Bennie was a landmark in his own right. He’d been coming to the same park bench to feed the pigeons for years. He would shuffle down the park’s bicycle path and arrive at 6:45 every morning like clockwork. I could set my watch by him, and I did. I rode my old Schwinn to work and pretty much depended on him being there.
 
                  

I’d stop next to the bench and dismount for a quick breather. Bennie and I woud exchange our good mornings. He would finish his small coffee from the deli-–a little sugar, no cream–-and offer me the second muffin in the paper bag by his side, which I would routinely refuse.  “Oh, no bother,” he would say.  “I’ll have it later, after lunch.”
 
He would always ask how I was doing and I would tell him about the wife and kids and about the things I had waiting for me at work.  It was only then that he would tell me about his plans for the day, never before. His routine rarely varied.  A stop at Gordie’s for a little bologna and cheese, a nap at one o’clock, wake up and do the dishes in time to catch Jeopardy, maybe have that new ready-to-serve soup for dinner, and then a little walk around the block before turning in for the night.
 
“Sounds like a good day,” I’d always say. 
 
“Yep, a good day,” he’d answer.  “A good day.”
 
“Well, gotta get moving,” I’d tell him, climbing back on my bike.

“Yep, you get a move on, young man.” He’d grab a handful of birdseed from the bag and scatter it around his feet. “Sure wish I had the vim and vigor you do, riding that ol’ thing. I used to, you know. Yep, yep, yep. . .  course that was before Millie passed on. . . did I ever tell you about my Millie?”
 
“No Bennie,” I’d lie.  “I don’t think you ever did.”
 
“Here, have some seed,” he’d say, offering me the bag and patting the empty spot on the bench beside him. “Come sit a spell and let me tell you about that ol’ girl of mine.”
 
As I’d push the kickstand down and walk over to sit next to him I’d look at my watch. The office didn’t open for another hour.  Yep, right on time. 

                                                    ~

Photo courtesy of Getty Images 

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Published in: on July 23, 2006 at 12:59 pm  Comments Off on