“Revelation of an Old Man”

“Revelation of an Old Man”

A short story by Mike Michelsen

———-

It was like any old day.  I mean, there wasn’t anything new about it.  Just the repetition and the pitter-patter of a day going by like any other day.   The sun went across the sky as usual and the shadows moved to avoid its glare.  Its not that I’m complaining.  That’s just the way it was.

Edgar, as usual, sat on his favourite park bench, underneath that elm tree . . . or was it a maple tree? . . . I guess it doesn’t matter.  He sat underneath that tree with its shade covering him like a blanket.  These were the moments he cherished, away from the old folks home where he lived. 

“Bah, old people!” he’d always say.

He never liked old people.  In fact, he detested them. 

“Why live to such old age?  Why be a cripple? Might as well be dead.”

The problem, which he conveniently avoided, was that he had become an old man.  Seventy eight, he liked to think, wasn’t that old.  “You don’t get old til you reach 90,” he now says.  The problem is that twenty years ago he was saying, “you don’t get old til you reach 70” but now he’s past that.  He just couldn’t admit to himself that he had to keep pushing the age when a person gets “too old” upward and upward the older he gets. 

But, deep down, he knew the truth:  He was old.  His hair was white, wrinkles had grown deep into his face, his eyes seemed dimmer, walking seemed a chore, his fingers were bent  . . . let’s not keep mentioning these sort of things, they’re too depressing.

Anyways, there he was sitting on that park bench.  The bench sat in front of a school playground but when recess came, it became filled with hyper-rats crawling all over, screaming, crying, yelling, and doing all those sort of annoyances any old man should not have to take. 

“Bah, kids!” he’d always say.

He never liked kids.  In fact, he detested them.

He didn’t mind it when they were in class but oh when the bell rang – “the bell of misery” he called it – that’s when the agony began.  Out of the door a stream of screaming kids came out like wasps from a hive. 

“Why must anyone endure such things?” he always thought.

There were a few kids that he detested more than others.  They always came up to him and talked to him and called him “old man”.

“I’m not old!” was his reply.

He hated them.

There was little Nancy, with her stuffed dog, who always come up and hugged him.  She even offered, once, to let him have her dog – his name was ‘fuzzy’ by the way – so he would not be alone and grouchy all the time.  Naturally, he declined.  “What am I going to do with a stuffed dog?” he’d say.

Then there was Johnny.  Edgar got tired of him asking what world war two was like.  “My grandpa was in world war two,” he’d always say, “that’s the war before world war three.”  

Then there was Troy.  “That little brat,” he’d always say.  I must agree with Edgar that it isn’t nice to kick an old man in the shin and then run away calling him and “old bag” or shooting spit wads at him from behind the slide.  I think Edgar was correct in how he felt about him, he was sort of a brat.

There were others too, but it’d take too long to mention. 

But he endured them all.  It was only for 15 minutes or half an hour.  That’s not too bad.  He learned to endure the endless screaming noise and the continual ruckus that came out of that “pit of wolves” as he sometimes called it.  Everywhere he looked were screeching yelling little monkeys.  How detestable!  Then one would fall off the monkey bars, get hurt, and the crying would start – oh, lets not mention it – that was too much for Edgar.

But when the “saviour bel”, as he called it, rang oh a smile always ran across his face.  The motley mess that swarmed out of the doors swarmed right back in.  Then all would be tranquil again.  These were the moments he treasured.  That’s when life was sweet, away from the old people and away from the kids.  What more could Edgar want?   Life was bliss then.

One day, after being pestered by the brats and enduring their ordeal the bell signalled a return to the calm he cherished where he brooded on life and its pointless ways. 

“What is a man supposed to do nowadays?  There’s no place for old people – I mean, older people – nowadays.  . . . I’m not old.  I’ve got a ways to go yet.” 

One day, he heard a noise above him.  As he looked up he thought he saw something, or maybe he thought he saw something.  What was it?  Could it be?  A needle and thread that seemed to float in space, the needle moving back and forth in space as if mending a tear in an old pair of jeans.  It can’t be!   Must be his imagination . . . It’s got to be.

“Huh,” was his reply.

The days passed as they always do . . . normal days, the usual.  He brooded much as always, “lousy dinner they serve us here . . . how is someone supposed to stomach that?”, “lousy social security check . . . how are you supposed to live on that?”, “ . . .no one ever comes to see me . . .”  No one ever did.  He watched everyone else at the old folks home have visitors but not one has he had. 

Poor Edgar.  No one cared.  He always sat . . . alone.

He never married nor had any kids.  I guess it didn’t interest him.  What there was of his family lived in another state.   Sometimes he could cry, but he never did.

Brooding so he noticed he had a hangnail on the index finger of his left hand.  He had to cut it off.  He reached in his pocket and pulled out his pocket knife.  Unfolding the knife the newly sharpened blade seemed to shimmer.  Quietly he cut the hang nail off and tossed it into the playground. 

Right at this moment a pestering fly came about, flying about his face.  I guess it wanted to land on his face. 

“Blasted fly, your worse than the kids,” he thought.

With his hand, still holding the knife with the blade still outstretched, he made a motion as if to wave the fly off, but to his surprise a change seemed to happen.  He couldn’t believe his eyes.  The image of reality before him seemed to rip open like a cloth.  It was as if the playground, in front of him, was nothing but a painting that now, was cut, with the bottom flap hanging down.  It was as if his knife cut open the image of reality! 

In the hole that the tear created a blackness seemed to dwell.  A cool eerie breeze seemed to come from behind the torn cloth of reality. 

Then he saw in the blackness . . . a movement?  What’s that? . . . a voice? 

This is so strange.  There he sat on that bench under that tree staring at a gaping hole seemingly to hang in space, listening to what?

Leaning forward, he peered into the darkness and could faintly make out something. 

Trees!

“Huh, impossible!” he exclaimed.

He couldn’t help but look . . . this weird gaping hole was directly in front of where he was sitting.  He looked closer and leaned forward.  He got up, put out his hands and opened the gap even wider.  Looking in he could see . . . yes, there were trees, and some birds chirping.

Slowly he poked his head through to get a better look. 

It was dark.  A musty smell.   

He inched his head further into the hole till half his body was in, and then – whoops! – he lost balance and slipped.  He fell . . . fell into the hole. 

His hip!  His bones . . . did he break any bones? 

He lay there for a time, occasionally trying to get up but he just ached too much.  A fall hurts when you’re old, especially as old as Edgar. 

Laying on the dirt he looked up at the sky.  It was day but the clouds were completely covering the sky. 

He wondered what to do.  He layed there for a while . . . 10-20 minutes maybe.  Then he heard it – a humming, someone’s humming.  He could hear the cracking of twigs breaking under something’s foot.  And then . . .

“Gadnapid!  Another tear.  I just repaired this spot a few weeks ago.”

Looking over he saw a small plump man, maybe four feet tall, filthy dirty from head to foot.  His clothing seemed to be leather infused with grime and a horrible stench.  On his back was a footstool that he began to unfold.  Standing up on the footstool he reached in the bag he had on his side and took out a large needle, 12” long maybe, and some thread.  He proceeded to mend the tear that Edgar made with his knife, just like mending a tear in an old pair of jeans.

This seemed familiar, Edgar thought to himself.  This looked similar to what he saw some weeks before . . . the thread and needle that seemed to be hovering in space.

As the man mended the tear he hummed a tune.  Edgar never heard of such a tune.  It seemed eerily quaint, almost other-wordly. 

But Edgar lay silent, half scared and half curious. 

Soon the man was finished, folded up his footstool and was on his way.

“What was that? . . . Where am I?” Edgar finally said.

Edgar leaned up and stood on his feet.

Funny, he doesn’t seem to ache now.

Looking around he had no idea where he was at. 

“A forest . . . somewhere”, was all he could get out.  “I guess I’ll have to walk till I find a road and flag down an automobile.  What a nuisance.  An old man shouldn’t be doing this type of stuff.”

Picking a direction he walked and walked, through thick forests, through several meadows and jumping over a few streams.  It seemed endless.  He was feeling weak too.  It would be nice if he could have something to eat. 

He was getting tired too.  “I guess I’ll have to sleep on the ground.  This is no way for an old man to sleep.”

Finding a grassy area near a bush he layed down.  It was a little chilly.  “I guess I’ll have to endure the cold.  I hope I don’t catch pneumonia.  This is no way for an old man to be.”

In the morning he woke up aching.  It was a restless night.  He opened his eyes to see another overcast sky.  It wasn’t as dark as the day before but it was unusually dark. 

“What weird weather,” he said to himself.

Standing up he staggered and almost fell.  He knew he needed something to eat . . . and what about his medication?

He began to get a little worried.

All he could do is to continue on and so he did.

The hours were long, at least for an old man, and the place was just so dreary.  It seemed he’d never find a road.  He began to get hopeless.  There seemed to be no one.

“What’s the point?” he’d say every few minutes, “what’s the point?”

Finally, he could not go any further.  He sat on a rock.  Breathing heavily he rested.  He heard a bird chirp, then a couple more.  The water seemed to be singing like some grand choir as it rolled off the rocks.  Perhaps they were singing to him?  The chill, on second thought, wasn’t so bad.  It was actually sort of nice. 

Then he heard a noise.  Not just any noise but a peculiar noise.

“What is that?” he thinks to himself . . . “there it is again.  Is someone playing dice?” 

Sure enough, it sounded like dice being rolled on the ground.  It was there, up ahead in those bushes.  Looking closely, peering with his worn-out eyes, he could make out something . . . there’s something behind the bushes.

He gets up, infuriated by the noise, and marches to the bush.  Pulling it away he says, “Can’t you give an old man any quiet . . .”  He then stops and notices a man, wearing just a loincloth, sitting on the ground, completely oblivious to him, unresponsive, as if he never even heard him speak.   He’s throwing about 20 or so bones on the ground, then he picks them up and throws them down again.  The noise he heard was the ‘clank, clank’ of the bones hitting one another . . . so it wasn’t dice after all. 

As he sat watching him roll the dice the man suddenly says, “You need to see the winged one . . . the bones say.”

“Who me?” Edgar replies.  Silently he thinks to himself, “is he talking to me?”

“You need to go now, otherwise it’ll be too late.”

“Go where?  Are you talking to me?”

“There!” the man says as he points to a small mountain.  “Cave on mountain side . . . you see?  There is what you need.  Go now!” he says as if giving him a command.

Bewildered, Edgar stands perplexed.  Silently, he says to himself, “is he talking to me? . . .” as he turns and begins to walk toward the mountain. 

When he gets to the base of the mountain he stops and thinks how weird it is, as if an uncontrollable force is moving him to do what the man said.  “I’ve never seen anything like that,” he says to himself. 

“Oh well, I’m  here,”  Edgar declares, “I might as well see the cave.”

He glances up and squints.  There’s a cave up there all right, he thinks to himself, but how is he supposed to get up there, especially with his aging bones and aching muscles? 

“No, I can’t climb that . . . maybe 20 years ago.”

Edgar does what an old man can only do:  he sits down. 

Glancing up at the overcast sky he states to himself, “Good thing its overcast today.  It would be a blazing heat if the sun was out.”  Looking down at the ground he starts to fidget with a small stone with his foot as he wonders what to do.

After a few minutes a bird call comes from above making Edgar look up.  He sees a large bird overhead flying toward the mountain.  He’s never seen such a large bird before.  He follows it but has to turn around to see it fly behind him.  By this time, though, it has disappeared.

“Where did it go?  Did it go in the cave?” he wonders. 

He gets up and squints at the cave and slowly starts to walk up.  Zigzagging up the side he glances down and notices how high he’s climbed.  “Wow,” he says as he chuckles to himself. 

The cave is on a face of a cliff, almost straight up and down, but he notices that he can walk around to it on a rock ledge.  As he works himself around he notices the numerous trees at the base of the cliff.  They are so tall that they almost reach the cave entrance. 

Carefully he inches himself around and finally reaches the cave entrance.  He notices a coolness emenating from the cave that as if seems to come out to greet him. 

“Not bad for an old man,” he says out loud, feeling a sense of accomplishment.   He then peers into the cave:  blackness.  He listens:  nothing.   Then he takes a step forward, then another.  The only sound he hears is his labored breathing.  Once he notices this he starts to feel tired.  “Maybe I should sit down and rest?” he thinks to himself, “I’ve done a lot for an old man”.

But, for some reason, he takes another step.

And then, suddenly, a bird with arms outstretched, as tall as a man, comes toward him, as if out of the blackness.  It cries out:  “cal-cal!”

Edgar hardly has time to react when a great gust of wind seems to blast him, hitting him in the front with such force that it takes him off his feet as he flies backward out of the cave. 

The next thing Edgar knew, he saw the cave entrance fly away from him. 

Then the tree branches came . . . with a rip and a tear they began to take chunks off of his body.  Looking upward, as he falls, he sees chunks of his body fly past him, along with the tree branches flipping by. 

He falls and falls . . . a lifetime, an eternity . . . as pieces of his body are slowly ripped off, piece by piece, whittling him down to . . . a small crystalline stone, all that falls to the ground at the base of the tree.

There the stone sat.  Alone, the stone seemed to sit for days . . .week’s . . . months . . . perhaps even years . . . who can say?  For the stone, time seemed to of stopped.

And then, one bright sunny day, out in the distance, a singing was heard faintly, barely audible.  It grew louder and louder until:  “What is that?” a young boy exclaimed. 

Crouching on his four legs he looks closely at the stone. 

“Wow!”

Slowly he picks it up with his dirty fingers, examining its details.  He notices that one part is crystalline and that you could see into it, much like glass.  Another part was opaque with wonderful colors that seemed to glisten in the sun.  He places it in his pouch at his side, and trots off happily.

For months he would often take out the stone whenever he was alone to admire its sparkle, its colors, and look into its mysterious depth.  He fancied that it had magical powers and could do miraculous things.  For hours he peered into its interior trying to find its secret, its heart. 

Then, one day, he gets this idea:  “I need to save this . . . protect it . . . no one must know . . . I’ll bury it in that special spot under the tree by the stream . . . that’s what I’ll do.  Then it will be safe forever.”

In a folded napkin he places, carefully folding the cloth so it is soft and snug in its secret place.  Gently, he puts the folded napkin in a small wooden box.  Underneath the tree, with his bare hands, he digs a hole . . . not too deep but deep enough.  In the earths caress he place the box.  Before he does, though, he takes a quick glance around.  “Good, no one is there.”  Its his secret remember!

Slowly he pushes the earth onto the box covering its existence, hiding it from all. Satisfied he places branches and leaves on the spot to hide it.

“Now it’s safe forever.  Only I know.”

But out from the distance is heard:  “Edgar!  Edgar!  It’s time to come home.”

Quickly he turns, gets up, and runs back toward his house.  The small house was comfortable enough.  No one had any complaints, least of all Edgar.  He hurriedly runs into the kitchen to eat his lunch and then . . . he trots off, ready for more adventure. 

Today, he decided to walk the pathway that he has always liked, the one that follows the stream to a lake.  Thinking back on the stone, all safe and sound, he felt at peace, nothing wrong with the world . . . only he knows his secret.

As he passed by a big boulder, which stood about 8 feet tall, he heard a voice:

“You’re not allowed around here.  This area is strictly off limits” the voice sound hoarse and rough.

“You silly boulder, you always say that.”  There was something about that boulder he never liked. 

As he walked along he felt like doing something else but he couldn’t decide what to do.

Passing by the stream it sang to him:  “Edgar your thoughts are a dream, your thoughts are a dream.  Speak of easy things and flow down the stream.”

“Ah, maybe I’ll ask the stream?” Edgar said.   Stopping, he says, “hey stream, what shall I do today?  I just can’t decide.  How is someone supposed to make such difficult decisions?”

“Father Forest, I know, is lonely,” replied the stream, “Why not make a visit?”

“All right!  Thanks again.  You always have good advice.”  He trots off, walking into the dark woods. 

“But where is Father Forest?” Edgar thought, “he’s  always moving around so much that I never know where he’s at.  I need to find that special spot he’s in I guess.”

Sitting on a rock he listens.  Often, if he listens hard, he can hear Father Forest and find out where he is at. 

“ I think I can . . . feel him,” he says, but only barely:  he’s not sure. 

 Sitting quietly he waits.  In the silence he searches.

“Wait a minute.   I know where he is.  He’s in the clearing under that big tree where I always lay on the grass.  I better hurry before he leaves.”

Off he goes on a run. 

As he approaches the spot he can hear a deep sounding voice, “there you are little one, there you are.”

Edgar slows.  “Thank goodness, I thought you would of left by now.”

“I am here always in the forest.”

“But I never know where . . . the forest is so huge, ” Edgar replies.

He walks up casually to his favourite grassy spot and lies down.

Edgar asks, “You know, I’ve always wondered what you look like.  Isn’t that weird?”

“Why do you ask?  You see my face every time you look out into the woods and every time you look out I see your face too.”

“I suppose you’re right.  It’s just another one of those weird thoughts I guess.”

“Perhaps so, perhaps you are ready.  Maybe it is time.”

“Hmm, what?” replies Edgar lazily.

“Have you ever sat in the woods and heard a strange cry in the distance?  It’s one of those cries that unnerves you, seems to make you feel uneasy,” asks Father Forest.

“Hmm, I guess I have.  Often, I think I hear something but can’t tell what it is.  It has this quality that . . . uh, I just don’t know.  It just seems like there’s something or . . . a . . . something.  Oh, I hate it.  Uh . . . I guess I seem to hear it there in the woods.  Sometimes it scares me.”

“I would like you to do something for me . . . can you listen for that?  When you hear it, follow it and go where it lies.  Do you think you can do that?”

“Why . . . is the thing that is making that noise bothering you?”

“Perhaps so . . . just see what it is for me.”

“If I hear it.  I don’t know when that will be though.  It won’t hurt me will it?”

“Just see what it is.”

Later, while walking homeward Edgar was bothered by what Father Forest said.  He actually began to get frightened.  I mean . . . what could it be?  As he walked along every noise and creek gave him a start and creeped into his bones.   He felt so alone out there all of a sudden.  He felt he had no friends, as if there was no one there to help him. 

“I’m starting to not like the woods anymore,” he thought, and he hurriedly rushed home.  This thought really bothered him as he loved the forest and he loved Father Forest, with all his heart.  He felt so ashamed saying that.  When he arrived home, he ran into his bedroom, jumped in his bed and covered himself up.  Soon, he had fallen asleep.

Next morning Edgar was sitting on a big old branch of a tree.  Edgar loved to sit on that branch.  The tree, he was a melancholy sort, though, but Edgar liked to cheer him up. 

“Can you itch my branch there on the bottom,” the tree asks.

Reaching down under the branch Edgar begins to scratch.  “There . . . is that it?”

“Yeah, that’s the spot.  I don’t know why but that’s been itching since I was a just a wee-seedling it seems.”

“Well, we got it.”

Edgar lays back on the branch.  Looking up he sees the clouds through the leaves.  Occasionally, the wind would rustle up the leaves messing up his view of the wonderful clouds.  But he didn’t seem to mind that day.

“Hmm . . . that’s weird,” Edgar says suddenly.

“What?” asks the tree.

“I don’t know.  It’s just weird.”

As he sat something seemed to creep into his breast, an agonizing something . . . a feeling.  Edgar finally says:  “I don’t feel too good all of a sudden.  I don’t know what it is.  Maybe I better go home.”

On his way back he felt more miserable.  What could cause such a horrible feeling?  Maybe it was something he ate?  Maybe he’s coming down with something?

As he walked past a wooded area the woods all of a sudden became incredibly dark.  It seemed very damp too and chilly.  And there was a stench of swamp gas.

“That’s weird.  I’ve never noticed this before.”

And then, out in the distance, he seemed to hear a noise.  He got scarred and began to run home.  Unfortunately, a rock seemed to jump in front of him tripping his fast-paced trot.  He fell right on his face.

“Ouch!”, he  cries out in pain, as he grasps his knee, which made a collision with the rock. 

Getting up, and grabbing his knee, he looked up and saw a quick image of something above him.  What it was he couldn’t tell.   It happened so fast he couldn’t even make out any shape or what it was.

Unnerved, he stands up cautiously and slowly makes a complete circle, looking of any hint of whatever it was. 

Nothing.

“That’s weird.  Maybe it was nothing?” or so he hoped.

Walking or, rather, limping along, he went through the thick brush and into the clearing.

“What?  Why do I seem lost?”

Looking around he had this sense he didn’t know where he was.  Nothing seemed familiar, not even the mountains in the distance.

“Which way do I go?  I thought I always come this way?”

And behind him he heard what seemed like a voice and a breeze seemed to follow its breath, pushing his hair in front of his eyes.

With a start he turned around.

In the distance, in amongst the trees, he saw . . . a fire!

He stood there as still as a tree.  What should he do?  What’s over there?  What would make a fire in the forest?

He began to move toward the fire . . . slowly, step by step.  He was very frightened.  Step by step he inched his way over.  Hiding behind a tree trunk he carefully looks into the distance to see what was there.

And then:

“Curious are we?” a voice says to his right.

Edgar was so startled that he fell to the ground.  Quickly he gets up and put his arm around the tree trunk, as if it would offer protection.  His arms shook with fear as he tried to get a good hold of that trunk.

“Huh, is that all you can do?” the voice said.

Looking up in terror he saw a man with a beard, just starting to go grey, in leather clothes.  

“What?  Do you really think I’m going to hurt you?  Get up.  Get up.”  He grabs him by the collar and pulls him up.

“So this is what an Edgar is.”

“How did you know my name?” asks Edgar.

“How did you know mine?” was the reply.

“But I don’t know your name.”

“Yes you do.”

“No . . . I don’t.”

“Hmm.  Why don’t you come by the fire?”

 Sitting uneasily, Edgar looks across the fire to look at the face of the man.  An older man . . . 40 . . . 50 . . . graying hair, a beard that wasn’t short but it wasn’t long either.  His grey eyes had a weird mania look in them.  There was a look of hardness with him.  His skin seemed hard and rough like bark.

The man peered into the fire as if mesmorized by it. 

“Ah, the soft glow of those embers,” he says, “like a soothing caress of a mothers arms.”

Edgar looks up and crinkled his forhead.

“Do you see?  Do you see?”

“See what?” was Edgar’s reply.

“Look into the fire.  It’s not any old fire.  It’s my fire.  I made it and I keep it going.  I can look at it all I want and have any one I want look at it too.”

“Seems no different than any other fire I’ve seen,” replied Edgar.

The fire crackled.  A few sparks flew past Edgar as he began to get uneasy about who the man was and where he was.

They sat in silence staring at that fire for quite a while.  Occasionally the man would throw a log onto it. 

Then the silence continued.

Uneasiness seemed to drown Edgar as the reality of the situation hit him.  What was he going to do?

Looking upward he suddenly saw the stars.  It’s night time already!  Glancing to the man, as if to ask him what he should do, he saw him staring into the fire with that same like a maniacal expression.  Edgar decided to be silent.  Occasionally his head would droop in slumber but the man kept with his expression peering into the fire.

“Well, that’s enough for today,” he says suddenly and lays down where he’s at.

Edgar, stunned, looks around in confusion.  He noticed that, beside the fire and the man, there was a leather backpack.  Nothing else.

The man then lay down on the earth, next to the fire, and starts to sleep, without blanket, pillow, and in the clothes he’s in.  Carefully, Edgar imitates the old man and lays next to him.  What else can poor Edgar do?

The sun seemed to reach its rays out to wake Edgar that next morning.  The brightness was almost too much.  Putting his hand over his eyes he remembered where he was.  Slowly he looked and saw the dirt and the remains of the fire, smouldering wisps of smoke.  But where the man was . . . nothing.

Quickly, he got up, startled and confused, and quickly looked around . . . no sign of the man.

Edgar started to become frightened and felt abandoned when, out of the forest, he could of swore he heard a voice:  “do you not see?”

Spinning around he saw nothing.  Then he glanced down at the fire and noticed there was still a flame.  Grabbing some small pieces of wood he begins to make a fire.  Soon he’s putting bigger logs on it.  One thing the fire did is it comfort him, something he needed at that moment. 

As he sat staring at the fire, at a loss of what to do, he heard the fire say, “. . . and so what are you’re plans?”

“What?  I didn’t know you can speak.” 

“Everything speaks, it’s all a question of understand its language.”

“I guess that makes sense.  Maybe you know . . . do you remember the man last night who made this fire?  Where did he go?”

“That’s a trivial detail, one of those facts that really don’t mean anything.”

“Really?”

“Yes, now if you really wanted to know something of what matters you would of asked  what he was looking at or, rather, for.”

“What was that?”

“What?”

“You said what he was looking for?”

“He was looking for something?”

“You said he was looking for something?”

“I did?”

Perplexed, Edgar gave up.  “I don’t know what to do,” he says.

“Do you not see?” the fire says.

“See what?”

The fire remained silent.  Edgar began to look at the fire.  Fire, he thought, was really interesting, how it glowed and flickered back and forth.  What was more interesting were the embers.  They sit and glow like some magical light.   He sat and looked.  The mesmorizing quality of the fire seemed to entrance him, for how long no one can say. 

For a long time he sits looking at the fire, carefully keeping it going and sleeping at its side.

One day, he stands up and looks down on the fire.  He seemed to tower above it.  How long has he been here?  How old is he?  His voice is deeper, his limbs longer.  He feels different.

“That’s weird.  How long have I been here?  It didn’t seem that long . . . or did it?  But I’ve grown so much.  How can that be?”

Up above a small voice was heard, “Edgar dear”.

Edgar looks up and notices a small robin.

 “I’ve seen you here staring so at the bright embers below.  Years have passed, too many to count, and without a budge, without a stir you sat.  The fire enslaved and enveloped your life, made you numb from head down to your toes.  Days passed, seasons passed, many lives lived their great tempetuous sagas and fell silent, but there you remained.   Silent, calm, peering so.  We marvelled at the passion of your heart,” the robin said.

“Do you not see?” he heard from the fire.

“I think I now see.  After staring so for so long at the fire I can see that there are many different forms of sight.  My physical eyes are only one form but, oh, there are more.  There are the interior eyes that see the interior nature of life.  The sight that comes from these eyes, I see, is the truest sight of life,” said Edgar all of a sudden.

“It’s time for you to go,” said the fire.

Edgar felt content with that and turned and walked away, his direction he did not care. 

After an hour or two Edgar has an impulse to climb a tree where he finds a nice branch to sit on.  Looking around, he still cannot determine where he’s at.  He leans back on the tree trunk and hums to himself.  He notices a squirrel scamper along a branch next to him.  He leans up to look and the slips and falls off the branch.

Then he seems to hit something, soft like outstretched cloth.  At first he thinks this breaks his fall but then he hears the sound of tearing cloth.  Soon he has fallen through!

 When Edgar hits the ground he notices he’s back by the playground laying on the bench. 

Looking at his hands he sees that they are his old hands, bent with age and arthritis.  Baffled, Edgar says to himself, “what just happened?”

Noticing that its late he goes back to the old folks home.  As he walks in he hears, “Edgar, is that you?!”  It’s his friend Jerry. 

“Who else would it be?”

“Where did you go . . . to some anti-aging place?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“You, look younger.  You look very different.”

“Oh, I haven’t changed at all.”

“Maybe my eyes are getting worse,” replies Jerry as he walks off.

Later, many more people would remark on how young Edgar looked.  Getting back to his room, he had to look in the mirror.  As he gazed in the mirror the image seemed to be someone else but he knew it was him.  Sure, he was old but he looked young, sort of a youngish old.  Before he looked old old.  He couldn’t put it into words.  “I’m the same, but . . . different,” he thinks to himself, “I wonder what happened?”

The next day he sat out under that tree again.  He rested comfortably snug in its shade.  The tree seemed to talk to him as it shook in the light breeze.  He seemed to be at ease.

The bell rang loudly followed by the predictable swarm of little monkeys eager to play, yell, and laugh.   You know, for the first time, Edgar didn’t mind it at all.  For a few minutes he sat and watched the kids swinging and going down the slide.  And then a thought came upon him:  he never realized that he actually loved those kids.  He loved their play, their laughter, and such.  He never realized it until now.  That’s why he sat there.

And so, after a while, he stood up and slowly walked down to the playground and watched some kids swinging.  In a few minutes a kid yells out to him, “Hey mister!  Can you push me?”

He walks over and starts to push the kid.  Soon he was pushing all the kids.  And after that, he began to swing with the kids himself.   He began to compete with the kids to see who could get the highest.  He couldn’t beat Tommy, though, but he didn’t care.

Then he walked over to the slide and waited in line.  All the kids looked up at him mystified.  Finally, it was his turn.  As he spiralled down he gave a big “yahoo!” and laughed.

As the day ended he found he looked forward to the kids again.  He actually looked forward to little Nancy with her stuffed dog and the questions of Johnny.   He liked them both a lot.  But Troy, well, he’d like to slap him in the mouth and put him in his place.  He realized that, even this, harsh though it may seem, was nothing but love – a fathers love – to see that he becomes a decent person.  Troy only needed some direction and some disciplining.  He only wanted the kids to grow up to be descent people.

In the weeks that following he increasingly looked forward to that bell and playing with those kids.  He became so popular that one small girl called him “uncle grandpa”, a name that seemed to catch on.  He grew to cherish that name.  Soon, that’s what he called himself.

After awhile he didn’t mind going back to the old folk’s home.  He didn’t mind the food either.  More and more he talked to the people there and made many new friends.  “Old people,” he thought, “aren’t that bad”. 

One day, during the Christmas season, he sat and watched people visit many old people at the old folk’s home.  He was, as usual, left alone.  You know, he didn’t mind.  He didn’t feel depressed at all, but watched everyone else.   He watched and played with the kids too.  It became one of his better Christmases.

In many ways, he discovered that he had the best “family” of all . . . a good happy attitude and a good view on life.  Everything else just followed behind. 

One day, after play time, he was siting playing cars in the sand and says to the kids, “You  know, it took a whole life to find out what it was all about”.  None of the kids seemed to understand what he was saying.  Right then the bell rang and the kids ran into school.  Edgar got up and went to his room to lay down.  He felt a little tired that day. 

Sometime later, Edgar passed away in his sleep.  Everyone seemed to remark on how he seemed to have a smile on his face . . .

 ———-

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

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