Faye Sizemore

DAILY RITUAL

The old woman sat in the shade of the oak tree in the small park near her little home, where she had lived alone since her husband died, watching people pass by, just to pass the time.
The homeless man who used this park as his day room was seated in his usual spot.

The young man, in his running clothes and his Nike’s sprinted by at his usual time, turning his head as he passed the homeless man, so he wouldn’t see the extended hand… Said hand flipped a bird as the swift runner passed.

She thought to herself, watching them… “They are as different from each other as snowflakes.”

Matt, the homeless man, she knew was a Vietnam veteran… a decorated one at that. He used to sell used cars after he came home. He always worked late and had a few drinks after work.

She remembered that soon, work had taken too much of Matt’s time, too much time away from his drinking. When his wife complained he had just plain up and left and didn’t look back. Some folks are like that. Their demons keep them company and that’s the way it is… and it seems to be the way some of them want it. At least it appeared that way in this case…

Matt came here to the park during the day to beg for booze money for passers-by. He wouldn’t ask for food or clothes or a job but he would beg for money for wine because that seemed to get him through his nights…

The young runner worked in an office and lived in a fancy apartment near-by. He ran each day to keep in shape. He had a lovely girlfriend whom he hoped to marry, and he stayed in shape hoping to please her. She had seen them together often so she had surmised the rest.
The old woman didn’t know his name but she saw him everyday, at about the same time, and always saw the middle fingered salute from the old vet each day as the young gentleman went flying past.

Today she lingered awhile longer. The autumn sunshine was still warm and soothing on her old bones. Soon the chill winter would be upon them and she would have to stay inside more. Cold is not kind to old bones.

She wondered how Matt would fare. He lived outside all the time. She shivered thinking of how it must be to sleep outside in winter.

The months passed. Snow came, and settled, and she stayed home, the park waiting till a warm spring day, but once in awhile she thought of Matt and wondered how he was doing, out in the elements, where he lived… She had heard he slept in doorways, sometimes, to keep warm.

As always, winter fell before April’s sunny, rainy days, and the snow soon melted away. She set out for the park to warm herself and muse in the thin spring sunshine. There were a few people about, mostly children whooping and running, happy and noisy in the feeble sunshine…

Matt was nowhere about. He must have had other fish to fry, she thought. He was missing a great spring day by it though.

There was no Nike clad runner either. He must have gotten married after all, and his wife kept him home, in her company.

She never saw either of them again, but she often laughed to herself when she remembered the ritual of Matt’s hand out, palm up, the young man’s deliberately turned head… and the old vet’s one finger salute.

Some pass by… and some just sit…