Horace was fagged out. At his age, it was normal to be tired, but
this morning - this particular morning - he was feeling downright
plumb tuckered out. His shaking hand clasped the park bench, as
gasping and wheezing, he eased himself onto his bench, which
happened to be nearest the water fountain, and the intersection of
two park paths. It wasnít really his bench, but through time, there
came to be an unspoken law, that reserved that particular spot for
He had not felt well since he forced himself out of bed that
morning, and rushed over to the park, to maintain his daily
self-imposed schedule of sitting by the pond, from late morning till
well into the evening, where he enjoyed the comparative peace, while
watching the ducks, geese, and pigeons mingle among the various
visitors, all absorbed in their respective worlds.
He was angry with himself for hurrying so, but after all,
through the years, he had become part of the scenery, part of the
park, you might say. The people expected him to be there, there on
Haroldís Throne, -no disrespect mind you- because many folks he knew
by face, and a few by name, would engage him in conversations
ranging from astrophysics to farming; from genetics to geography.
People were astounded by the philosophical discussions he inspired,
which, in many cases, made them late for work. They would laugh and
hurry off, vowing to return tomorrow, to continue the debate.
In his haste, he had forgotten to pack his sandwich, but that
was okay, because Pete would be along soon with the food cart.
Lately, when Harold offered to pay for the sandwich, Pete had
refused, saying it was his treat, but Harold insisted upon paying
for the ice cream bar. Later in the evening, when Pete came by
again, it was the same routine.
During the past year or so, another constant in Haroldís life
was the Mounted Police Patrol team of Constable Laurie McPherson and
Constable James McKinnon, who always managed to spend a few minutes
with him, while their horses drank at the fountain. Quite often,
when it was a bit later than usual, they would escort him to his
Because major dialogues took place at lunchtime, people often
shared their lives, as well as their lunches. To them, he was their
confidant, their counsellor and their grandpa. Although he never
directly told anyone what to do, he could easily discern the root of
their problems, and would carefully, tactfully, steer the anxious
individuals onto corrective courses of action. Many a night, with
his heart aching from numerous desperate personal histories, Harold
would shuffle off to the boarding house, where he would fret all
night, hoping he would meet the same anonymous individuals sometime
in the near future.
The day at the lake followed the same pattern as countless
others, but today Harold, increasingly edgy and irritated with
himself, found it very difficult to maintain a coherent
conversation. People arrived with
eager smiles, only to excuse themselves shortly thereafter, and
leave with quizzical looks on their faces. When asked if he was all
right, Harold, with a wave of his bony hand, and almost toothless
smile, assured them he was just very tired today.
For some unknown reason, when the park lights came on, he was
surprised how late it was, but he would have to wait until the
internal heaviness eased up, before he headed home. Staring out
across the pond, Harold smiled weakly as some ducks sliced through
the reflections in the water, making, he surmised, a perfect image
with which to close the day. He took a deep breath, and wondered if
perhaps a short nap would help.
The clip-clop of horses stopped in front of him.
After a few tears from Laurie, it was Constable McKinnon who
called the coronerís office.