“When I saw the prompt picture today, I was taken back to a wonderful series written by John Gray and beautifully filmed by lead actress Jessica Love Hewitt. I was sad when it went off air in 2010. This story is a little homage to that series. Let’s see if you can name it in the comments after reading my story?”
I wrote this Story in answer to the following prompts:
Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #100 — The picture above
Word of the Day Challenge — Picking
Your Daily Word Prompt — Eager
Ragtag Daily Prompt — Gnaw
Three Things Challenge #475 – Planning – Sing – Bad
The Old Man in the Park
Anne Clements worked at the Freesia Florists by the park. She’d been an assistant there for three month’s now. Every lunchtime she’d take a walk in the park and eat her sandwiches by the rock-walled koi pond. Not a single day past without her seeing old Bob standing by the water.
Today was no different. There he was with his black cowboy hat parked on his clouds of white hair and beard to match. He stood a plaintive man in his old black suit with a red-and-white bouquet under his arm and a black guitar over his shoulder. As always he was just standing and staring at the meadow beyond the pond.
He was a mystery to Anne. She didn’t even know if his name was Bob. She just called him such to be more respectful than ‘old man’. The enigma only deepened for her when realising the Freesia Florist was the only place to buy flowers near the park; and yet she’d never served him in her three months. Even her boss said she’d never seen him.
Anne hoped he was planning to sing one day – what with his guitar over his shoulder. Even if he sounded bad, she’d was eager to hear his song. Yet three months to the day she first saw him, he was yet to move a muscle during lunch break. Smiling, she thought he made the most interesting and yet boring mime, a yet a bloody good statue.
Watching Bob today, Anne realised, not one person acknowledged him as they walked by. They didn’t even seem to see him. Had they grown so used to seeing the enigmatic man that he’d become part of the scenery?
Having finished her BLT sandwich and had a gnaw on her trail mix bar, Anne came to a decision. She’d go and try to chat to him, maybe solve the puzzle if she could.
Standing, she brushed crumbs from her polo shirt and trousers. She waited for a mother and her two children to pass by, then step toward Bob. The little boy seemed glanced at him but only for a second as his mother ushered him on.
“Excuse me. My name’s Anne. I work at the florist over there.”
The old man blinked and turned his head to face her but said nothing.
“I see you standing here looking so sad every day. Is there anything I can do to help?” Anne tried, determined to connect with him.
A smile graced his lips as he gave the smallest nod. “You already do. You’re the only person who notices me, the first to talk to me in thirty years.”
Anne felt a little shock at his reply. “You mean, you’ve stood here every day for three decades?”
A gentleman in a blue suit scowled at her as he passed by.
“Much longer than that dear, lady,” said the old man.
“But why ever for?” Anne couldn’t comprehend the situation. What would compel anybody to stand in the park every day for their whole life?
The old man took a step back towards the water. Picking a red bloom from his flowers, he pointed towards a stone at his feet.
Anne followed his direction and gasped. There was writing carved in the back. It was hard to read with so much lichen and weathering. Using the lid of her flask she scooped water from the pond, poured it over the inscription and began to read.
‘On this spot in 1921, a runaway car killed long-time park busker Mr Bob Earsham as he waited to commemorate his wedding to his new wife Pearl. This stone bears memory to the wonderful, kind, entertainer he was. May he rest in peace.’
“I’ve been waiting a long time to give these flowers to Pearl,” Bob said. “I’ll stand here as long as it takes.”
Overcome with sadness, Anne wiped her eyes. She had no idea how she knew his name was Bob before today. At least now she had a reason why people walk passed without seeing him. “Oh, Bob lovely. She’s not going to come to you. I’m sorry to tell you, you passed away in 1921. You died, sweetheart.”
Bob looked down at the stone and sighed, “So, that thing tells the truth then?”
“I’m afraid it does,” Anne pulled out her phone and use the internet to search for Pearl Earsham. It didn’t take her long to find some information. “Look, I found your wife. She made it to the age of ninety and passed away in eight-nine.”
Bob looked at the phone and smiled as tears flowed into his fluffy beard. “There she is. There’s my beautiful, Pearl.”
“Would you like to see her again?” Anne asked.
“Oh, very much.” Bob looked hopeful.
“Do you see the bright white light somewhere around you?”
Bob looked over the Koi pond and nodded. “Its there. I hear harpsichord music coming from it. The light scares me.”
“No, please don’t be afraid. Beyond that light is heaven. I promise you with all my heart, Pearl is waiting on the other side for you.”
“Yes, Bob. You go on through now. Be with her and rest. You deserve it, sweety.” Anne wiped her eyes again and glared at a headshaking onlooker passing by. They couldn’t see nor understand.
“Okay.” Bob nodded, “Thank you for helping me, Anne. May your life be one of happiness.”
Anne watched him turn and vanish into the air. That was the last time she’d see him standing in the park with his flowers and guitar. A day later a bouquet of red roses and white lilies with a little guitar arrived at the florist’s addressed to her. There was no gift givers name but Anne smile; these flowers, she knew, were heaven-sent.
Have a great day!