..Victoria Barkley..

A Song and a Sign

"My birthday falls on Father's Day," Melanie thought while waiting for the traffic light to turn green. She was heading for the fountains around Columbus Circle to eat her lunch before it started to rain again.

"McArthur Park is melting in the dark, all the sweet green icing..." she was humming to herself. This Richard Harris tune from the late 60s, like an earworm was haunting her all morning long. "Someone left the cake out in the rain..." the words to this song just wouldn't go away.

"Wish Dad were here...we could celebrate together," she thought.

An elderly gentleman, carrying several packages was standing next to her. As soon as it was safe to step off the curb, she ran across the street and found the perfect seat, all to herself. She was just about to open her lunch bag when the man asked if he could sit down next to her.

"Oh, gees, that's all I need now," she grumbled internally, "a lunch date." Outwardly, however, she managed a brief smile and politely motioned to the seat next to her. He dropped his packages and then himself on the wooden bench and settled in as if he would never leave.

So far, this had been a dismal Friday. She woke up late and arrived at the office missing an important meeting by about fifteen minutes. It didn't look good to run through the door with all eyes on her in the conference room but it could not be helped. And she felt gloomy for no reason.

She glanced at the old man sitting next to her now, looking opulent, portly and content. He was heavy set, especially around the middle, with a big round face, not much hair on top of his head but a very full, all white, beard and mustache. He looked exactly like what she imagined Santa Claus, in custom tailored designer clothes, would look like. It was ironic to have such a cheerful presence by her side, on such a sad, grey day.

Melanie was going to celebrate her birthday with her mom that Sunday. It was just the two of them now. Her dad died many years ago. "Someone left the cake out in the rain. I don't think that I can take it, 'cause it took too long to bake it..." the song just kept on echoing inside her mind. "It could rain any minute," she thought.

She was taking big bites of her sandwich, trying to eat as fast as she could so there'd still be time for a brief walk in the park before heading back to the office. Santa, still resting, said nothing but occasionally smiled at her. "Well, at least he did not try to start a conversation," she thought to herself. Old people were funny that way; they liked to talk to strangers.

Not this old man. After resting for a few minutes, he gathered up his belongings and shuffled back to the sidewalk, nearly missing the closing doors of a bus heading uptown. The bus had a nice big sign advertising 'Spirit Air," all blue and yellow, Melanie's favorite colors. "So long, happy old man going home" she thought, glancing at her watch to see how much more time she had left outdoors.

A rush of wind blew the napkin out of her hand as she felt rapid drops of rain threatening to soak her sleeve. Turning to open her umbrella, she noticed a bakery box next to where "Santa" sat just a minute ago. "Wait! You have left this behind!" she shouted as she grabbed it, with the rain now pouring down hard all around her. It was too late. The bus was already speeding up Broadway. "And I'll never have that recipe again..." those lyrics kept returning.

"Oh well...I tried..." she consoled herself, deciding to take just a little peek. She took one look and let out a little squeal of delight. Underneath the lid, artfully scripted, the frosty white icing on a big chocolate cake joyfully announced: "Happy Birthday Dad."

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Other stories by Victoria Barkley:
Birthday Kirtan
Is Anybody There? – movie review
Real Soul Food
The Gift
Silver Sixpence in her Shoe
Breakfast with Scot – movie review
Sex Drive -- movie review
What Just Happened – movie review
American Teen – movie review
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian – movie review
A Message From Mom
A Tale of Two Bunnies
Animal Nature
Into the Wild - movie review
Darshan in the Dark Light of the Moon
Love Never Dies
Green Roofs, Weeds and Wildflowers
Greeting Sunrise
Arctic Tale – movie review
Seasons of Gandhi