Three Men on a Bench

A story about three different characters

(1024 words)

There’s a bench in the park, on top of the hill, where the tree tops give way to a stunning view over the town. It is a wanted spot by all who use the park. Many marriages have been proposed here. Some men got a positive answer, some not. One of the lucky ones now sits on the bench, alone. While he’s enjoying the view, his memory is going back to the good old days he spent here courting his recently deceased wife.

“George! Fancy meeting you here!” a voice calls out.

George is taken out of his daydream and turns his head and upper body to find out who’s talking to him. His joints aren’t as mobile as they used to be anymore.

“Dicky? Is that you? What the devil are you doing here?” George hasn’t seen Dicky for years.

“Yes, it’s me. What a coincidence meeting you here.” Dicky walked up to George with a spring in his step. George took the effort to stand up to greet Dicky, but pain shot through his back and he let himself fall back onto the bench again. “Ouch! Sorry, old man, a handshake will have to do.”

“Speak for yourself,” said Dicky as he took George’s hand and bent down to give his old friend a man-hug. “I don’t consider myself an old man. I’m only seventy-two and as fit as a fiddle. What happened to you?” Dicky wiped the bench next to George, pinched the front of his trousers, and pulled them up as he sat down next to George. His eyes swept the view and glazed over as he, too, was taken back in time by memories.

“Oh, life. The usual. Working as a brickie isn’t kind on your body, you know.” Dicky nods. “What have you been up to? Last thing I heard was that you left for France.” George changed position slightly so he could at least see a bit of Dicky as they talked. With his hands, George steadied himself on the bench. It had no backrest and the position was rather tiring.

Dickie threw one leg over the other and, leaning on the upper leg, clasped his hands.

“France was just the beginning. You name it, I’ve been there. I could tell you what I’ve seen, but I don’t think we have the time.”

“I’ve got plenty of time,” George said. “My Nettie died last month. Cancer. Nasty business. Now she’s gone, I seem to have more time than I can fill.”

Tears welled up in George’s eyes. He looked away and first wiped his nose before he casually wiped the tear that escaped his left eye. Dicky pretended he hadn’t seen it.

“So sorry to hear that, George. Nettie was a great woman. And, I bet, a great wife.”

“What about you? Did you marry? George asks.

“No, no. I never felt the need to settle down. Too much to see and do, too many women to taste.” He smiled and nudged George with his elbow. George smiled back.

From a distance, they heard a muttering coming closer. It appeared to be a man walking his dog. The dog wasn’t on the lead and the man seemed to be trying to get the dog to come to him.

“Here, boy. Here! Bloody mutt.” The dog thought the man was playing a game and every time the man moved to get the lead onto the dog’s collar, it moved out of reach.

“What do you know! Isn’t that Beaky Bernard?” Dicky said to George.

Dicky squinted and when the man with the lead got near enough, he recognized him as well. “It sure is,” George said. “I recognize that nose in a million.” They both laugh. Beaky Bernard, with his bird-like nose, was always the class clown.

“Bernard, fancy meeting you here,” Dicky said when Bernard was closer.

The man chasing the dog, wearing a tweed jacket and hat and leather boots, looked up at the men on the bench.

“Dicky and George. Well, what do you know? What on earth are you two doing in this godforsaken place?”

“What do you mean?” said George. “It’s beautiful up here.”

The two men shuffled down one end of the bench to make space for Bernard.

“I’m not going to sit on that piece of junk,” Bernard said. Dicky looked at George and back to Bernard.

“It’s okay, man. We won’t eat you.” Dickie patted the empty bench next to him.

“Oh, alright. This dog has taken nearly all the breath out of me.”

The dog, a black Labrador, is running around the men, chasing birds and diving for insects in the grass.

“He’s a cutie. What’s his name?” George asked.

“Blackie. His name is Blackie,” Bernard answered.

“How original. Did you choose it?” Dicky said. Bernard glanced through narrowed eyes to Dicky, whom’s face remained a picture of friendliness.

“What are you two faggots doing up here anyway? Did the institution have a power failure?” Bernard said to the two men. Both of them chuckle, glad Beaky Bernard hasn’t lost his way with words.

“Actually, I’m here on a date.” Dicky nodded towards a woman walking up the path. She’s tall, moving gracefully. As she came nearer, her delicate facial features became visible. She was in her fifties, but still a looker. The three men feasted their eyes on her appearance.

“Well, well, well. You sexy devil. Haven’t lost your touch, have you?” Bernard muttered. “Better make sure you’ve got some rubber on you. You never know what you can catch these days.”

George made a serious effort to get up now. With some help from Dicky, he managed to get to his feet.

“Gentlemen, it was a pleasure to meet you. I hope we can do it again some time.” George tapped his head in a short salute. “Come on, Beaky. Let’s give the two turtle doves some space.”

“Alright, alright. I know when I’m not wanted.” Bernard rose and followed George down the path, cursing as his dog still refused to come near him.

 

Copyrighted by Jacky Dahlhaus

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