500 Word Short Story
The Bench
Scott A. Gese

500 Word Short Story

He sat on the bench down close to the water. It was his bench. He had claimed it. At least for now. If he got off the bench, it would be up for grabs. That was OK. That's the way it worked. But for now the bench was his.

Most people ignored him as they walked by. Kids on bikes and skateboards whizzed passed without giving him a second thought. He was invisible to them all. Just a dirty, raggedy old man who had fallen through the cracks of society.

No home, no friends, no money. No chance of climbing out of the dirty cellar. He spent his days picking through dumpsters looking for food mainly. Every so often he would come across something good, like a piece of clothing that fit him, or a bottle or can worth a nickel or a dime.

He gladly accepted handouts whenever they were offered. Money was always good. Real food like a fresh hamburger or a burrito was a real treat. They didn't come along that often though. Mostly he just picked through dumpsters.

He did recall a time not too long ago when he was walking along a downtown street. He came across an old upright piano. It had been set on the sidewalk hoping someone would stop and play it. He watch for a time as several people plucked at the keys. Most couldn't play more than a crude rendition of chopsticks. What a waste of a good piano.

He recalled the years of lessons his mother had given him. She was a player in her time. Gone now, up to heaven and the great beyond. He had gotten pretty good. He even played keyboards with a band for awhile. The booze finally got to him. It was a slow miserable downhill slide. Hard for most of his friends to watch. They tried to help, bless their hearts. He was just more than they could handle. He eventually slid out of their lives and out onto the street where he remained to this day.

He couldn't hold it in any longer. The urge was too great. He wandered up to the piano. Ran his hand across the top. Caressed the ivory from one end to the other without making a sound. Positioned himself on the crude bench and lost himself in his music for a time. He didn't know how long he played. When he came back to his senses he realized there were people standing all around him, clapping. Someone had put a jar on the piano and it was filling up with change and even dollar bills.

He was moved to tears. For a moment he regretted his life. Regretted the hurt he had caused so many. Regretted what he had become. Everyone moved on when he stopped. He took the money and bought himself a decent meal and a bottle of good scotch.

He laid down. The bench kept him off the ground. Tonight it was his.

© Copyright 2019 by Scott A. Gese All Rights Reserved.