The following is a short story I wrote about an encounter with an old man at a bus stop. I called it The Blue Umbrella.
. . .
"I've got room for two if you're interested."
I wheeled around to find an old man hunched under the shelter of a large blue umbrella. He wore a pair of thick glasses and a genuine smile. The steady rain was beginning to soak through my sweatshirt so I was happy to accept the offer.
"Thanks. That'd be great."
He put forth an outstretched hand and introduced himself as Ken Libbidy.
"Nice to meet you, I'm Luke Winsler."
I had to crouch down a bit to match his hunched height under the umbrella. The droplets of sky pattered on the pavement around us with peaceful rhythm. There's something sweet about a springtime rain that words aren't meant to describe. My eyes wandered over the bus stop's landscape for a moment as Ken asked where I was from.
"Born and raised in Baton Rouge. I recently moved here looking for a fresh start."
"Ah. To be young again.." he said nostalgically.
"I'm from Virginia myself."
Ken went on to tell me about his days as a medic in the Vietnam War, Pontiac Firebirds, woodworking, and his favorite soup. It was clam chowder from Mary Lou's Fish Market in Glouster, MA, which he'd only recently discovered 5 years ago. I told him I'd have to try it sometime. He was pleased.
The old man then took a deep breath, floated his mind into the wind, and touched back down to continue rowing down his thought stream.
"My father worked in an Industrial Plant down there."
"Worked as hard as a man could, straight through his last day on this place," he sighed.
"Yeeeap. That's just the way it goes sometimes son."
"You see they hired this new guy to work at the plant and he started under my father's supervision. He had very clear instructions not to touch a certain piece of machinery until he received his steel certification. And what did the new guy do? Well, he touched that piece of machinery."
The old man spoke with vigor. I was intrigued and pleasantly amused by the situation. I wondered what makes a man suddenly relive his past with a stranger at a bus stop. I guess it's just the nature of things.
Car after car drove by sending tiny waves of accumulated rainwater to our shoes. I had a fleeting thought that I should buy myself a pair of boots.
"Well later that day a hunk of steel shot out from that machine and struck my father square in the head. Knocked him unconscious for a few minutes. But damn he got right back up and started giving the new guy instructions like nothing happened, so I heard."
"That's just the way my father was. Certain men just don't change son."
He continued on with a thin grin of melancholy amongst an air of acceptance.
"Hhyeeeeaap.. Well, that night my old man went to bed and never woke up. Just like that."
A gust of wind pulled the old man's umbrella beyond my cover for a moment and added a few more droplets to my already damp clothes. We stood there in silence for a few good minutes, letting the melodies of the street envelope the reflections that silence brings. I watched as his thought stream traced it's way back up the mountain from whence it came. From the top of that mountain I heard the bus roaring down the street on my left. Ken began to fold up his umbrella.
"Been a pleasure talking with you Ken."
"You as well son, godspeed out there."
I scanned my CharlieCard and took a seat next to a middle aged woman who was blankly stimulated by a game of Bejewelled on her iPhone.
Ken took the first seat at the front of the bus and began talking to the driver about the peculiar happenings of circus clowns.