Beyond the Western
The Bench
Scott A. Gese

But for tonight the bench was his. Image Source:John Tuesday/Unsplash

It was not the life he wanted, but it was the life he now lived.

Beyond the Western

He sat on the bench down close to the waters edge. He had claimed it. The bench was his, 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 tonight 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. Oh, there were a few who made snide and derogatory remarks loud enough for him to hear. To them, he was Just a dirty, raggedy old man who had fallen through the cracks of society. Worthless, useless and living off their dime. At least they acknowledged him.

To the rest, he was just invisible.

He had no home, no friends, no money. No chance of climbing out of the dirty cellar of society he had fallen into so many years ago. He spent his days picking through dumpsters looking for his next meal.

Every so often he would get lucky and come across something good, like a piece of clothing that fit him, or a bottle worth a few cents.

He gladly accepted handouts whenever they were offered. Money was always welcome. Real food like a fresh hamburger, a burrito or the leftovers from someones last meal handed to him in a box, was a real treat. Those 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 happened upon an old upright piano. It had been set on the sidewalk along with a sign inviting anyone to sit and play. 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 thought to himself.

He recalled the years of lessons his mother had given him. She was a player in her time. Played for silent movies back in the day. Gone now, up to heaven and the great beyond.

He had gotten pretty good. He even played keyboards with a band for awhile. It was a wild time. The drugs and booze finally got to him. It was a slow miserable downhill slide. Hard for 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 onto the street where he remained to this day.

The lousy chopstick song was getting on his nerves.

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.

His mind remembered. His fingers had not forgotten. He was transformed, losing himself in his music for a time.

He didn’t know how long he played. He was in another world. When he came back to his senses he realized there were people standing all around him, filming him with their cell phones, clapping their approval. 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 the booze and what he had become. Regretted his very existence.

Everyone moved on when he stopped playing. He politely smiled, wiped away his tears, took the money and bought himself a decent meal and a bottle of good scotch. He wandered down to the river where he found his bench.

He laid down and covered himself with a thin, dirty blanket. The bench kept him off the damp ground.

Tonight, the bench was his.

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