It was the summer before Godfrey and I met, he was very young, penniless, and wishing to sit under a shade tree and talk, for he would talk to anyone, talk of anything but beets. I have never actually been to the park where so much occurred, we do not get over to the mainland much, and his feelings were hurt for quite some time at being called, “A Nuisance”.  Stories still roll in though, all of them dear to his memory.  

Larry, “Free Advice Gentleman ” writes, “What turned Harriet bitter?, it’s not likely she was born mean, perhaps teachers hit her, perhaps her parents harbored anger over hard times, or Harriet was scarred by something nasty she had seen.   Harriet had a husband , he wore a hat and coat and had the same job all his life, left same time every morning, came home half past five, never spoke to me, when he walked the yappy dog that Harriet adored, in the park past where I sat neath the shade tree.  “Free Advice”, reads my sign, free advice from Larry, now and again I have my photo in the paper as a “Quaint old Nuisance”, or “Iconic Character of The City”.

One veteran reporter once even asked after Godfrey, he was a good friend to me.  “Godfrey would talk to anyone, talk of anything but beets, that summer neath this tree, Godfrey and his table were taken away, but old Myra Hughes and I chose to stay”.  “Mrs Harriet Bridges-Shlunder still complained regularly, but those in authority oft brought coffee and donuts to Myra and me”. “They even, now and then, accepted my advice, after all, it was free”.  “Harriet had a full head of tall, white hair, she hit her nephew Bentely about the head with a shoe, she had the disposition of a hungry polar bear, but Bentely did what his Auntie told him to.”

“We saw several generations of yappy little dogs, and years of Harriet yelling at us cross the fence from her groomed lawn, then came a day stormy, thunder, lightning, hail, and word that Harriet had finally quit complaining about everything and had passed on”.   “The dog was still walked, three times a day, not two, then one mid-morning came along a city work crew”. “They stood about and chatted, they measured the ground, left for lunch, came back and stood around, spoke loudly of concrete, bolts and size of wrench, five watched as two men installed a nice, new park bench.”

“We gave the bench a try, Myra and I, it was placed to face the tree, it was easy on the old, arthritic back, Harriet’s husband came out next morning, with power drill, and a brass plaque”   “I watched as he carefully bored four holes, and screwed the plaque down with glue and rivet, when he was done we crept over to look, it said- HARRIET’S BENCH- SHE LOATHED THIS PARK AND EVERYONE WHO SET FOOT IN IT.    ” It had not been easy for me, to accept Godfrey’s advice all those years past, and give up the Wino ways that had been ruining my life”. “But I did, and with pride I have lived to see a small victory”.  We used a flat stone, cement we purloined, and a “loan” of tools, in Scrabble Tiles spelled his name”. “We set our plaque higher, Myra judged that a Great Dane could aim, and if you wander through this park, rest on Harriet’s Bench a minute, look up into Godfrey’s tree, our plaque reads- HE DISLIKED BEETS- HE LOVED THIS PARK- AND EVERYONE WHO SET FOOT IN IT.

4 thoughts on “HARRIET’S PARK BENCH- As Told By Larry

  1. Thanks Mercy- A co-worker implored that I save Larry from derelict doom, to Free Advice Gentleman, the past two years, out my window I have been observing a bridge being built, what a saga, last week a cyclist fell into a trench. Harriet teaches us about choices, you are so right about her.

  2. Both Harriet and Godfrey teach us about choices, how we choose to live our lives day to day. Indeed I think that is Godfrey’s power; he was always true to himself and his choice of life. The idea of the contrasting plaques is so clever and perfect: Harriet’s earned my loudest snort of laughter, and here is my favorite tiny bit: “…she hit her nephew Bentely about the head with a shoe, she had the disposition of a hungry polar bear, but Bentely did what his Auntie told him to.”

  3. Thanks Janet- here I sit laughing. My own nasty Aunt, one weekend morning when I was about 12, there was a very loud stramish at our front door, Auntie had come all the way from Vancouver, marched into my brothers room and began wacking him in the head with her shoe, as he had quit school to go logging. She marched off home and we did not see her again for years, until a funeral, where she threw a gob of potato salad on the floor for her Dachsund, which was by then her only companion. My co-worker asked me to keep Larry alive and well, so he is, good advice.

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