A Swinger of Birches

birches 3

A young woman had once told him he was mad “but in a good way” when near midnight he tried to board a wooden ship docked in Stockholm. Aged Tibetan monks being guided by female assistants in the metropolis had more than twice stopped in their tracks and run a finger across his brow. “Good forehead lines,” he had been told slowly and carefully by them, and then they moved along on their way. A local painter he painted houses with one season for 10 dollars an hour as a grown man believed and joked about his being a millionaire and that he was just doing this for a little fun in life. (Little did he know the truth of his gratefulness for this job and his boss’ good humor on the ladder beside him.) One of the brass numerals of an older woman’s street address across the road from him had fallen off and he nailed it back in with a tiny hammer and brass escutcheon pins he got at the local hardware store; they became fast friends ever since. A lady he had dined with remarked, after he was done chatting with the blond waiter about mechanical engineering and how he had been told by the young man that soldiers broke their steps when marching across a bridge, that people seemed to like him. When he saw men driving their chrome yellow Hummers passing him on the road in the opposite direction that he was going, he had ceased to give them the middle finger and, if he could roll down his window fast enough to project in a flash to them the socially shaming Facebook thumbs-down sign with his real hand’s left thumb pointing down, he was happy to do that. He was hardly perfect but he was becoming lighter. He could still hear Pieter crying after him in his memory, after Pieter had dined and wined him night after night for nearly a week in Amsterdam many years ago, “Rudy! Rudy!” but, having already turned his back on the old gentleman and walked away some twenty paces, he never became his lover. Indeed, he had already walked alone and seen so many human things there are to see, he knew that one day soon, he would be forever closing his eyes before the quiet face of God.

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