Walking, walking to the park. Passing an old woman with a little dog. The old woman, an old bag, in all honesty, coated as if it were still winter. How many more springs remain for this old bag? The little dog will surely outlive the old bag. And then what? The dog pound? Or the kicks of some resentful relative of the old bag? What was it the Preacher said?
For what befalls the sons of men befalls the beasts, even one thing befalls them, as the one dies, so does the other. So a man has no preeminence over a beast. All is vanity. . .
All is vanity. . .
Therefore, we must use the measure of discernment granted us by the Lord of All to apprehend as much Truth as possible from the world's lying vanities. . .
But today the sky is the pale blue of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the air is scented with fresh creation. . .
Walking, walking to the park. Cars drive past, imprisoning the lost on their way through their misguided lives. . .but that is their problem. I shake their exhaust from my feet. . .
Here come two joggers. . .middle-aged women in tights and sweatshirts. . .friends/neighbors encouraging each other in rejuvenating their clunky bodies? Perhaps they seek to find their lives in their flesh, but as the Apostle said:
Bodily exercise has some value, but it is small compared to godliness. . .
But let the dead bury their dead. . .today the reborn earth recalls the Temple of Eden, in which the Creator placed His image.
Walking, walking to the park. Oops! I stop. There, at the side of the road: a squirrel. The remains of a squirrel. Near its mouth a pool of raspberry-colored muck. A bright red death on a spring day. The muck of the squirrel, and the birds of the air chirping.
As I continue walking, walking to the park, I recall a saying of Jesus:
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. . .
I've wondered on this many, many, many times over the years. No saying of our Lord is more incredible, or requires more faith, considering the way life is dispatched so easily, carelessly, thoughtlessly, and in such bulk.
Our so-called *science* would tell us in the history of man 100 billion have died and returned to dust. Imagine how many billions were aborted, or miscarried, or died in infancy. . .
Mere blips. Blips of existence.
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
The mass of the dead, those mere blips of existence, and yet the very hairs of their heads all numbered. . .
When speaking of sparrows and hairs, was the Lord of All offering only a general benediction to the twelve whom He sent to the lost sheep of the House of Israel? Or is the Heavenly Father truly there, in the raspberry-colored muck of the world?
One answer or another only leads to more questions. . .
We see through a glass, darkly. . .
Walking, walking to the park. I breathe the newly minted air of spring as its gentle breeze whispers in my ear, but as I near the park entrance, I hear the cries of a child. A girl. I see now it's a little girl. Crying. Crying in the parking lot. I look around. Nobody. No adults. No one. The girl is all alone. A little girl crying all alone in the parking lot. No shoes. Wearing a yellow raincoat. Too big for her. The coat hangs well past her knees and the sleeves extend well past her hands.
There's a path in the park that loops around a pond. There's a bench three-quarters of the way that gives a nice, quiet view of the pond. I go there and sit in serenity. That's where I was headed. But this crying little girl, all alone.
All alone, except for me, now. I don't like this little girl, and her fate means nothing to me. But I know I am supposed to like this little girl, and am supposed to care about her fate, so if I just keep walking to the serenity bench, I will not experience serenity as my disregard for her will trouble my thoughts. So I will have to do something. I will have to do something so my thoughts are not troubled.
The little girl has stopped crying. She is staring at me. Most people don't notice me. I move unobserved through the world, my presence long since meaningless. I'd forgotten what a burden it is to be looked at, and this child's stare is heavy. Weary of it already, I sigh. But there's no other choice, so I begin.
"Are you here by yourself?"
The little girl nods.
"Did someone bring you here?"
"Was it your mother? Did your mother bring you?"
"Do you know where she is?"
And she starts crying, again.
A car enters the parking lot. A Jeep, really. Wrangler, I believe they are called. Two smiling young men get out. One of them wears a red t-shirt with "Mmmm" printed in big black letters on the front. Neither pay any heed to the crying girl or me as they make their way into the park.
"Your mother just left you here?" I ask the girl.
She nods as she wipes sadness snot from her nose.
"What a cunt," I gripe, more from the trouble the mother has caused me than for the little girl.
I pull out my cellular phone. I really don't like talking on the phone, but there's not much else I can do. I tap the numbers. Almost instantly, there's an answer.
"County 911, what's your emergency?"
"Well, uh, it's not really my emergency. I'm at Lillie Park and there's this little girl here, she's been left here alone, there's no one with her. She's crying fairly loudly."
"How old is the child, sir?"
"How old are you?" I ask the kid. She immediately stops crying.
"She said 'free,' but I think she means three."
"And you're positive there's no caretaker with her?"
I sigh heavily.
"The kid says nobody's here. I been here 5 minutes, she's crying, nobody's come around."
"Does the child know her address?"
"Do you know where you live?" I ask the kid.
She shakes her head.
"She doesn't know."
"Ask the child her name."
"What's your name?" I ask the kid.
She says something, but I can't understand.
"What?" I ask.
She says something.
"I can't understand what she's saying," I tell the 911 operator. "It sounds like she said 'Tylenol,' but I doubt that's her name." "Is your name Tylenol?" I ask the kid. She shakes her head. "No, her name's not Tylenol."
"I'm going to dispatch an officer to the scene. Where in the park are you located, sir?"
"In the parking lot, at the main entrance. Off of Platt Road."
"An officer should be there shortly."
"Do I need to stay?"
"It would be helpful if you could remain with the child until the officer arrives."
"All right," I sigh.
Now I have to wait. Stand here and wait.
The sun shines bright. It dries the earth. You can hardly tell it rained earlier. There's a worm on the sidewalk. If it doesn't make it back to the earth, it will desiccate. Spring. The rebirth. But death is never far.
The little girl is staring at me. I look at her. I look. Oh, no. Now that I am really looking at her, it appears she's not wearing anything underneath the raincoat. Maybe, hopefully, some underwear, but I can tell from the open buttons at the top, there's nothing covering her chest.
What a ridiculous situation to be in. Where are the cops, already? I feel a headache coming on.
"What cunt is?"
"Huh? Oh. Oh. A cunt?"
The little girl nods. She heard me. She heard me mutter that her mother was a cunt. I'm not used to people paying attention to me. Of course, she's just a kid, doesn't know I should be overlooked, doesn't know not all adults are noteworthy.
"Well, you know you have a hole between your legs, right? All girls have that hole, did you know that?" She nods. "Well," I sigh, "as some girls grow up. . .as they age. . .everything around that hole, everything from the toes to the hair on the head, all the bones, the muscle, the blood, the guts, even the heart and the brain, the engines of our thoughts, of our. . .being. . .everything becomes corrupt. Do you know what corrupt means?" She shakes her head.
I notice a man on foot entering the park. A bum. He's carrying a fishing pole and an old coffee can. Ha! Maybe he's trying to get a free dinner out of the pond! Fry up some tiny smallmouth bass under the overpass, wash 'em down with a forty ouncer. Anyway, I wait until he's out of earshot, then I continue.
"So, corrupt means rotten. Some girls grow up and turn rotten." The little girl doesn't seem to understand. "Like a banana," I explain. "Have you ever seen a rotten banana? It's bruised brown and black and it's brown and mushy inside. Have you seen a banana like that? A rotten banana?" She nods. "Well, some girls get that way. They become bruised. Their insides, their spirit and soul, become brown and mushy. They're rotten. And so one of the words grown-ups use to describe rotten girls is 'cunt.' Does that make sense? Do you get it?" She nods.
I've always believed I could have been a fine teacher.
This little girl looks like she's about to cry, again. Best to tell her the lie that keeps everyone going. Things will be better.
"The police will be here soon. They'll get you home and everything will be all right. I'm sure your mother just got confused or something."
"Po-lice is cunt," the little girl says.
Well, she's a quick learner, that's for sure.
I hear one of the porta-john doors squeak open, up where the trail begins. Out steps the fishing bum. He looks at me looking at him. They say in Paris, France there are some charming bums. They call them clochards. Our bums are not charming. Piss-stained liars, that's what our bums are. The bum looks at the little girl. Looks at me. A gutter look. Bums are like children, taking note of everything. But their minds are diseased. Everything processed in the trough. The poor fish that has to swim in his belly.
But here's the squad car, finally. Two officers get out. One approaches me while the other gets down on one knee to talk to the little girl. I tell my cop the story, he asks for my name, address, phone number. . .and that's it. I can go. I look at the little girl. And now what for her? Returned to her. . .returned to where she lives? To start it all over again? The circle. The millstone of life.
I look at the little girl. I wouldn't want to go back and start all over. Growing up is a losing proposition. The best you can do is survive, then get a job and labor for someone else's benefit. And yet, our Lord said that's exactly what we have to do, go back and start all over, again:
Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. . .
I look at the little girl. Should I say goodbye? But I never even said hello. I turn around and head for the serenity bench.