The Man In The Park

A few months ago, I noticed a man in the park, sitting on a bench at the farthest end of the playground. I thought he looked incredibly sad. Then one day, he wasn’t there anymore. I wondered what happened to him. The following story is where my imagination went…

the man in the park

The Man In The Park

The papers said his name was Marshall Lemmick.  His neighbours were quoted as saying he was a quiet man who kept to himself.

He started coming to the park about a month ago. At first I thought he was just another parent watching his kid play from one of the benches in the shade. Eventually, though, I realized he was there alone. I admit, it creeped me out and I contemplated calling the police. He never did anything, never spoke to anyone. He just sat there, so what could I possibly tell the cops? I just kept a closer eye on Max.

Last week, Max and I went to the park like usual. When we got there, Max turned to me and said, “Mummy, the sad man isn’t here.” The sad man? “Yes, the man who sits over there all the time. The sad man.” I didn’t know what to say. “Oh, here he comes.” Sure enough, the man was walking slowly over to the bench. Max ran over to the slides.

Yesterday, Max had a tiff with one of the kids at the park, so instead of playing on the slides, we played catch. At one point, the ball bounced off Max’s hands and rolled toward the bench. Max ran to get it. He picked up the ball, and began talking to the man. I quickly approached the two of them.

“That’s a funny name.” I heard Max say. I smiled somewhat apologetically at the man. “Do you want to play catch?” Max asked. My heart skipped a beat. Please say no, I thought to myself. “No, thank you,” said the man. I hoped my relief wasn’t too obvious. “What are you doing here?” Max asked. I admonished him for being so nosy, but I admit I was curious to see if the man would answer. He did.

“It’s okay. I’m waiting for my son,” he said. “He’s about your age.” Max looked at the man for a moment, and for that moment, I felt like an outsider. “I don’t think he’s coming here,” Max said. “No?” asked the man. “No,” Max replied “I think he’s waiting for you at home. I think you can go home now.” My mouth was dry. I couldn’t say anything, do anything, but watch the exchange between them.

There was a silence then. It lasted for a heartbeat and an eternity all at once. “Thank you,” the man whispered. And I watched, stunned, as a tear trickled out of the corner of his eye, and slid slowly down his cheek. He stood, rather shakily, and looked at Max one last time. “Thank you,” he said again, a little stronger this time, and with a hint of a smile. Then he walked away.

The papers said his name was Marshall Lemmick.  His neighbours were quoted as saying he was a quiet man who kept to himself. His ex-wife was the one to find him. The service is tomorrow and he will be buried in the family plot, next to his son, Danny.


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