Stan’s Park

This is a work of fiction. A short story of 1500 words.

Stan switched off the TV after the weather forecast. Set fair for tomorrow, which was good news to him. That meant a day at the park, the one thing he liked best. Living in a tiny flat with no outdoor space might have seemed awful to many people, but the park was just across the road, and offered so much more than any garden ever could have.

He had played in that same park as a youngster.
He had watched out for the grumpy park-keeper, always telling them off for something.
Walked hand in hand there with Valerie, when they were courting.
Sailed toy boats with Tim on the lake.
Pushed Emma in the swings, and spun her on the roundabout.
Family picnics on hot days, buying ice-creams from the van in the car park.
Years later, he had walked Bonnie there, always careful to keep her on a lead.

But it had changed since his schooldays.
No more park keepers, just an occasional van patrol.
And Valerie had been gone almost eleven years now.
Tim had been lost in the Falklands. His photo and medal displayed on the wall.
Emma was in Australia, with the two grandchildren he had never seen, except in photos.
Nobody had real picnics anymore; just fast food, wrappers discarded on the grass.
Bonnie was no more either, and Stan hadn’t the heart for another dog.
The house had gone next. Too big for one now, and it gave him some savings.

Winters were long and dull. Park benches too wet to sit on, and nobody to watch as he sat in his usual spot. Summer was Stan’s time. He could move around the large space; watch the football games, the kids splashing in the lake, and the older ones on the tennis courts, inspired by Wimbledon on the telly. Teenagers cuddling on blankets, loners sitting reading, joggers and serious runners pounding past, toddlers trying to learn to ride bikes with stabilisers. The whole world was there for the watching.

If he had some old bread, he would wander over to feed the ducks. On a good day, a brave squirrel might take nuts from his hand. The pigeons always fluttered around when he ate his sandwich. They had got used to him at the same spot, and seemed to sense his arrival, as he reached into the old duffel bag for his lunch. The park closed at dusk, so that varied throughout the year. Not long ago, Stan would have been there until closing, spotting the van arrive, with the man getting ready to padlock the gates. But he couldn’t stay so long now, not since they closed the toilets. Local gossip was that men used them to fiddle with each other. But Stan used them all the time for calls of nature, and he had never seen anyone fiddling with anyone else in them. So now when he needed to go, he had to go home.

He was up early, pleased that the sun was out, and the sky blue. Some time was spent on polishing his shoes. His old Dad always told him that clean shoes were the mark of a man, and Stan had never forgotten that. It took a while to adjust his hearing-aid. No point going out if he couldn’t hear anything. After making his sandwich, and pouring some tea in his flask, he put the things in his bag, and checked himself in the hallway mirror. Tie done up, trousers pressed, and hair combed. He was ready to face the world.

Walking through the distinctive iron gates, he felt right at home, ready to spend another day in his park. He always thought of it as his park, and the others that used it were just passing through, as far as he was concerned. Making his way through the rose garden, he stopped to admire some blooms. The soil looked dry, and Stan thought they could do with a good watering. His first stop was a good bench on the main path. This gave him views over at least a third of the park, and was close enough to some trees to get the shade too. Despite the weather, there were not many people around. But he would bide his time. It was the school holidays after all, so Mums would soon be out with their kids, and the ice cream van would be as busy as ever.

He sat for a long time, thinking about Valerie, and those grandchildren he might never see. But when nobody appeared nearby, he moved over to the fenced-off sports area. He would have his lunch on the bench nearby, see if anyone was playing football or basketball in there. Halfway through his sandwich, some older kids arrived, and went through the gate to play basketball. Stan had never played basketball. In his day, it had been football and cricket. But he had seen it on telly, The Harlem Globetrotters. These boys and girls were good, especially one tall girl. She seemed to float across the tarmac, and never missed the basket. He put his sandwich down to clap her fourth success, but they didn’t look round. Didn’t even seem to notice he was there.

Lunch over, and tea finished, Stan moved again. A long wander down to the play area, where there were sure to be people around the sandpit. It was different to when he had played in the sand there. Now there were things to climb on placed on the sand, and nobody seemed to bring buckets or shovels anymore. He wondered why they bothered to even have sand in it, other than to break the falls of the kids. The Mums didn’t bother to show them how to build sand castles, or half-bury them in the sand, like his Mum used to. They sat on the concrete wall surrounding it instead, mostly looking at their phones, or gossiping as they smoked cigarettes. They weren’t supposed to smoke there, but there was no park keeper to tell them off anymore.

After an hour or so near the sandpit, Stan needed to pee. He thought he had better get started for home, knowing exactly how long it would take him to walk from there to his flat. He had never had an accident yet, and he wasn’t about to start now. It was the water tablets of course. The tea went through him a lot faster these days. He retraced his steps past the ball court, and turned right onto the main path. He could see the gate in the distance, so was sure it would be fine. Before he got to the gate, Stan was surprised to be stopped by some men in uniform. He respected uniforms and authority, so stood still, when asked to do so.

One of them identified himself as a police officer. “I am constable Warren, Sir, and I need to ask you some questions. This is the park warden, and he is concerned about your behaviour”. Stan was confused. Why was he being stopped? And why was a policeman here? The policeman continued, “Can I take your name and address please, Sir?” Stanley was a law-abiding citizen, and replied immediately.
“Stanley McFarland, 116, Park View.” The officer wrote the details on his notebook, then asked with a stern look. “Do you know why I am stopping you, Stanley?” Stan was still confused.”No I don’t officer, and I have to tell you, I need to pee. My flat’s just there, opposite the pedestrian crossing. I really need to go”. The officer ignored his reply, and continued. “Stanley, you have been seen watching teenagers at the basketball court. Then you went to watch small children playing at the sandpit. Does that sound about right?” His tone was unmistakable, slightly aggressive, and no-nonsense.

Stanley shrugged. “I am here every day, officer. I just sit in the park, and watch what goes on. It gives me something to do.” The park warden smiled, and turned to the officer. “See, I told you, most days, without fail. Watching the little ones, and staring.” Officer Warren turned back to Stan. “Look, if I were you, Stanley, I would find something else to occupy my time, OK?” We don’t need any old men walking around watching small kids and teenagers, do we?” The park warden leered at Stan. “Leave them alone, old man. We don’t need people like you in this park, do we?” Officer Warren was kinder. “Look, on your way now. Find somewhere else to hang around, and don’t let me get called back to you in future, alright?”

As Stan nodded, he felt the flow of the warm urine enter his underwear, soaking into his trousers. The park warden chuckled, “If I was you, I would change my trousers when I got in, old man”. As Stan pressed the button of the pedestrian crossing, he could no longer control the tears that flowed freely down his cheeks.

59 thoughts on “Stan’s Park

    1. Not everywhere of course, Robbie. But there are enough examples of incidents like this to justify my reasons for writing it. When I worked for the police in London, we often got reports of ‘old man watching children’. These were often in huge parks, like Hyde Park, or Regent’s Park. Some old guy resting by the boating lake would be approached by police, have his details recorded, and his name checked against police records, then be advised to ‘move on’.
      In some places, people have become so obsessed with ‘child safety’, that they have forgotten they will one day grow old.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  1. As I started reading your story, I was delighted that I’d found time to read it. (I’m still pleased to have read it of course!) This very morning I was making a regular phone call to my very elderly ex-mother-in-law with whom I still have an excellent relationship and she was telling me that she was about to set off for her local park, where she loves to watch the comings and goings. She was telling me all about the youngsters who have rugby training on a Sunday morning. I listened and thought to myself about the possibility of a short story here… It was a very odd feeling as I began reading yours, Pete!

    Such a poignant story though; Poor Stan! It’s the hallmark of a good tale when your audience believes your character to be real – and how I felt for this poor gentleman. I feel genuinely sad and want to rush out and help him! Bittersweet writing πŸ™‚

    (My ex m-i-l is not quite as alone as your Stan, though the coincidences do continue. Like Stan, she lost her spouse a little over 11 years ago. Like Stan, she lost her elder son some years before that (and his children have no contact with her at all). Her younger son – my ex – now lives in Australia.

    Thankfully our children – her 3 grandchildren plus her 2 great-grandsons are still within reasonable distance and she does see them and gets much pleasure from that. Plus she has me on the phone for what that’s worth. Nonetheless, we all recognise that she is still often very lonely.)

    Apologies for the ramble!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No need to apologise, Sandra. The coincidences are indeed remarkable. Of course, it is more usual for a widow to be the one left alone, so I tried to imagine it the other way round. It is unlikely that anyone feels threatened in the same way by an old lady doing the same things as Stan, but that almost illustrates my point. Why pick on every lonely old person, because of the actions of a very few, and why assume that any old man is necessarily a sexual predator?

      Understanding the social problems of old age is something we should all give more thought to. It is something most of us will live long enough to experience for ourselves. I am very pleased that you connected with Stan in this story. It is rewarding for me to hear that.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The same thing occurred to me, Pete: a little old lady (literally) will not be regarded in the same way as a solitary elderly gentleman. Thanks for a thought-provoking tale πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You really have to be careful these days. We used to have small children living next door, and one day they came to my door, and I bought some cookies. But when I waved to them a few days later, the parents came out and said for me to stay away from them. Huh? So your story struck a chord.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Kinnii,
      It takes time and commitment to become part of such a good community of bloggers. And when so many are happy to read, comment, and interact, that is indeed a delight.
      Best wishes from England, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I often think it is an overreaction to a situation that doesn’t really exist. Parents and authority figures operate on the ‘prevention theory’, that by excluding so many lonely old people, they reduce the chances of anything bad happening. That makes children suspicious of people on their own, and the vicious circle continues. Yet many youngsters denied mixed company seek contacts online that are actually very dangerous. Sad indeed.
      Best wishes, Pete

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a sad tale Pete. Highlighting how the world has changed and how much distrust there is. Perhaps Stan should have stayed to the one bench and taken a newspaper or book to read, then no-one would have pointed a finger at him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sad that he should have to be denied the company, albeit vicarious. Stan goes there to watch people, and to enjoy seeing children have fun, because he has no family close by, and has not seen his grandchildren. I see many single men and women (without dogs) on my dog walks, and they sometimes watch the children playing on the swings, or try to chat to any passing dog-walkers. I can feel their isolation, but many of my neighbours regard them with suspicion. So many people get put into ‘boxes’ these days’, and then just ignored.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Isolation and loneliness is often experienced by people who have lost a partner and been married for a very long time. My father was unable to cope on his own after 50 years of marriage. He lost enthusiasm to do anything and retreated into himself. Very sad.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. I’m hoping I am resilient enough to live alone if the case arises, and have enough to keep me happy, but I do not have friends (moving so much isolates you) and I am not a joiner, so who knows what’s in the future. Your experiences certainly make your tales seem very real.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a reflection of today’s society that everyone becomes tarred with the same brush. Because a few men do watch children for unpleasant reasons, it is taken for granted that they are all doing so. Hence signs in parks that say things like “No adults in the play area unless accompanying children”. It used to be the other way around, but society is upside down now, in many areas.
      Thanks for reading and leaving your thoughts, Joan.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. We have a lady across the road who used to walk two Shelties every day. I named her “Jenny two dogs”. She had to have them both put to sleep last year, so now she walks around with the anyone who is walking a dog. I asked why she didn’t get another dog, as she loved them so much. She said “I am eighty now, so will probably die before the dog. I would worry what happened to it when I am gone”. I understand what she means.

          Liked by 2 people

  4. Mistaken for a perv. Must have been a heart-rending disappointment for a sensitive old man who needed nothing more than to recapture some of the wonder of his own youth by observing others.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Just avoid all contact with brats of any kind and you will be find. I trust none of them. I don’t even buy girl scout cookies anymore and if a brat knocks on my door, I slam it. Kids are demonic and will lie at the drop of a hat without any hint of remorse.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Pete, this is a sad story – times change, innocent things are no longer considered innocent, suspicion everywhere…I particularly like the mention of how his Mom taught him how to make sand castles, but those days were now gone as well…very well written as usual

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t mean to leave you hanging. Stan can’t go back to the park anymore. History has caught up with him, and his innocent observation is now considered to be a perversion. Modern times…
      Many thanks for taking time to read and comment, James.
      (And ‘constable’ is very English, so not at all unfamiliar. πŸ™‚ )
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

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