Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Flowers (10/03/05)
- TITLE: The Park Bench
By Jeffrey Snell
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In one berm, amidst brilliant splashes of pink and white, a solitary yellow daffodil bloomed.Ê Its height was not impressive.Ê Probably from a discarded bulb fragment, it nonetheless shone brightly. ÊA squirrel hopped past it, searching for seeds.
Animal stirrings were joined by stepping shoes as early joggers and pet-walkers entered.Ê A man in his mid-thirties, wearing a grey jumpsuit, ran along the berms, talking.Ê He had his cell phone ear piece in one ear and that of a compact disc player in the other.Ê His gaze remained focused straight ahead.Ê He soon ran onto a side trail and into the woods, already immersed in the dayÕs business.Ê
Arguing audibly, a couple entered while walking a yellow lab puppy who tugged on her leash.Ê She quickly noticed the yellow flower.Ê Pulling harder she veered right for a healthy sniff.Ê Her nose just brushed it when her owners yanked her back on the path, yelling her name.
The birds had reached their crescendo and dozens of people now milled about the park. A young family walked hand-in-hand past the statue.Ê The four-year-old daughterÕs laugh drifted faintly as they continued down to the sidewalk and strolled along, parents allowing her freedom to move a few paces ahead of them.Ê She scampered about in denim overalls and ribbons, weaving from side to side on the walk. ÊThen, with a tiny cry and gasp, she stopped.Ê She raced over to the flower berms and quickly squatted before the lone daffodil in wonder.Ê It seemed to open further and glow brighter as she stared.Ê Gently she reached out her finger and caressed the silken petals.Ê She breathed deeply of its sweet scent.Ê Smiling at her excitement, her parents called her to continue on, but she kept glancing backward until they rounded a tree and were gone.
No one had noticed me there, and a tear fell unseen onto my old green flannel shirt.Ê They seem to come so easily in the months since my precious wife passed.Ê Oh, how that little one reminded me of her, adoring simple beauty.
Each day at sunup, I make my way down the cracked wooden stairs of my apartment building (when IÕm able), cross the street to the park and settle on my bench, facing the sunrise.Ê I can see everything in the park from my bench.Ê That morning, though, the sights could not stir me.Ê After fifty-three years together, there was no pleasure without my wife, no breathing without her scent, no smile without her face.Ê The days had grown so long and lonely.Ê I had no heart to share mine, no hand to hold, no lips to kiss, only aching and silent rooms.Ê And yet...
The little girl somehow knew that moment was worth stopping for.Ê Why?Ê She could have simply glanced at the daffodil; but no, that wasnÕt intimate enough.Ê The way she tenderly and innocently touched the petals...the thrill I experienced seeing its uniqueness captivate her!Ê Had my wife been alive, she would have knelt right alongside the girl, sharing her awe.Ê I found myself imagining she was there and almost believed it.
I inhaled deeply, eyes closed.Ê Somehow, the day had changed. The girlÕs laughter and excited cry still echoed in my ears, and to my surprise my tears had dried.Ê Suddenly, I understood: hope was reviving in my heart. And though I couldnÕt touch her face, my wifeÕs love still breathed inside me. IÕd been given a last glimpse of her heart through that little girl. Breathing a silent thank you, I opened my eyes.
A cool breeze meandered across the park.Ê I turned and noticed the sun well past its zenith, and the shadows of the trees and statue had turned.ÊÊ Very few still strolled the walkways.Ê It was time for me to leave the park bench and return home.
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