It was his last day at the Bartlett School. Twenty years is a long time. He expected nothing. Perhaps a good handshake, pat on the back and a fare-thee-well. But this day would remain in his memory forever. This would be a good day.
A perfect, 15 minute walk. Just the way it always was. He couldn’t remember a day when it wasn’t so. He guessed this would be the last perfect walk. Feet on the ground, left right left right, past Cone’s hardware, watching Miss Smith gather her house coat trying to pick up the morning paper from the bushes. Billie always managed to miss the stoop. Just how Mrs. Tool managed those two big Mastiff’s on a walk always entertained him. More like they were walking her, he chuckled. Old Sam having his morning coffee on that decrepit old porch of his. He’d considered more than once that he ought to volunteer to try fixing it, a bit. Another day perhaps. Jack, at the Esso always had the weather report. “Nice Day!” He’d say. “Yep it is!” I’d say. “Gonna rain soon, my hips say so.”, he’d go on. Don’t know how that man manages. “Well you have a nice day”, I’d quip and press on. Yes, it is, it’s a fine day.
One more perfect trip through Sinclair Park. He remembered the day he’d helped plant 10 of those Red Maples. Nobody really expected them to grow up so quickly. Come autumn they put on their red dresses and sure light up the park! Even I couldn’t resist picking up one or two leaves on the way home. Mary and Stan Packard had put a local group together to take care of the garden. Nice Folks and It was nice all year round. He speculated on just how they managed to keep it going without more support. But they got it done! Should invite them over sometime. That barbecue never got much use. Should talk to Mary and Stan about maybe getting some hydrangea perennials, he thought. Some ground cover would be good too. Some of that Baltic Ivy creeps along real nice, but you’ve got to get it in the right spot. Not sure they like the hot sun much. Something to think about.
Betty Anne jogging again. She sure looks nice in those yellow shorts. Maybe I should throw her a compliment. Well, maybe not. Don’t want her thinking I’m interested. But she sure looks nice. Yep! Nice day. Think I’ll just sit right under this Maple for a spell. I’ve got lots of time.
Can’t remember when my last “last” day was, he thought. Last day of Summer? Fall on the horizon. Something funny in that, he smiled, the last, “last” day. The last day of the end? No silly, it’s the last day of a series of days. Then there it is, event over! Not quite right about that either, he thought. It wasn’t an event. Events start and end in days not years! Damn! Is that what I sound like? Poor kids. God, I’m losing my mind. Wish I had some peanuts those squirrels look hungry. Go on little ones I haven’t got anything for you today. Maybe tomorrow. Damn I’m talking to myself.
Morning to you too Mrs. Craig! Busy body’s already on her way home with the day’s “news”. She must think I’m playing hooky, he thought. Best get going! Damn look at the time! Where did it go? Can’t be losing time like this. Never did before.
Is that what last days do? Better gather myself up, don’t want them to think I’m regretting anything. It’s over. The end. Guess I better find some new beginning. He shouted across the park,
“Hey! Joe! What’s new this lovely day!”, as he trundled quickly
towards his last hurrah.
THE BARTLETT SCHOOL – Part 2
Joe, wouldn’t you know, shouted back. “I gotta run! Get ready for the fun!” Damn Joe was a poet and Don’t ya know it! Sometimes I crack myself up, he chuckled. Well, most people except old Sam seemed to be getting on with their day.
As he picked up his pace through the Park his memories of the past years at Bartlett began to fizzle in his brain. He recalled putting out more cash than he had for that brown leather briefcase he still carried, now worn and torn, just like himself, he admitted. Still useful, still got its memories, just like himself. Once or twice we almost lost each other in the shuffle, but still tried and true, he pondered.
The thought of not being useful kind of caught him short. WHOA! Don’t go there, he reminded himself. Look what happened to George Kramer. Here now, gone tomorrow. He’d planned a trip East as a personal gift for his retirement and blew that away on the bottle before he could even buy the ticket. Man! That was a shocker. His poor wife Grace was beside herself. Heck! So was the town, for that matter. George was such an upstanding citizen. Why! George bought half of them Maples we planted, come to think of it. God only knows what got into him. Nobody, it seems ever saw him take a drink. At least nobody admitted they saw him drunk. I guess Grace must have, he considered.
HEY Candice! Off to school I see. Have a great day! And DO YOUR HOMEWORK, he added, like she’d listen. Candice was a good kid most times, if she wasn’t caught, he chuckled. Rumours are just that, rumours. Can’t put fact to them unless of course you’re Mrs. “Busy-body” Craig. Who always had the days news before the crack of dawn, well, he pondered, someone’s gotta do it, might as well be her. Poor woman even looked the part. What’s the name of that Movie character? Right, Miss Marple!. If we ever had a mystery to solve, she’d be the one to figure it out. No two ways about it.
Wish I’d picked up a nice bunch of posies for Kate. Gonna miss her. She kept things so tidy in the office we sometimes joked about what she’d do if we put something where it wasn’t meant to be. In fact, we secretly moved things around one time and the look on her face was priceless. We all had to leave we were laughing so darn hard. I almost got caught but I was able to put a darn good startled look on my face before she noticed. That’s one prank I regret. Poor sweetheart looked like she was going to faint. Pretty young girl too. Missed the boat on that one, he regretted. Ah well. Life goes on. Now there’s a phrase that’s over used. What’s it really, mean. Life is life. It’s a noun no? Ok so it’s a noun. So, two nouns and a verb in between. What’s “on” got to do with it? God! He shook it off.
I think I need a coffee. Hank brewed the best coffee in town at The Coffee Man. Made real good apple fritters too. He was a little, shall we say, on the robust side but heck, his girl Sally kept him hopping. You could see it in their eyes, a love beyond natural. WHOA! He thought, where’d that come from. I really do need a coffee, he smiled. Yep! It’s a darn nice day! Bit of a chill in the air. You’d think Fall was just around the corner. Always loved the Autumn. No death there just renewal. GADS! You’d think I was on my way to a funeral or something. It’s just the “Last” day for heaven’s sake. Didn’t think this was a such big deal to me until just now.
OVER HERE! OVER THERE! OVER YONDER OVER THERE! He began singing to himself. Singing anything to get his mind off of those crazy thoughts. They kept creeping up on him. In a few more minutes he’d be there. Somewhere he’d never considered being. Somewhere that seemed to be nowhere. Somewhere that lead to endings and endings had never been part of his agenda. Endings were for short term events. He knew that to be true. At least he thought he did.
The Bartlett School – part 3
As he started to mount the 32 steps to that intimidating front door, he began thinking about his first days. AH! Now it’s “first” days, he shook his head. Those doors, those steps, loomed ahead of him like the Cliffs of Dover. His feet suddenly felt heavier than a ton of bricks. If God had given him wings, he’d still feel the weight of that moment. Any other thoughts on this? He chuckled. It’s a door! Actually, two doors. Both as heavy as… a door. Damn heavy if truth be told! He’d climbed those steps and opened those doors for 20 years! He sighed.
Youth had scared him into submission and now fear was creeping into his thoughts. OK! Jump back buddy! What’s the deal? He muttered. There are first days and there’s last days. If I were me, I tell me to get real, no big deal! Damn steps, he mumbled, as he mounted the cliff. Once inside reality started to bite. OK! He thought let’s do her!
He didn’t know what he expected to change just walking through the doors. Geezz this place looks bigger today. Fine looking place. “Hey Sir!” cried a little freckled faced kid. Hay’s for horses kiddo!, I quipped as he scurried off. Gonna be a fine young man, one day, far off! He surmised. Could have been one of George’s brood, got the freckles to prove it. “There’s my handsome man.” Joan fleetingly, said as she scrambled away. Well! Should be more “Last” days like this! He admitted as he felt an embarrassing blush come over him. Specializing in Art History has given her a distinct appreciation of the perfect human physique! He pumped. Now! Now! He quietly mumbled. Trouble’s my name! But it ain’t my game!
“My Man! There you are!” came a command from my rear. Mind your flank! Was my immediate thought. Who goes there? “Yes Jerry, I’m standing close enough did you have to scream?” He protested. Almost jumped out of my bejesus jeans! “Most apologetically sorry” he quietly sniffled. Now who’s feeling like a worm looking for a hole. “No problem! “ he said as he sheepishly smiled. “What’s up Jer?” “Thought you might like a good cuppa, he grinned.” Now there’s an idea! Lead on!
As we approached the “Coffee” room aka the sloughing off place, it appeared to me that everyone must have been in class. Not the usual “lounging around” feel, he chuckled. Ah well! Reasonable coffee, apple fritters! And empty couches. Perfect! Aren’t you having one Jer, he offered. “Oh! Um no! Gotta run, you know how it is! Work! Work! Work!” he grinned, as he rushed out the door. Fine, just fine, he mumbled as he made himself a cup, grabbed a fritter and sunk into a comfy chair.
Nothing like the sweet sound of silence, he mused. The thought occurred to him that no one ever called him by name. It was SIR! Hey Mr.! or HEY YOU! Or anything but “Hi George, lovely day.” George, he thought, was a simple and common name. In fact, it meant farmer in Greek. Common like Joe or Hank or Tim or whatever! Grandma called me Gigg, because she loved Babe Ruth so much. I did get Georgy of course, in grade school. Hated it! GEORGIE PORGIE PUDDIN AND PIE……. Well “Did not! I’d cry!” and run home. I guess that’s why they never stopped. Kid’s can be so cruel, he sighed.
I think I need another cup and maybe half a fritter, maybe. “Hello George! What the aces are you sitting around here for all your lonesome?” Damn, he thought, it’s Carl. Just my luck! All decked out in his black, immaculately, pressed, suit. Bow tie, just a tad crooked. He had a dying urge to straighten it. Not now George, Not Now! He held back, picking up the first piece of reading material he could find. Sadly, it was Lady’s Home Journal. “Something interesting in there?” prattled Carl. “News about the latest hemlines got you curious?”. Um Yah, I said quickly, making it look serious. Luckily Carl sort of turned his head away, glanced upwards to The Almighty and walked away. Oh Man! He’ll be on to old lady Craig sooner than a bee to honey. Probably be headlines tomorrow. Fine day, he thought, mighty fine. Somebody called me by name.