The homeless man sat on the bench all day in his sleeping bag and raincoat. He never moved, save to find food and relieve himself, and at night he lay down on the bench and slept soundly, not waking even when people walked past him. Ever so often someone would notice his constant presence and enquire of him “Sir, why do you always sit here and never move? You have no job, no home, no responsibility. You could go wherever you want.” And he would smile at them, tilt his head slightly and say “Why go anywhere, when all I want is here?” and, perplexed, the intruder would walk on, mulling over his words. The homeless man would sit back on his bench, quietly content.
One day a small boy went walking past carrying a balloon. Spying the homeless man, he stopped and stared unashamedly. The homeless man stared back. The boy walked slowly closer and then sat down next to him.
“Hi,” he said “I’m Jack Duggart. Who’re you?”
“My name is Eric Harding.” the homeless man replied.
“Why do you always sit here? Don’t you have a house?”
The homeless man smiled slightly.
“No,” he said “This bench is all I have.”
“Oh.” said the boy, thinking for a moment. “Would you like this balloon?”
He held out the balloon to the homeless man and it swayed lightly in the breeze. The homeless man’s smile widened, and became a laugh.
“No, thank you.” he said, “Everything I want is already here.”
“Oh, okay.” said the boy, standing up. “Well, I better go. Nice to meet you Eric Harding.” The boy ran off then, his balloon trailing behind him.
“Nice to meet you Jack Duggart.” answered the man, to himself.
Many years later Jack Duggart returned to his childhood home once more. He walked along his old routes to school and back, remembering so many things he’d thought forgotten. But it was the sight of the bench that brought back the memory of the old homeless man. The bench however, was empty, but next to it was now another bench fashioned in a similar style. Jack walked slowly over to them and sat on the first one, as he had once before, remembering. The homeless man had nothing, and yet he had claimed to have everything he wanted right here? Jack was puzzled, and he turned to lay down on the bench to contemplate. In doing so he noticed something on the seat; a small gold plaque. Sitting up he stared at it closely. It was worn and the writing on it had almost disappeared, but after rubbing it with his sleeve he managed to read it. It said “Rachel Harding 1974 – 1999”. Getting to his feet, Jack walked quickly over to the second bench, which had a similar plaque attached to it. Already knowing what it would say, Jack read it; “Eric Harding 1972 – 2009”. Jack left quickly and returned three minutes later. He tied the balloon he had just bought to the second bench, smiled to himself, and went on his way.