A Place Called Serenity; Il Vecchio Detto Chico (The Old Man Named Chico) - Part 3

A cart like Chico's

In time Chico was able to work in the garden again. He smiled more and cursed less.

“Da people day so gooda to me,” he said.

The sound of cicadas signaled the coming end to the growing season. The sun cast a different shadow. 
The pace of summer was passing. It is a signal to human and animal alike that fall is approaching and winter beyond that.

The last crop of the year was pumpkins. Chico placed them in his cart and pushed it to his spot and sold them. He and Doc turned down the garden for the winter.

Chico’s custom was to hitch his horse, a gray mare, to his wagon and move it to the city. His vegetable cart became a junk cart to pick up scrap metal along the city streets and sell it a scrap metal dealer. That was Chico’s winter job.

Chico took a day to inspect his wagon to ready it for the trip in town. His horse was kept in and adjacent field. He crawled between the fence and inspected her by running his hands over the shoulders and rump.

Early the next morning Chico hitched his grey mare to the wagon and with a snap of the rains and a few clicks of his cheek the wagon creaked and eased from its resting place. It was a crisp morning and snorts from the mare’s nostrils were like steam from a locomotive. Slowly it made its way past Doc’s.

Doc appeared on the front porch of his cabin in long-johns waving.

“Ciao, mio amigos, Ciao, mio amigos” Chico said to all. The wagon slowly rolled onto the lane that led from Serenity and then on the highway. As it passed by on the overpass the clip clop of the Chico’s horse was slow and lonely.

A couple of weeks went by. Dickie went into town with his Mother. They went to the Western Auto store. Dickie stayed outside and sat on a bench in front of the store. An old man slowly traversed the street pushing a junk cart. It was Chico.

Dickie stood at the curb waiting for him.

“Chico, Chico,” Dickie said. “It’s me.”

“Bambino Dickie,” Chico said. “Howa you doin’?”

“Good, Chico,” Dickie said. “How are you doin?”

“It’s a rough, Dickie,” Chico said. “I gotta geta go. Thees eez a tougha beeznesss. Lotsa competition.” He pushed by and smiled. “Seea you nexta Spring.”

“I’ll help you in the garden,” Dickie said.

“No can pay you,” Chico cautioned.

“That’s okay,” Dickie said.

Chico slowly moved down the street and flung his arm and waved.

It was a crisp winter morning. Snow hung lazily from branches. There was a knock at the back door of Dickie's home. His Mother answered. It was Doc holding a newspaper.

“Look here,” Doc said.

It was a picture of Chico’s wagon. A story accompanied the picture. The story read Chico had been discovered dead in his wagon.

Later that day all the children of Serenity gathered at the pond that Chico fetched his water from for his garden. The pond was frozen and a day of ice skating was planned. A fire was built on shore. There was little ice skating, but there was a lot of talk around the fire of Chico, his wagon, and garden.

One Spring morning Dickie watched Doc walk to the spot of Chico’s garden. He had a brown jar. From it he poured ashes.

“What is that?” Dickie asked.

“Fertilizer,” Doc said. “I’m planting my garden here this year.”

Dickie looked into Doc’s eyes. “Are you crying?”

“Yes,” Doc said. “I’m going to miss that old man.”

“But he used to cuss at you all the time,” Dickie said.

“Sometimes ya need somebody around ta keep ya in yer place,” Doc said.