There's a word for it--ah...I can't remember it. For living in the now..."
"Yes. I obviously exist constantly in the now. When will I start to forget again? How did we meet...yes, in the park. I still remember that."
"Don't worry. Accept life as it is. There isn't much you can do now about forgetting things. As you said--be an existentialist--live for the
moment," Andy said calmingly.
"Nice advice. I will keep it until I forget it." They both laughed.
Soon they reached the nursing home.
"You live here," Andy said. A low building stood before them.
"I don't live here. I have a small house. I live there with my wife...Helen!"
"Maybe, maybe Helen is there," Andy said uncertainly "Let's ask."
They approached the guard's booth. He saw them and exclaimed,
"Gordon, where were you? We've been looking for you for hours. We were about to call the police."
"Sir, I do not think I know you..."
"Of course, you know me. We're friends. Yesterday we talked about baseball for an hour."
"Hello. I'm Andy. I met Gordon in the park and decided to accompany him here. I'm sorry I didn't call, but it was only fifteen minutes away."
"Thank you for bringing him." The guard called from the phone in the booth. "Hallo, Anne, Gordon is here. Yes, a guy brought him."
Then he turned to Andy:
"We had a masquerade. In the commotion, someone left the fire door open, and Gordon must have come out that way."
A nurse and a nursing aid came out of the elevator on the first floor.
"Andy," Gordon whispered, "Who are these people? What is this place?"
Andy squatted in front of the old man and said,
"Everything is fine. This is where you live, Gordon. They'll take care of you here. It's not a bad place."
"And Helen? Where is Helen?"
Andy looked at the nurse who had heard the conversation. She shook her head and leaned over Gordon:
"You love this place. You'll see that you remember it when you come in."
Gordon went with the caregiver, confused. Andy looked after him, then turned to the nurse:
"Excuse me, do his relatives visit him often?"
"Yes, they do. Almost two-three times a week, his sons or some other relatives come. He remembers them when he sees them."
"Oh"--A lump in Andy's throat melted. Then he asked, "Is it possible for me to visit him again? It was a pleasure to chat with him," Andy said honestly.
"I don't see why not. It will be nice for him. He won't remember you probably, but you can see him. If he wants, of course."
"He'll remember--if not me, at least what he felt when he was with me--we had a nice conversation. Thank you."
"Thank you again for bringing him back," the nurse said.
Andy climbed on the bicycle and rode off back home.
When he walked through the door, he found the whole family gathered in the living room playing a game of cards. Andy walked over to them
and sat quietly on the floor next to Tommy.
"Daddy," Tommy said happily, having long forgotten about the truck.
Laura looked at him questioningly.
"Where did you go?"
"To the river...Hi Sarah...You look very fine with all those ribbons in your hair. What are you guys playing? Can I join?"
"Hurray...Daddy will play with us," Sarah exclaimed and clapped her hands.
"Have you figured out the story?" Laura asked.
"What is 'hmm, yes'?"
"I'm going to redo something that I've already written. The story of a boy growing up and his father getting old. He didn't pay attention to him as a child, you know, and now things are turned around. But I'll change it."
Laura looked at him, amused.
"So, this will be the flagship of the collection--the story that will sell the book?"
"It's not a bad story. I just have to fix it. Stories are written and rewritten." Andy thought a little and turned to Tommy. "I'm sorry I threw your truck out the window. I got angry."
Tommy smiled happily. He liked that his father was apologizing to him. Laura looked at them and said,
"Come on, you threw the truck, no big deal..."
"Tommy, do you want to meet another cowboy? With revolvers and a hat?" Andy asked. Tommy was still dressed up in his cowboy outfit.
"I want," the boy said with enthusiasm.
"It's also important to write the story," Laura told him.
"I'll write it, Laura. I'm writing it right now.
The story is included in a collection of twenty stories called As a Firefly in the Night on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QG8QBSN?fbclid=IwAR3z1fwIlNfme0HXNkfsr_abr3DWH4KqO1...