”When Jesus got out of the boat, he saw this large crowd, and his heart was filled with pity for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:34)
So he had decided to come back for awhile. He had talked it over with his father and his response was, “Oy, what the heck…I haven’t been able to do anything with them.”
So he got himself a new wardrobe, changed his name and looked for a city to zap himself to.
It was too hard to decide –- so many problems everywhere – so he closed his eyes and pointed his finger at a map.
And so here he was, at a park somewhere. Folks were out in the sunlight picnicking, riding bikes, walking, playing softball, strumming guitars. There was an amazing assortment of dogs strolling with the people – all different sizes, shapes and colors. Many of the canines looked over at him and stared as they walked by…they seemed to recognize him….
He sat down on a wooden bench by a small pond. There were ducks and geese paddling around in the water and squirrels scampering about in the many shady trees.
An older gentleman with a cane walked up to the bench and sat down.
He held out his right hand. “Art Golden,” he said.
“Josh Lev ben-David.” They shook hands.
“A Jewish boy…nice!” said Art. The old man pulled a loaf of white bread out of a grocery bag. “I come here every day to feed the birds. The wife died 10 years ago. I still miss her.”
“I’m so sorry,” said Josh. “What is her name?”
“I could give her a message for you….”
Art looked at him like he was crazy. “I said she died….”
Josh realized his error. “I’m sorry. I mean if you could talk to her right now, what would you say to her?”
“Oh. Well, you know…tell her that I love her. And that I miss her chicken and dumpling soup. And I miss kissing her good night….”
A tear started to fall from the old guy’s eye. He started to shred slices of bread as an Army of chattering, quacking, honking, disheveled ducks and geese marched towards them. He handed several slices to Josh. “Here…help me out, kid.”
The birds were making so much noise that conversation was impossible. The two men sat in silence as they threw the manna, as Josh thought of it, toward the dozens of open beaks.
At last it was quiet again. Art crumpled up the plastic bag and his web-footed friends wandered away. “Food is the great equalizer,” he said and chuckled.
“It certainly does bring people – and animals – together.”
“Bess used to put on quite the seder dinner – delicious. The lamb was always perfect…mouth-watering. How ‘bout you kid? Did your mother do up Passover good?”
“Oh, yes indeed,” said Josh. “My mother Miriam was a wonderful cook and a good Jewish woman.”
“How old are you?”
“33? I don’t see a ring…you’re not married? A good-looking kid like you?”
“Oh well, thank-you, sir. No, no. I’ve had work to do.”
“Oh work, yeh. I was a house-painter for 50 years. I met a lot of famous people back in the day. Hollywood types – movie stars.”
“Where am I?” asked Josh.
Art looked at Josh with a puzzled look on his face. “I’m 90 years old…I should be the one wondering where I am!”
Josh could feel his face turning red – another slip-up. “I mean, what park is this?”
Josh nodded. “Very good,” he said.
The two men sat and chatted for another hour. Art looked at his watch. “Oh wow! This doesn’t usually happen! I lost track of the time. I have a bus to catch.”
Art stood up and leaned on his cane. “You have been very kind. Thank you.”
“For what?” asked Josh.
“For listening! For chatting with an old guy on a sunny day in a park. Nobody has time to just sit and listen anymore. Our time together…made my day.” Another tear began to escape.
Arthur held out his hand. Josh stood up, took his hand and then embraced him in a long, warm hug. “It’s kind of my job,” he whispered.
The old man picked up his bag off the bench. “You’re a very polite young man. A little cuckoo maybe, but…a nice boy. Maybe I’ll see you around again?” He started walking toward the bus stop.
“Absolutely,” said Josh. And when Art was out of earshot, he whispered, “And I’ll give Bessie your message.”
Copyright July 2011 by Phyllis J. Hanniver