Lakeside Departure


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        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 Harold.

    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 residence. 

    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.  


  © J. Graham Ducker