Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The old man

This is a story I wrote for a story-writing competition. I won the first prize and I'm very proud of it. I think it's my best story till date :D

The old man sat in the park waiting and waiting. Waiting for someone. Hoping they would come.

Who was he? Why was he sitting there in a ragged overcoat, patched trousers and checked cap staring straight ahead with his hands clasped in his lap?

Well, that man was Jim Herriot, a leading surgeon of his time. He was a contented man. He had a beautiful wife, a lovely daughter, a lavish house and a flourishing career. He had everything a man ever wanted. But everything changed on New Year’s Eve. His wife and daughter were driving back home from a party to meet him and they were going to spend a quiet time together. Then, his wife’s car was involved in an accident with a drunk truck driver. His wife died instantly and he was left battling to save his daughter’s life in the operating room. Jim was fighting a losing battle against death. His daughter died in his arms

Jim had lost everything that meant the most to him. The funerals passed in a haze. He withdrew into a shell. He lost his job. He was thrown out of his house. Then Jim made his home on the park bench. In his own world, waiting for his lost family.

People passed by him everyday. Most of the time they were so preoccupied that they didn’t notice that old man. Some people looked at him, smiled and waved. Some people dropped a few coins at his feet. Some people gave him disgusted looks, wrinkled their noses and walked or jogged away. Some people also sat next to him and tried talking to him but Jim was oblivious to everything. He just sat there, lost in memories of his family. Nothing else mattered. Jim was like a figure frozen in time, unmoving and unspeaking. Years passed.

But one day something happened. A tiny puppy nestled up to Jim’s feet and something stirred in the old man’s heart. He bent down and picked up the puppy. He stroked its soft fur and for the first time in many years he smiled. Months passed and the puppy grew into a dog which sat at its master’s feet with love and loyalty in its eyes. Occasionally Jim would come out of his stupor and stroke the dog’s head and then retreat into his shell again. Maybe, just maybe things had changed and Jim’s life was going to get better. Still, God did not want it that way. Jim died sitting right there on the park bench. The dog now sat waiting...

Park officials came and buried Jim in the nearby cemetery. The dog was adopted but it didn’t live very long.

Some people still say that they see an old man sitting in a ragged overcoat, patched trousers and checked cap staring straight ahead with his hands clasped in his lap. But no one realized that Jim Herriot had reached his destination. He had rejoined his family up there. Even his dog was with him. Jim Herriot’s wait was finally over.

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