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Friday, 26 November 2010

A True Story

By Steve Kemp

A summer day and it's raining. I visited my dying mother at the hospital this morning.

After the visit, I stopped by traffic court to appear for a parking ticket. It made for a good joke. Then on the way home, I noticed a very neat and strange series of events.

First, driving home from court, across the street I could see a mailman's cart rolling down the sidewalk, apparently out of control. The mailman seemed oblivious to it as he walked up to a house, sorting the handful of mail.

I was so curious that I decided to stop and see how far the cart would go before the mailman noticed that it was rolling down the hill. But by the time I pulled over, the cart had run into a tree and stopped rolling. Temporarily, I lost interest.

The car was now parked right outside a church that I been in once or twice. Now it seemed compelling and convenient that I go in. When I walked up to the glass doors and tried them though, they were locked.

Then I saw the bees inside. It looked like a swarm, lying on the floor there. A couple of them were clinging to the inside of the glass doors as if they might be trying to get out. Then I remembered seeing a swarm of bees the day before at the post office over on the next block. I fancied that I recognized a couple and this was the same swarm, driven in from the rain.

Well, here I was, locked out, but I thought that someone ought to know that the swarm was in the church. I went over to the church office and found a woman. I asked her if she was aware that there was a swarm of bees inside the church.

She nodded with a little smile and assured me that the exterminator had been called.

I was horrified and told her someone should call a beekeeper.

She looked at me bemusedly and we went back over to the glass doors. She seemed to be afraid of bees.

We both peered inside for awhile, then she turned away with a dispirited look. She sighed and told me she had seen enough to know that the exterminator had already come and gone.

I could still see two bees clinging to the glass door. They were moving around a little and one was combing the other, as if to comfort it. Now I could see the rest of the swarm inside, motionless on the floor there next to the exit. I thought of my mother. I decided to leave and went to get in my car.

Then I saw the mailman coming back up the street. He would push the cart ahead of him, up the sidewalk ten or fifteen feet, where it slowed to a stop while he delivered his handful of mail to two or three houses. By then, he had caught up with his cart again, so he would grab another handful of mail out of it and push it up the street again aways to start the cycle over again. This had been the mailman's plan, all along.

I started up my car and thought about my parking ticket: case dismissed. The joke was a good one. The judge was sitting up there dispensing justice:

"Uh, Miz Homier, you have a good record, so it'll only be $120.50."

"Mister Gomez, that'll be one year probation and $140.00."

He was generating income like crazy.

Then there was a man who was black and the judge started to scold him because his record showed another ticket only a few weeks before. The man denied it. This seemed to confuse the judge, and he finally said, "Okay, Mr. Robinson, please step down. We'll do a records check."

At this point, there was a man who was white and he stood up in the middle of the spectators and said, "Pardon me, but did you say Robinson?"

"Harry Robinson," replied the clerk.

"Why, that's me," the man said, and without another word, he moved to the stand to receive sentencing.

After the confusion, some courtroom wisecracker said, "It's a good thing it wasn't the death sentence." I thought it was very funny.

I reached to start my windshield wipers and wondered absently what the mailman thought of the rain.

The bees died.

Two weeks later, my mother died. She was much too young.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:31 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Powerful structure, Steve, and perfectly worded.

Wow! What a great story. I think that's all I want to say. I want to think about it for a while.

This is an amazing telling, Steve. I moved through so many levels of feelings while reading it. Well told and poignant. Like Marcia. I will be thinking of the images you shared and the feelings that your story liberated within me.

Gail said it all for me too. Powerful structure. Wonderful tapestry of observations.

Great writing..I think those days must have been tough to bear & it's funny/interesting how our mind protects us at times from distress by focusing on details..on another carefree day, you might have been walking faster or on your way to somewhere and hardly noticed your surroundings...you have that Alfred Hitchcock hand in your writing..great to read...
Mary Follett

It's been said - beautifully written and it leaves me with much to think about. Thank you for sharing.

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