The Park Keeper

Just at that moment I came out of the café, a man emerged from the corner of the park pavilion, at Como Park, that stood alongside the edge of the building’s corner. An odd sense of familiarity made me do a double take on him. But the man had done an about-turn, and was walking rapidly the other way, away from me, as if about to walk around Lake Come, a half mile walk. There was something about the slope of his shoulders, and outlying of his short curly hair between his neck collar and slump hat that aroused vague memories for me. I quickened my pace, trying to think those thoughts that formed hidden in my brain about this person. Who could it be in those long and baggy and faded overalls and jacket-shirt that said “Como Park Custodian?”

I paused, as he turned about, looked straight into my face, and I chuckled at myself, for I had almost abandon the chase, had it not been for that haunting familiarity of those shoulders, and hair, and lumpy looking body. I now shot a keen look at his face; then I stepped a foot closer abruptly, and confronted-: “Danny Knight?”

He stepped back a foot, halted with equal abruptness, and inhaled. A black plastic bag full of leaves from his left hand to the sidewalk. It burst open, and the leaves fell out all about his feet, and mine, like a flood of potatoes. He looked at me with astonishment and unease, then he appeared to wane away; his heavy round belly, drooped with glumness, which he expressed in a deep moan.

I held out my hand and he shook it, but his was all sweaty. He cleared his esophagus in humiliation, and I could see the perspiration starting to pop out of his forehead.

“Yes, it’s me, but please don’t let anyone know I’m working here,” he begged, “I must be going,” he said, looking apprehensively about him as though dreading his discovery, and seemingly wanting to make an attempt to walk on, but out of fear stood his ground. Plus, he knew I was determined, and that it was my intention to stick to him for the moment, yes he was found.

“No;” I answered him firmly, “I have no intentions of telling anyone I saw you.”

He now looked at the bag of leaves he had dropped.

“Really,” he said, “Forgive me of my rudeness, but it has been a hell of a life these past fifteen years. If you only knew.”

I knew he had killed David in a heat of emotion and drunkenness, the night over at Mary’s party and David had gotten into his way trying to stop a fight with Danny and Big Ace, whom he wanted to shoot with the shotgun; everyone being drunk at Mary’s apartment, and Danny running home like a crazy man and getting his shotgun, and shooting David by accident, whose intentions were to shoot Big Ace.

Dan looked as if he was going to break down, but he pulled himself together and took control.

“Well,” he said, “you’re about the only one not after me. I spent four-years in prison; of course you’d know that.”

I knew it was a sad case. It was terrible. David was a young man, fifteen years ago, he was but nineteen. And I could see he was suffering from the depth of it.

“I must go at once. You understand,” said Dan.

I was convinced he was sorry for what he had done; there was no sneer on his face, perhaps an ulcer in his stomach. And now that it’s been twenty-years since I saw him at the park, I figured I can write about it, he’s most likely dead, or in his early seventies. Sorry to say, he did not get the chance to grow honorable old, but no need to belabor that.

Convinced of this, I told him goodbye, and in his own exhausted way he seemed to alleviate some of the social ills that continuously arose in him for the injustice he had done.

No: 1027/Short Story (11-26-2014)