Tink and Ram 2

“You’re late, Tink,” exclaimed Ram as Tink set­tled her­self onto the bench.  He feigned petulance.

“Yeah, sor­ry.  Had a call from the hos­pi­tal just as I was leav­ing the house.”

“Nothing seri­ous, I hope,” offered Ram, now hop­ing that his greet­ing hadn’t sound­ed too harsh.

“Nah.  Just the morn­ing shift couldn’t find some­thing that should have been left for them from my shift.  Turns out it was a patient chart they couldn’t find because it was exact­ly where it was sup­posed to be,” she scoffed and grinned at the same time.

The day had start­ed out rainy, wet­ting the bench that Tink and Ram always occu­pied.  Ram had gra­cious­ly wiped down the seat when he arrived so that nei­ther of them would leave with wet bot­toms.  Humidity was still high as the tem­per­a­ture rose and the rem­nants of the morn­ing mist still hung pen­du­lous­ly in the tree­tops, lend­ing an air of over­bear­ing to the day.

“Well, I see that even in your rush you didn’t for­get to bring one of Walt’s canes.”

“Not like­ly,” she bright­ened.  “I always put one by the front door the evening before to be sure I don’t for­get it.” 

She hand­ed over a bam­boo cane to Ram.  It wasn’t just a piece of hol­low bam­boo; it was hand-carved from lam­i­nat­ed bam­boo and was sol­id for its entire length, pol­ished to a high sheen and dis­play­ing the typ­i­cal yel­low hue of bam­boo.  Its top sport­ed a brass cobra head, turned to form a hand­hold, and the low­er tip was wrapped in sim­i­lar brass.

“Thanks, Tink.  I’ve made a cab­i­net at the house where I keep them dis­played.  I’ll bring a pic­ture of it to show you in the next few days.”

“Please do,” she replied as Ram ran his hand up and down the length of the cane, feel­ing its smooth­ness, stroking the cobra’s hood.

“So, how did you and Walt meet, and how long ago?” inquired Tink, break­ing the silence that had sprung up between them.

“Oh, Walt and I have been friends for over thir­ty years.  We’ve only been meet­ing here for the last cou­ple of years.”

Ram paused for a moment, reflect­ing on the cir­cum­stances of his first con­tact with his old friend.

“I was down­town one day and had fin­ished the errand I had to be there for so I head­ed over to a small restau­rant where I could get a cup of cof­fee.  The place had some out­side seat­ing and it was a pleas­ant day so I thought I’d take a table along the walk instead of going in. 

“Unfortunately, the place was pret­ty crowd­ed, and all the tables were tak­en.  Walt was sit­ting by him­self at one, hav­ing cof­fee and read­ing the dai­ly paper.  I real­ly want­ed to sit down and real­ly didn’t want to go inside so I approached him and asked if I could share his table.  I remem­ber he low­ered his paper just a lit­tle bit and looked over the top of it to see who was ask­ing.  It was sort of like those old black-and-white spy movies where the bad guy is keep­ing an eye out for some­one and doesn’t want any­one to see his face.”

Tink chuck­led at the image.

“I kin­da thought he was going to turn me down, but he motioned with the paper and kept on read­ing as I took the offered chair.

“After a while, and after the wait­ress had brought me cof­fee, he put the paper aside, took a sip of his and just sat there for a time.  I thought he might just ignore me com­plete­ly, but he final­ly struck up a con­ver­sa­tion and we pret­ty quick­ly real­ized that we were near­ly the same age and even had a good many sim­i­lar interests.

“That was back before he start­ed col­lect­ing canes even.  I guess he didn’t get into that until he had that hip replace­ment. He had to use one while he healed from that oper­a­tion and then I think it just became an affec­ta­tion. I kid­ded him a lot about it.

“I remem­ber one day; it was back before we start­ed com­ing here to meet.  Actually, it was at the same restau­rant where we first met.  We were sit­ting out­side as usu­al – except in win­ter of course.  There was some loud­mouth sit­ting near­by who was pro­claim­ing that the Holocaust nev­er hap­pened.  He went on and on about it, spout­ing all kinds of non­sense to sup­port his claim.

“Walt, being Jewish, final­ly reached a point where he couldn’t take any more.  I didn’t even real­ize what he was doing at the time, but he got up from our table, walked over to the table where the lout was mouthing off and whacked the guy on his upper arm with his cane.

“The guy let out a yelp,” Ram recalled with a chuck­le, “looked up at Walt and asked him what the hell he did that for.”

“I heard Walt answer the guy. ‘What?’ he said.  It’s like the Holocaust.  It nev­er happened!’

“I thought the guy might get up and try to retal­i­ate, but he just rubbed his arm and mut­tered some­thing under his breath.  It was obvi­ous he was just a gut­less blowhard.

“I always had a deep respect for Walt after that.”

“That’s fun­ny,” mused Tink.  “We could use some more of that today, I think.”

“Yeah, prob’ly so.  But today, the guy would like­ly pull out a gun and shoot you on the spot.”

“Maybe,” she respond­ed.   “Well, lis­ten, I’ve got some errands to run today so I guess I’d bet­ter get going.  What’s on your agen­da for the rest of the day?”

“Oh, read­ing and paint­ing, I guess.  Not much dif­fer­ent from most days, except when I get to see the grandkids.”

“Painting, huh?  Art or rooms?” Tink asked whimsically.

“Art.  Or at least paint­ing on can­vas.  Don’t know that any­one would real­ly refer to it as ‘art.’ I leave the paint­ing of rooms to the pro­fes­sion­als.  Not because I can’t do it.  Just don’t want to.”

“Maybe next time, you can show me some of your work,” she said, ris­ing from the bench.

“I will even­tu­al­ly,” he replied.  “But maybe next time you can tell me some things about yourself.”

“It would bore you to tears.”

“I doubt it.  See you tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow,” she answered.  “And one more cane.”

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