The Letter O

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Mr Brealey hobbled through the familiar paths of his town park as he did nearly every morning. The park was deserted in these early hours, but he had a long habit of feeding the park's pigeons, and he did so as often as his body allowed him to. Unless it was raining. His bad hip wasn't keen on any adventures in the rain, and the pigeons didn't enjoy those gloomy days either, since wet wings are difficult to fly with. So, they made a mutual agreement to skip the rainy days, or at least that is what Mr Brealey believed. But he did come very often. Not because the pigeons actually needed to be fed, but because they were his morning companions, who ate the familiar man's food because their instinct led them to do so.

There was never anyone around to accompany Mr Brealey on his walk. Over the years he managed to convince himself that he preferred it this way. The silence became comforting, and it drew out memories from good times long ago. Memories that were beginning to lose their detailed images more and more each time they were recollected, as he strolled the park in silence. Complete silence.

His wife never understood his love for pigeons, but she remained supportive of his morning walks throughout the years until she passed away. The rest of his family seemed to have forgotten him altogether. The occasional promise of future visits was always accepted with a small nod in the telephone handset, even though he had learned by now never to expect a knock on the door.

But today, unlike so many of the other days, would turn out to be a little different, because the bench that Mr Brealey usually sat on to feed the pigeons was now occupied by a young man.

Mr Brealey approached the bench with a little caution, still intending to feed the pigeons from the same spot so as not to break his well-developed routine. The young man was wearing a suit and eating a poorly stuffed sandwich.

"Morning," said Mr Brealey. "If you don't mind, I sit on this bench every morning and I would like to do so today as well."

"Oh, sure!" said the young man, and moved to the other side of the bench so that the old man could sit down. Mr Brealey took his usual seat, although a little more to the left, removed his hat, and prepared the plastic bag of seeds for the pigeons.

He glanced around and was disappointed to find that the pigeons hadn't immediately come to his bench as they usually did. They huddled together in the trees, and were giving the young man weary sideways looks, much the same as the look on Mr Brealey's face. He could see them eyeing up the seed bag from a safe height, but none would yet dare to approach. As is the case with most of life's adventures, it always takes one silly bird to jump into potential danger first before everyone else follows suit. Mr Brealey wasn't happy about this, but there was no good reason to ask the young fellow to leave. Benches have an awful trait of attracting unwanted company, and no freedom of getting rid of said company if they prove to be disappointing.

"So, what is the name of the fellow who is scaring my pigeons?"

The young man didn't expect a conversation to start between the two, although old people had a habit of freely starting conversations without being prompted to do so, and he certainly wasn't expecting it to start in the middle of a sandwich bite.

"Shom."

"Shom?"

The young man swallowed a dry piece of bread. "Tom."

"Oh yes, that does sound more like a real name when you aren't salivating all over it."

This is why he didn't like it when old people started conversations uninvited.

"And what's the name of the man who interrupted my salivating and sitting alone on my bench, contemplating life?"

Mr Brealey looked at the young man and thought him a little scruffy, a little rude, and in perfect sync with his ego. A 21st century child.

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