Ram was looking puzzled as Tink walked up to him.
“Hi, Ram, what’s . . . ?” Her question stopped as she looked in the direction where Ram was staring.
“Ram, where’s our bench?”
“Damned if I know,” was his response as they both pondered the vacant space where their favorite bench had always been. Now there was nothing save a bare concrete slab with the remnants of four bolts embedded in it and the shadowed outlines where the bench legs had touched the concrete.
“You don’t suppose someone stole it, do you?” she asked jokingly.
“Nah. Wouldn’t have been worth the trouble of undoing those bolts and then haulin’ it off. Not to mention that it probably weighed a couple hundred pounds. I expect somebody in the city maintenance department decided it was needed elsewhere.
“They shoulda checked with me first,” he smirked. He knew that would never have happened.
“Well I think we oughta track it down and bring it back,” she teased. Ram knew from the tone of her voice that she was making light of the situation.
“You’ll have to be the one to carry it back. My sciatica, ya’ know?” Ram was getting into the humor of the moment despite a deep-seated annoyance at suddenly and unexpectedly finding “his” bench gone.
“Well, let’s go find another,” interjected Tink. “Let’s see if we can find one that will be in the shade during the time we’re here.”
“Good idea,” agreed Ram and they set off to locate another bench.
As they walked, Ram inquired about the cane that Tink had brought with her for the day. “That’s not really a cane, Tink. Is that from Walt’s collection?”
“Actually it is, but it’s a walking stick rather than a true cane. Don’t know if you knew it or not but Walt had kept short descriptions of each of his collected items, describing where they came from and what they were made from. This one is just a section of pine limb that he scavenged himself. He debarked it, smoothed it with a rasp and sandpaper, shellacked it and drilled it for the leather loop.”
“Pretty nice for a natural piece of wood,” replied Ram as they found a suitable bench for the morning’s tête-à-tête.
Following a short pause while they both accustomed themselves to their new location, Tink asked, “Ram, do you believe in reincarnation?”
“What?” was his somewhat startled response. “Whatever brought that up?”
“Oh, I just thought it was an interesting subject. I was watching an old movie last night that had something to do with reincarnation and I suspect that there are a lot of people who really believe in it.”
“I expect you’re right about that,” he mused. “Patton believed that he had been some notable generals in past lives. When he was conducting the battle in North Africa, he said he had been there before in a previous life.
“Some religions apparently believe that people can be reincarnated as other creatures or even flora.
“And Harry Houdini may have had some doubts about it since he told his wife that he would try to communicate with her after his death. And that despite the fact that he spent a good part of his life debunking séances and other such ‘spiritual’ enterprises.”
“For someone who seemed so startled by the question, it looks like you’ve done some studying on it,” Tink teased.
“When you get to be as old as me, you accumulate a lot of useless information on a lot of different subjects, but to answer your question, no, I don’t believe in reincarnation.
“And I sure as hell hope there’s no such thing. I’d really be pissed to come back as an artichoke or beet or some other such item, just to be consumed by someone else, especially since I don’t like those vegetables anyway.”
Tink was striving mightily to keep from bursting out laughing.
“Ya’ know, one of the funny things about reincarnation,” he continued, “aside from it just being a stupid belief, is that so many people think they are reincarnations of somebody famous in a previous life. It’s always Napoleon or Elizabeth the First or Julius Caesar or William Shakespeare. It’s never John Plainbody who worked in a coal mine in Wales, got black lung by the time he was forty and got run over by a bus while staggering home from a late-night drunken debauchery that got him tossed from the local pub.
“Reincarnation is just another one of those foolhardy beliefs like an afterlife or Heaven and Hell or alien visitors from outer space or ghosts and poltergeists.
“I really can’t understand why people let their lives get bogged down with this type of claptrap, stuff that can never be proven one way or another.
“Maybe people just want to escape their everyday drab existence by dealing with these things, but it’s all a very sad way to try to explain things that are unexplainable.
“As for me, I prefer to live for the day, to just marvel at what we have in the here and now. I realize that there are millions of people all around the world living under unbearable conditions and that’s truly sad, but the rest of us can help in small ways and use the rest of our time here trying to do good, to make this a better place for everyone else.
“Getting bogged down with all this supernatural gobbledygook just wastes a lot of valuable time that could be more effectively spent just appreciating what we have.”
“Wow!” injected Tink, “You’ve obviously spent some time thinking about it even though you characterize it as something quite stupid. But, just pretend that reincarnation did exist, what or who would you like to come back as?”
“Ha, Tink,” he reacted, “I can honestly say that I would choose to be passed over for reincarnation. I think I’ve experienced enough joy and sorrow, happiness and grief for an eternity, let alone one lifetime. I would consider it an endless vacation just to be able to sit back and watch mankind deal with itself without me being a part of it.
“Of course, that presupposes an afterlife of some sort, which I also don’t believe in. But maybe we can talk about that next time.”
He smiled at her. “Although I did once hear someone say that they’d like to come back as a skunk.”
“A skunk,” she mused. “Wonder why?”
“They said skunks are cute, they have a nice fur coat, and their ass is a weapon.”
When they had both stopped laughing, Tink was barely able to comment, “Okay, next time we talk about the afterlife . . . or absence thereof. This bench location okay for you?”
“Yeah. It’s okay.”
“Good. See you here next time.”
“Creeks don’t rise,” he offered as they rose and parted, both still chuckling.