One Thousand Words

I used to walk every morning, like I mean, every morning.  Rain, shine, snow, whatever I was out walking at about 5:30 AM.  I did this until I realized I was no longer doing it, it was a slow eventual tapering down starting with missing a day or two, waking up and deciding to read before work, or just sleeping in a bit longer.  Now morning walks are a rarity.

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I got out for an early morning walk a few days ago and came across a bizarre scene.  I decided to photograph it from a distance.  As you can see there is a man who appears to be struggling to get up, he’s fallen off his bicycle, or has he.  His bike is parked with a kickstand.  Are those crutches?  This warrants further investigation.

I approach the man and the situation throws another curve ball at me, he is missing one leg.  I can see that he is struggling, he  can’t seem to get off the ground, I approach with caution, “Hey, need some help?” I ask.

“No man, I’m fine,” he replies.

“Do you realize you are laying in the road?” I ask.

He looks at me like I’m the one who’s crazy, “Well yeah, I’m looking for treasure.”

“Umm, this is a brick road,” I reply.

“There’s relics in between these bricks, lookie here I just found a penny,” the man says and draws my attention to a black circle embedded between two bricks.  I bend down to get a closer look and try to pry on it with my finger nails.  I quickly realize that it is a nail with a very large head.

“That’s a nail,” I say.

“No it ain’t, it’s a penny,”  he says.  I look over the man a bit more, his hat is covered with pins proclaiming him to be a veteran, his shorts are tattered, and the foot at the end of his one leg is wrapped tightly in what appears to be a sheet.

“Is your foot OK?”

“Oh yeah, see I’ve been hanging out with a friend for about 3 days, and when I left home I was in such a hurry that I forgot my shoes, my foot got real sore and tender so I stole his sheet and wrapped it around my foot.” he explains with a laugh.   The man begins to frantically dig around the nail and pry on it.  I considering asking him his shoe size, I could probably give him an old shoe, but then what would I do with the other one, throw it away I guess.  I eventually decide that there is nothing that I can really do for this man.

I turn to leave and then he shouts, “Got it!” I turn around and see he’s pulled out the nail, but to my surprise it’s not a nail, it’s a sort of pin and it ends with a small loop around which a string is tied.  “See I told you, there’s good stuff buried between these bricks.”  The man begins to pull the string.  It seems to be coming out faster and faster, I realize that the string is actually buried deep under the bricks, he keeps pulling.  Frantically he begins to slide on his belly like a snake, as the string moves back and forth around the bricks.  Eventually the string gets stuck behind a brick.

Excited by the prospects of finding something I begin to help I move past the man and tug the string from different angles, it eventually breaks free.  Working together frantically we both tug and pull at the string as it unravels like a knitted sweater from the cracks between the bricks.  At last with one final tug the man brings up a tarnished golden coin with a hole drilled through the middle like the coins my grandfather brought home from Korea.  His eyes glitter with the dull reflection from the coin.  “I told you, relics,” he says.

The look of sheer amazement is soon gone from my face, the earth feels unsteady under me I hear and disconcerting creak and glance behind several feet.  The creak becomes louder then, snap!  The bricks behind us begin to break apart slide downward.  The man sees this too, the glory on his face becomes abject horror.  All too fast the bricks begin falling, where they are falling to I can’t see.  Like dominoes rushing towards us the road is collapsing, in an instant his bike falls into the nothingness below the road.

In a bid for my own survival I take a step and then leap off the bricks to the safety of the grass.  I turn to see the man desperately trying to pull himself towards me.  I reach out and grab his outstretched hand. I can feel the solid metal of the coin between our palms.  As the bricks fall out from underneath him I quickly realize that I’m no action hero.  I can’t hold on, doing so would only pull me with him into the blackness below.  I release my grip, and quickly squeeze my hand closed grasping the coin tightly.  The look in the man’s eyes as he fell and was swallowed by the blackness is something I’ll never forget.  He knew I’d betrayed him, he knew I held the relic in my own hand as he plummeted to the unknown.

The bricks continued to fall for a just a second more then stopped.  I guess that’s why they quit building roads out of bricks, I thought to myself.  I realized the string was still connected to the coin and pulled up the slight weight dangling from the other end.  In a short time I held the item the other end was connected to, “Hmm, a lynchpin,” I said out loud.

Not everything in this story is true.

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About Matt Gholson

Cycling, school teaching, husband.
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5 Responses to One Thousand Words

  1. Arend says:

    Splendid!

  2. Moe says:

    You had me for a bit. Then I thought….. wait just a damned second…

    Nice job!

  3. jc wise says:

    gholson the entertainer! now you bee a novelist.

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