|Andrew sits, alone, at the end of the bench.
It is old, grass-green paint peeling.
As the man shifts, loose nails or screws
complain in squeaky, rusty voices.
The sun beams down on a mostly bald head,
weathered, wrinkles etched deep, a few tufts
of iron-grey hair stubbornly clinging on
for dear life and an ancient, time-blurred tattoo
of a mermaid, its tail curled 'round his neck.
He stretches his long, jean-clad legs
out, crossed at the ankles, just about a pair
of well-worn hi-top Keds sneakers with
frayed laces dangling down to the sidewalk.
He holds a small, brown paper bag
and shares his peanuts with two robins and a squirrel.
A smile reveals too-white dentures as he
laughs silently at the young boy upending himself
on the monkey bars. He shares another nut.
Across the expanse of the park, Mrs. Laganworth
arrives, walking her white Bichon who has muddy feet
because he loves puddles. Fridays, he goes
to the groomer, so she doesn't mind overmuch.
The dog, using all the lead she will give him,
sniff at winter-worn leaves, wriggles in ecstacy
at the passerby's quick pet and makes a beeline
to the far off bench. She tries a different direction
but the dog is equally determined. He loves peanuts.
And Andrew. Mrs. Laganworth smooths her hair.
She has nothing against that old reprobate
on the bench --he just makes her uncomfortable
what with his compliments and other foolishness.
And yet, as I've noticed, she always seems to come
when he's there, and he always pats the bench
next to him in invitation. I wonder, if this will be the day
when she takes him up on his invitation. She hasn't
before, but, one can hope, I suppose. But no.
They exchange a few words, a smile or two
and the dog, Clancy, I believe his name is,
performs his tricks in anticipation of treats to come.
Then he's anxious to continue his adventure
and Mrs. Laganworth trails along behind him.
She cuts through the park, regains the sidewalk
and heads towards home. She's tired now
and longs for a cup of tea and, perhaps, a nap.
Andrew watches until she walks out of sight.
I come to the park and sit here in the gazebo
most every day. I write in my old notebook
of things I think or just observe. It's a good
place to pass the time and there's always something
to inspire a poem, to fill another page.
Andrew ambles over, forsaking his bench.
"Perhaps, maybe, I should get me a dog."
I smile, pat the bench and he sits, stretching
out his long legs. "Whatcha writin' there?"
"Just another poem," I respond before asking,
"Why the mermaid?" He grins and says
it's a long story, but suffice to say because
he believes in the impossible. We both smile at that.
An easy silence stretches between us and then
he stands and ambles off. I'll see them both
tomorrow, I suppose. I finish a poem and then
head home myself. I love living in a small village.
You can almost tell the time by who's in the park.