|Alone in a Crowd (standard:other, 3114 words)|
|Author: Eutychus||Added: Sep 18 2003||Views/Reads: 1720/1096||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|During a weekend bike ride, a father and son pause to visit with a reclusive old man.|
“Hey Dad, what's that noise I hear whenever we start to go up a hill?” the son asked with an intentional tone of sarcasm. “That would be my knee, smart guy.” “Wow, you crack like an old man.” “Well this old man still has half his water left. How much do you have?” Dan asked and reached down to the carrier between the seat and pedals for the half full bottle. It had taken him two summers of consistent weekend riding to acquire enough stamina to consume fewer liquids per mile than his son and he took pleasure from the accomplishment. “Oh, a couple sips.” “You'd better use it wisely. We're still two miles from the BP station in Parkman.” “But you'll share, won't you.” “Oh I suppose so. But we better wait until we get to the top of this rise,” he said and shifted into a lower gear. The road between the circle in the center of the township and the traditional rest stop in Parkman was a series of long uphill grades followed by short, steep downhill runs. As they reached the top of the rise, they coasted to a stop and the bottle was passed. A moment later and a number of miles per hour faster, Dan flipped a few tablespoons of water at his son. The laughter and the coolness that evaporation caused were both appreciated. They took advantage of gravity downhill and coasted uphill until effort was again required. When they reached the next high point in the road, Dan found himself cautiously considering the house not far from the edge of the blacktop. Far to the east behind the house stood a small grove of very tall pine trees. He knew that among those trees also stood about a dozen tombstones marking graves and calling to memory a story associated with them. At a moment in time a century and a half earlier, a dispute over the execution of a will had resulted in a sudden need for three additional stones. Though the story he had learned in his own youth regarding the incident was by far more interesting, it bore little resemblance to the truth he had uncovered while researching some land records in the county courthouse several years earlier. Before he got the chance to mention the story to his son and thereby learn if the story had been passed in all its embellished inaccuracy to another generation, the subject of the empty water bottles was resurrected. “Do you think the people who live here would let us fill our bottles?” Michael asked. “I don't know if anyone even lives here, Mike,” he said. Over the years he had seen evidence of an occupant, but he had never actually seen anyone. It was as though the place was now the home of some sort of hermit who chose not to allow himself to be seen, and that assumption gave Dan a strange feeling about possibly intruding. “Sure they do. At least he does,” Michael said and pointed back towards the garden where tasseled corn and clusters of small, green tomatoes clung to their respective plants. “He who? Where?” “Right there,” Michael said and pointed intently. Dan followed in the indicated direction and suddenly saw an ancient man sitting where he felt certain he had looked a moment ago and seen nothing. He shook off a disquieting sensation, brushed down the hair on his neck and suggested that they get going. “Dad, I'm thirsty,” Michael said and started walking in the direction of the old man. Dan began to follow slowly at first and then more quickly in response to a possibly irrational fear for his son's safety. “Hey mister,” Michael called out, caring nothing for the ceremony that Click here to read the rest of this story (308 more lines)
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