Marcus sat looking out over the beautiful shimmery water It felt good to have the sun on his weathered face, it had been cold for far too long, it was a good day to be out lapping up the sun and he had no intention of budging.. Not even for the couple who had sat down beside him, who probably thought he would move. He was here first, and no one was going to force him off the bench. He huffed under his breath at the imposition of some people, couldn’t they see he was relaxing, taking in the view, pontificating? The last thing he wanted was some mindless conversation going on beside him
“Good morning, lovely day.” He welcomed them, more of an act of acknowledgment and defiance than to accommodate them. They seemed pleasant enough and responded with a ‘yes, it is’ then they resumed their conversation. He wondered how long it would take before he saw them off. Most people would not have even dared to sit there so he was quite impressed with them for being so brave. Having said that there was no other option, all other benches were occupied. He knew it must be getting unbearable sitting there for them, but he had to hand it to them it had now been ten minutes and they were still there. They looked at their watches and then made some gesture which Marcus took as a sign that their departure was imminent. Yes, he would have peace again.
Once the bench was vacated, he sprawled out, his thread bare boots touching one end of the bench, his head resting on the flat wooden arm. It wasn’t the most comfortable of positions, so he delved in his shopping trolley and conjured up a couple of old newspapers which he folded widthwise and placed under his head. A cushion would have been far more acceptable but he, metaphorically speaking, patted himself on the back for being resourceful. You had to in his line of business, you had to make do sometimes and it wasn’t always ideal.
He decided to close his eyes and take in the morning rays, whilst listening to the splattering of the fountain on the lake. He would catch the conversations of the people passing by and their footsteps. He had learnt a lot from listening to peoples’ footsteps. He could imagine what sort of shoe and even shoe size they were. Which usually meant a peek out of one eye in a downwards glance by way of confirmation. Sometimes it was the trivial things in life that gave the greatest amusement. It was the only amusement he had but days like today made it all better. He could feel the sun burning into his cheeks and he smiled to himself. Life wasn’t so bad after all, well not right at this moment anyway.
“Huhmmm.” The feet had crept up on him unawares, casting a shadow, he was usually so in tune with his surroundings, but he had been so consumed by the warmth and the joy of the start of spring. He shot up knowing full well who was casting the shadow and he also knew his tranquility was over. “We’ve had reports that you are intimidating and upsetting people and that you are hogging this seat.”
“In my defense officer I was here first and as such I’m quite within my rights to sit here.” Marcus protested.
“Yes, you are but not when you sprawl out and obstruct others from using the facilities.” Marcus knew when he was beaten, he swung his legs around, chuntering to himself about to get up but instead decided to delve into his shopping trolley. Producing a half-eaten sandwich, the officer retreated horrified at the state of it. Marcus was about to take a bite when the officer knocked it out of his hand. “You can’t eat that; you’ll be sick and so will anyone within shouting distance of the smell of it. Here…” The officer produced a £20 note and handed it to him, as a dismayed Marcus lifted his grubby hand to accept it.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” Marcus looked up to study the officer’s face. There was a glimpse of recognition, but he couldn’t quite place him.
“You taught me English many years ago, because of you I passed my exams. You told me that I could be whatever I wanted to be if I put my mind to it. So here I am. I have never forgotten your words, so thank you. I’m sure this isn’t what you wanted to be, so take the money and be what you want to be.” The officer walked away, leaving Marcus with a tear in his eye and hope in his heart.
2 thoughts on “The Bench”
A beautiful slice of life story, Tina, which you are so good at, and a wonderful twist in the tale I didn’t see coming. Even though Marcus is just sitting or lying on the bench, deep in his own thoughts, you’ve created a whole new and exciting world around him where he’s perfectly content, as long as he’s not interrupted in his thoughts! For me, the moral of the story is – we should try to become more relaxed, savour the moment and enjoy our precious ‘me’ time; just like Malcom. Even with his eyes closed, he’s content imagining and guessing the size and type of shoes the passers-by are wearing. He can feel the shadow across him when the policeman arrives at his bench. I could feel it! Today, we are so busy flitting from A to B, going in lots of different directions at break-neck speed, we don’t seem to have time to sit down, reflect and notice what’s going on in the world around us. We just let it pass by; but not Malcom. Another interesting character and another thought-provoking piece of writing, Tina!
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Thanks Mary, it was inspired by a trip to London and sitting in St James Park before visiting the Churchill War Rooms.