An Old Man’s Tale

Each afternoon on a bench just on the edge of the park, where the grass meets the sandy beach of the sea, sits an old man.  His skin is weathered by the sun and the wind, his clothes worn and tattered, but his eyes are warm and kind.  As he sits quietly, almost trans-like, his body slowly comes alive with animated gestures and his story telling begins.

He tells of adventures on the sea of long ago, complete with tales of man and creature.  His words crescendo like the water crashing behind him on the beach. His audience is at his feet, and he gives them his undivided attention, as they anticipate the flow of his tale.

Two small children pass by with their mother and ask to stop and listen to the stories of the sea.  Their mother agrees, and the children take their seat on the ground almost three feet from the man on the bench.  Listening intently upon every word spoken they are consumed in the story.

The ship tossing and turning on the waves of the ocean, sea creatures flying into the air from the depths of the ocean floor and the struggles of the sailors to hang on and survive are depicted with gestures and excitement from the old man on the bench.

Soon mother tells them it is time to go, as they raise from their place on the grass, the children politely thank their host and join their mother on the walk.  They have walked only a short time along the path, when their mother asks them why they sat so far from the story teller.  Puzzled they reply they were simply sitting behind the other children already there to hear his stories.

Looking back, their mother sees no one but the old man.  He is still talking and gesturing intently to the blades of grass in front of him as if they are looking up at him in wonderment at the tale he tells.   Pondering her children’s answer, they walk on in silence; the children flash a smile to one another, for what they can see and she cannot.

Johnna Shryack

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