Old Man Morrison was as predictable as summer. Every afternoon at precisely three fifteen, he pushed open his screen door and shuffled his way to the rocking chair on the front porch of the slightly seedy frame house that had been his home for half a century.
Most people ignored him.
Except for the kids. At three-thirty, the bell at the nearby school signaled the welcome release of its preadolescent prisoners. From every possible orifice, little people poured; relentless bundles of energy that just moments before had sprawled sleepily over their desktops.
One particular group of these escapees headed directly to Old Man Morrison’s house. There was something about him that demanded “bugging”. At lunch hour they would gather in the school yard to plot what they would do to the old fellow after school.
At first, the boys were not so bold as to do anything while Mr. Morrison was sitting on his front porch. They dug up his flower beds, chalked his sidewalk, scattered garbage on his porch. Then they hid and watched to see what he would do, or say.
The old man shuffled out of the house, stooped slowly and carefully as he collected the trash and swept the porch. He laboriously untangled the garden hose and washed off the chalk. He took a whole morning raking up the flowers. Then, he planted more. The boys never heard a word escape from the old man’s lips. In fact, there was a slight twist to those lips, though the boys couldn’t tell whether it was a half smile or a grimace.
The little mischief makers grew bolder. They attacked even while Old Man Morrison was on his porch. On this occasion they had decided to try and rouse their opponent from his afternoon nap by peppering him, from the safely of the sidewalk of course, with peas expertly expelled from peashooters that they had smuggled into school. These instruments of torture had already been banned the previous spring by the principal when this same group of child terrorists had tormented all the girls in the fifth grade during one morning’s recess.
As the boys approached the house, it appeared that Old Man Morrison was asleep. The attackers lined up along the fence and prepared their weapons. It was a fair distance to the porch, but since all the boys were blessed with an excess of spit and wind, they weren’t concerned that their peas would fall short of the target. One by one, and then in one solid barrage, they let loose, firing their arsenal at the hapless old gentlemen.
The peas hit porch, steps, sidewalk, rocking chair, screen door and the side of the house. Inevitably, some hit their intended target.
The old man didn’t flinch; not even once.
Finally, peas exhausted, the boys gathered on the sidewalk at the far corner of the yard to analyze the results of their P-Day attack.
“He hasn’t moved a muscle.”
“He must be dead.”
Speculation gave way to immense disappointment. They couldn’t seem to move this frail old guy.
After a few minutes, they wandered off, looking more like the defeated than the “defeaters”.
Once they were out of sight, the rocking chair began to move once more. Slowly, Old Man Morrison lifted himself off his chair. He made his way to the front door, carefully avoiding squashing any peas that were in his path. He entered the house and returned with a new broom and began to sweep up the peas into a little plastic shovel.
Finished with his task, he looked down the street in the direction in which the boys had disappeared. He shook his head thinking back to D-Day and the storming of the beaches at Normandy. He’d dodged a lot more than peas in those days. He certainly hadn’t lived this long just to make war on little boys, as pesky as they might be, or by allowing himself to lose his sense of well-being over anything less important than life or death. Besides, he enjoyed the excitement of seeing what the kids would think up next.
He carefully carried his peas into the house. They would make a good side dish for that bit of ham he had left from last night’s supper.
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