A Speck of Green

dad-jeep-001[1]Steve drove down a lonely lane, a familiar lane, but not of recent familiarity. It was of times long 
past, from when a boy. There at the dead-end of the lane was a leveled pile of rubble. Trees, tall and stately graced and surrounded where once a house stood.
It was a reminder of good times, of pleasant times, of simple times. A time when he was the apple of his dad’s eye. A time before he father’s storm of doubt, failure, and rejection.
Beyond the trees and rubble was a newer home; ranch style and well-kept. Scattered in the nearby was construction equipment, a few sheds, a 250 gallon fuel tank and chained to it a barking pit bull raged.
Steve poked and kicked around the rubble of a vacant lot. He looked up as he heard someone approach from a nearby house. It was a man in jeans, and flannel shirt and holding a double barrel shot-gun.
“What ya doin’ here?”
“I’m Steve Gooding. A house stood here a long time ago,” Steve said. “It’s where I lived as a boy.”
“Didn’t ask for your name. Didn’t you read the sign, ‘No Trespassing.’”
“I was about to knock on your door,” Steve said. “But I wanted to poke around first.”
“Well ya didn’t and I want ya off my property.”
“Sure,” Steve said. “I used to live here as a boy. Before I go do you remember a cement bench that stood about right here?”
“Yeah, now get the hell off my property. I got equipment all over. If people ain‘t tryin’ to steal it they‘re siphoning my gas. Ole Spark will gnaw your leg off if ya try to get some gas.”
“If you give me a chance to find it I’ll buy it from you,” Steve said.
“That bench must be pretty important to you.”
“It just holds a memory,” Steve said. “It’s not much of a memory, but it’s my memory. When I was a little boy my dad helped me with a little project. It wasn’t much, but I remember it and it seems pretty big to me now.”
“How old were you?”
“I think I was 5 or 6,” Steve said. “Look, you can hold that gun on me if you let me look around.”
“Go ahead and look around. Damn thing ain’t loaded anyway.”
Larry extended his hand and they shook hands
“Larry Snyder,” he said. “Glad to meet you, Steve. Ahem, minus the shot-gun.”
“Go ahead,” Larry said. “Look around. And if ole Spark gets loose he’s more likely to like you to death. But don’t try to get some gas. He’s very territorial and he thinks it belongs to him. I got to give him a steak ta pump gas for myself. Take your time.”
Larry walked back to the house and Steve scraped away and probed with a 3 foot long 2x4. He must have worked near an hour. Finally he gave up and tossed the board aside.
Larry returned from his house. “Find what you were looking for?”
“Nah,” Steve said. “Needle in a haystack,” Steve mumbled. “Maybe there are memories not worth uncovering. Maybe that’s the lesson. Thanks, Mr. Snyder. I won’t be bothering you anymore. It was just an old bench.”
“From the looks of things I probably got a good twenty years on you, so I'm going to pass something on,” Larry said. “What you did here today was not look for a bench, but you looked for your father and that’s a good thing. Believe me, Steve, men are always looking for their fathers.”
“Yeah,” Steve said. “You’re exactly right. Thanks for sharing that with me. It helps me a lot. I’ll be seeing ya.”
Nobody ever comes down here,” Larry said. “It gets kind of lonely. Why don’t ya come over to my place. I got a couple of cold ones. Have a beer before you leave.”
“Sure,” Steve said. “I’m not having very much luck.”
“Maybe ya need to rest a bit and look for it with fresh eyes,” Larry said.
“That’s mighty nice of ya,” Steve said.
“Like I said I don’t get much company out here,” Larry chuckled. “Me and old SparkI scare a lot of people off.”
“I appreciate you letting me snoop around,” Steve said.
“Well,” Larry said. “Nothing is worth getting shot over, but you’ve worked for over an hour and come up with nothing’. Most people would have just looked around and left. That bench must be pretty important to you.”
“Just me and my dad,” Steve said.
“That’s important.,” Larry said. “It’s very important.”
The man ushered Steve to his back patio. On a small round glass patio table was an assortment of soft drinks and beer in cans.
“Pick your poison,” Larry said.
Steve picked up a beer and pulled the tab. “Thanks,” and took a drink.
“Have a seat,” Larry said. “I want to hear about your dad.”
Steve started to sit.
“No,” Larry said grinning widely. “Not there. Over there.” He pointed to the edge of the patio. There was the bench amidst and arrangement of plants.
Steve smiled. “That’s it isn‘t it?”
“Yeah,” Larry said. “That’s it. Have a seat.”
Steve sat and ran his hand over the pitted cement. He closed his eyes for a moment and he was there with his father. When Steve’s eyes opened it let go of a tear. Looking at the seat of the bench he was drawn to one particular pit in the cement that harbored a spec of green. He leaned close and blew away small particles of cement. He allowed his thoughts to escape the present and latch hold of the time he and his dad inadvertently placed that green speck on the bench.
“What is it?” Larry said.
“A speck of green paint,” Steve said. “On the day I remember my father and I sitting on this bench we had taken apart a toy jeep in order to paint it.”
“And green was the color,” Larry said.
“Yes,” Steve said.
They talked for a while: stories about Steve’s dad and the way things used to be when he was a boy.
Steve finished the beer. “I want to thank you for letting me sit here. It means a lot.”
“I’d invite you back,” Larry said. “But there will be no reason for you to come back. I’m giving the bench to you.”
“I’m not refusing,” Steve said. “But I owe you something.”
“I almost bulldozed that bench under,” Larry said. “And for some strange reason I kept it. I don’t mean to insult what it means to you, but I hate it. You’d be doing me a favor by taking it.”
“It’s a done deal,” Steve said.
Larry helped Steve load the bench into his truck and he drove away. In the review mirror was the leveled rubble of what used to be. In the bed of his truck was the pleasant reminder of a warm and pleasant summer day when there was nothing else to do, but for a father and son take part in a meaningless project.
Today Steve looks out his window and there is a bench that might appear out of place to the erudite observer. But to Steve it’s where it needs to be. It is the only place in the world for it.