A Walk in the Park
by Thomas E. Farrell Jr.
Today, finally and yet dreadfully had come. The morning sunshine burst through the curtainless windows, awakening Simon; causing him to squint his eyes before turning his face from the blinding light. He drug his body up off the comforter beneath him. The make-shift bed that gave no relief from the bruises that appeared on his hips. Bruises caused by the bare hardwood flooring under the once comfy bedspread which used to cover and keep him warm at night on his long gone queen-sized mattress. This once, furniture filled master bedroom now was just a room full of echoes with bare white walls.
Glancing at his dollar-store wristwatch, he realized that he was behind schedule. According to the court papers, Simon was no longer to be an occupant of this dwelling after 9am today.
"Hmmm?", Simon muttered. Thinking about what consequences may result by not vacating the premises.
Quickly, the thought of illegal activity left his thoughts. The need to relieve himself suddenly took precedence. Simon took care of nature's call, as well as cleaning himself up and combing his thick, dark brown hair. Back to the bedroom he shuffled, not rushing, to pick up and put on the three days worn blue jeans off the floor. he looked momentarily for the T-shirt he'd thrown off in the dark last night. There it was, in a ball, in the corner of the room by the windows.
Simon walked out of the bedroom, folded bedding in his arms as he made his way downstairs. He tossed the pillows and comforter to the floor, just by the front door. Then he stopped and stood still for a second.
"Damn!", he sighed out loud.
Simon decided to take one last look around. Truth is, he wanted to stay in his home for a few more minutes. A few precious last moments to save a mental portrait in his mind. This house was all he had left; in a very short couple of minutes, this final piece of all his material conquests was going to be gone forever.
Simon believed wholeheartedly that he would be saved. That some eleventh-hour miracle would come through to help. It never happened. He stepped through the entry way, connecting the living room with the dining room. He made a path towards the kitchen doorway, with it's full length, swinging shutter doors. That moment, as he gazed at those doors, the full measure of his circumstances came crashing down into his mind. The doors hung there, beautifully stained, silent and at attention, as if waiting to feel the touch of his hand, as he pushed his way through them on so many days and nights over the past four years. Their sight this morning brought back the memory of when he had gone to the big chain construction super-store warehouse to purchase them. He recalled also buying a new cordless drill, circular saw and two saw horses to lay the doors upon to cut them to size. These two swinging doors were the last two items in the house that had not been sold to a pawn shop or at one of the many yard sales Simon set up in the front yard during the past year. The drill, saw and horses had long ago been sold in order for Simon to raise money and save money to pay the mortgage. He cherished his home. He had taken good care of it.
This big, beautiful house was now as empty as the day that the real estate agent had shown it to him. "Except for these damn doors!", was the thought going through his mind at the moment. Anxiety began to creep into his head, then his chest, as he involuntarily drew in a huge breath of air. His stomach churned and fluttered. Sweat started rolling down his cheeks. Dizziness followed as Simon stood motionless in the center of the empty dining room. His knees buckled, as he reached out for anything to steady himself. There was nothing but air, as his arms flailed up and down. Blackness came over him.
Simon opened his eyes, finding himself in a heap, face down on the bare hardwood floor. e felt a stinging pain radiating from his forehead. Simon sat himself up. He gently touched his head in the area where the pain was coming from with one finger.
"Ouch!", he exclaimed loudly, "Mother fucker!", he added.
That delicate touch had sent a shockwave of stinging pain through his head and face. He had no way to gauge the extent of the injury, except by feel because all the mirrors in the house had been sold. He had also sold his precious I-phone just a week prior to pay for some take-out. The gas and electric had been turned off for non-payment for some time and Simon had no way to cook at home. He decided right then, sitting on the hard-ass floor that he didn't need to depress himself anymore with memories. Enough was enough!
The pandemic had closed his job and his ability to find employment in his field became impossible without proof of vaccination. Simon hadn't gotten vaccinated because he had feelings that prevented him from letting the government inject a deadly virus into his body. He had also been denied unemployment benefits as well as the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits, that even unemployed, never employed homeless drug addicts were collecting. It all made no sense to him and he appealed the decision, but was never awarded one lousy penny. He had been given only some bullshit determination about some bullshit loophole that he fell into because of one answer on his application. Simon sold all his possessions in order to stay afloat and keep at least a roof over his head, but today it all ends. The moratorium on foreclosures had passed and he was out on his ass. Simon walked back into the living room, picked up a small suitcase and backpack by the front door next to his bedding. He opened the front door, threw the bedding out onto the pavement in order to close and lock the door as he left. First, he took in one last mental image then shut the door and exited the property. Simon was now officially homeless.
Simon walked three blocks from his former home to the neighborhood park. He laid his suitcase, backpack and bedding down on the nearest bench closest to the park entrance. Simon took a seat net to his belongings and began to cry, quietly. The early November winds, cold and blustery, wouldn't give him a minute's peace; reminding him continuously of the situation he was now facing. Any family he had left in this world were thousands of miles away. He hadn't informed a soul of his crisis this past year. he kept the neighbors who lived near-by him in the dark concerning his imminent doom as well. Simon had always been the guy who could solve every problem and handle any issue, no matter how dire the situation or circumstance. Because of this persona that he exuded, all who knew him, believed him to be self-sufficient and proud. This was also the reason that he couldn't bring himself to ask anyone for help.
"Now, look at the mess your in.", he told himself.
Simon never had any belief in a god, or supreme being of the universe, so praying to something that he had no clue about was totally out. Simon had always been self-reliant, and because of his pride and ego couldn't grasp or understand how to ask another human being for help when trouble came-a-calling.
"Twenty-eight years old, an a bum! That's what I am, a bum! A fucking no good bum, who don't deserve to live..." , he suddenly stopped speaking. he sat there on that cold wooden bench in the park absolutely dumbfounded by the statement he just spoke out loud.
"I don't deserve to live. damn, where did that come from?", pausing, "Hey you, squirrel, you know me don't you?" ,Simon asked the small brown squirrel that joined him at the other end of the bench. "I asked you a question, squirrel, and I expect an answer. You know who I am. I come down here and feed you and your little furry friends every weekend. Do you think that I deserve to live or die, squirrel? I'll leave it up to you to answer my question. I've been extremely kind to you and your rat friends. I mean, where would you be without me? starving, I'm sure. All you little rats rely on me for your winter stock pile of nuts and shit." ,Simon paused briefly, then went on a bit less angrily and accusatorily, "I don't mean to be pushy, my little furry friend. I apologize for the rat comments too. But seriously squirrel, what should I do? I have never experienced anything like the current situation that I find myself in, and damn it, t's my own fucking fault.Please little buddy, give me a sign r something so that I know whether or not my life will continue after today, or am I just a washed up piece of shit, egotistical know-nothing with no reason to go on?" ,Simon spilled it out to the squirrel.
At that very moment, the squirrel ran down the far end of the bench and into the grass. The squirrel made its way over to a tall oak, located about twenty feet behind the bench where Simon sat. Many of the oak tree's leaves had fallen to the soft turf below, forming a circular pattern around the outer base of he tree. The squirrel paused just a few feet before the base of the oak. Simon watched intently as the squirrel made it's way to a spot under the tree, on a shallow blanket of leaves. In Simon's mind, he still held out hope that something magical was going to take place and save him from the hellish nightmare he imagined ahead of him. The squirrel turned itself to face Simon and sat up on it's hind legs. Simon, now curiously gazing at the squirrel locked eyes with the critter. The squirrel, never taking it's eyes off Simon, plucked one big brown leaf up in it's front paw. Simon watched, now quite amazed at what he was seeing, noticed the squirrel nudge it's little brown head backwards, as if it were motioning to Simon to come to it. Simon stood at once, astonished. He immediately walked over to the spot on the grass and leaves where the squirrel stood. Simon looked down at the squirrel, which didn't flinch by how close Simon had come to it. Instead, the squirrel tossed the oak leaf in it's paw to the ground and dug with it's front paws briefly in the brown dirt at it's feet. Simon watched the little animal move aside a small bit of the earth. The squirrel finished digging, backed off, away from Simon, then scurried up the big oak tree. Simon's eyes followed the squirrel up into the tree until it disappeared into a hole, twenty or thirty feet above. Then, he fixed his eyes on the place on the ground where the squirrel had dug up the dirt.
"What the heck?", Simon uttered. "I can't freaking believe what I am seeing! Oh my goodness!", he exclaimed, with a huge ear to ear smile upon his face.
There in the earth, just below the surface, and uncovered by one of the neighborhood park's inhabitants, namely a little brown squirrel, lay a small black sack. It appeared to be just a tad smaller than a typical cell phone in size, with a black string of sorts, running through a hole made by the top of the sack having been folded over slightly and sewn to make the passage for the string. The strings purpose was to keep the little sack closed, but this little package was wide open, exposing to Simon, the treasure inside. Simon reached down to pick up the sack. With one fluid motion, from ground to pocket, he concealed the treasure.
Simon looked up into the tree. He waved to his furry friend, who he couldn't see, and let out, "Thank you!"
An hour ago, Simon's world came crashing to a devastating end. Homeless, jobless, penniless, friendless and depressed. He had never felt such hopelessness in all his life. For just one hour of his twenty-eight years of living, Simon felt like dying. Simon felt as if he were nothing and didn't deserve to live. A miracle had come, and Simon was grateful. So grateful in fact, that with the money he made from the treasure in the park, he opened a soup kitchen for the homeless and less fortunate individuals who deal with situations and circumstances that Simon could only have imagined during his brief destitution. Simon now donates his time as well as tens of thousands of dollars for the purpose of giving hope to the hopeless.
Simon bought back the house he had lost to foreclosure. He thinks about the squirrel and how a walk in the park helped change a young, selfish, egotistical know-it-all into a caring and giving freind, neighbor and hero to those in need. The End.