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Old Men on a Bench

Harv is first. No surprise there. Harv is always first. Myron rises earlier, but he is a meticulous sort—to the point of fastidiousness.

An attractive jogger thumps past in sweat pants and bikini top. Harv's head bounces ever so slightly, in time with the joggling of her breasts. His ogling is a reflex action, devoid of any carnal desire.

"Ain't she a peach?"

Myron sits down.

"Wouldn't kick her out of bed for eatin' crackers."

"No, but she might kick you out on your wrinkled old ass for eating stewed prunes and farting like a fourteen-year-old horse."

Myron shifts and scrooches for an inordinate amount of time. Harv casts a sidelong glance. He is annoyed, but it is a token annoyance, lacking any real hint of fire.

"You'd fidget too if you had my hemorrhoids."

"Thanks for the offer, but you can keep 'em."

"Sonsabitches hang down any farther I'll be steppin' on 'em."

They sit silently for about four minutes

"Who ordered up this weather?"

The question hangs in the air and dissipates. Myron expected nothing more.

It is sunny and warm. It is always sunny and warm. Harv and Myron—thin of blood—would once have sought solace in the shade. Now they bask in the rays.

Silence descends for another fourteen minutes. They watch the endless procession of recreationists using various combinations of leg power and wheeled devices. Myron dozes. His head lolls forward and he snorts.

"How's Nell?"

Myron jerks awake and slaps himself in the ear—a convulsive gesture. Myron looks bewildered.

"Hanh?"

"Said how's Nell?"

"She's livin'."

"Good sign."

Myron grunts.

Seventeen minutes pass, and some odd seconds. For Harv and Myron, seconds are like a billionaire's pennies. Who bothers counting them?

Harv leans forward. Myron perks up, eyeing him. Something is about to happen. Harv reaches down and adjusts the garter holding up his sock. Myron sighs and settles back.

Nine minutes and change and a tiny cloud—the only one in a vast expanse of deep blue sky—passes briefly across the sun. Myron looks up.

"Supposed to storm later."

"How's that?"

"Supposed to storm."

"The hell you say."

"That's what they say."

Harv shrugs.

Twenty-seven minutes pass before Harv gets up and totters to the public restroom across the way. Something has happened, but Myron has dozed off again and missed it. His face nearly rests on his chest when Harv returns.

"Hell's bells, old man. What in blue blazes you been doing at night?"

Harv back settles on the bench.

"I know what you ain't been doing."

Myron looks around, trying to regain his equilibrium. Only a minute passes this time. Myron looks up.

"Supposed to storm later."

Harv eyes him. "Why don't I get you a blackboard and some chalk and you can write it out a hundred times?"

Myron looks befuddled.

"Oh."

They lapse into silence, heads bobbing gently as the jogger passes by on her return loop.

Copyright © 2003 William I. Lengeman III

William I. Lengeman III has published non-fiction in Saveur, Historic Traveler, Terra Nova and numerous other publications, as well as An Ear to the Ground, an anthology of essays published by Cune Press. His fiction and poetry has appeared or been accepted for publication in AlienSkin, Andromeda Spaceways, The Dream People, Nexus, Left Curve, The Nocturnal Lyric and NRG. His humor book, S*** Happened, A Concise and Somewhat Confused Guide to History, is available in e-book format from Booklocker.com. His web site, 499-Word Tales For The Modern Age, is located at http://wileng.home.mindspring.com/.