Fred's Fifth Favour-Part Two
A few stops later, Fred alighted from the bus on a road, by a gate of the local park. His destination the road on the other side, Harry entered the park and set off across the expanse of green via the footpath.
As he walked, he hummed amiably to himself, a faint smile on his face, as he commonly did in the cold and rain, also.
Nothing accentuated Fred's natural geniality beyond warmth and sun, however, and this day was one of the warmest and one of the sunniest.
The path along which he walked was lined with trees. Beneath one trunk, in the shade of the branches eaves, he saw three children sitting. The tallest two were girls, the eldest ten or eleven. The smallest and presumably youngest was a boy of about seven. They shared bright blond heads and features advertising common parentage. Fred's smile increased a little as he saw them. He was fond of children generally. With it being the school summer holidays, the three were a common sight round the village. Usually seen walking together, they were often loud and boisterous. In quieter moments, they might be seen seated side by side in very low conversation or even silence, as if recharging their batteries.
Fred was drawing near the three children, now, and he saw that they were staring up into the branches of a tree, pointing and talking of something. As he came close, the oldest turned and saw him.
' 'Scuse me, but there's a cat stuck in that tree!' she said to Fred, pointing.
He looked. Yes, moving among the leaves, he could make out a feline figure on a large branch above. It was moving back and forth in an uncertain way, as if unsure of the route downward.
'So there is,' agreed Fred. He had a thought. He had on only a pair of scruffy jeans and an old sweatshirt, nothing he need worry about messing up.
'Perhaps I could get it down,' he suggested. He placed the bag he was holding on the ground as the three kids eagerly encouraged his suggestion.
'Only problem is, I can't see many branches lower down, or any holes in the bark there I can get a foothold with.....Hmmmm.'
Fred suddenly ceased musing, as the park bench a little further down the path caught his gaze.
'Let me see if this is fixed down,' he suggested, pointing at the chair. Walking to it, he found that the feet had not been secured, and, with a little effort, he dragged the piece of seating to a point just by the trunk.
'Right then...'. Fred stood on the seat and looked up. If he stepped up to the edge of the seat's back, he could just about grab hold of a lower branch. But, was the edge too narrow, and would the seat tip over. He bade the children come and sit on the seat, each side of where he stood. Less chance of it overbalancing, with them on it.
'Right, I'm stepping up. If the seat starts to go over, jump off it quick. Don't want one of you getting hurt.'. Fred put one foot up, then the next. The seat wobbled slightly, but stayed in place.
He tilted his head back. The branch he was aiming at would require a small jump. If he didn't get secure hold, first time, he would make a rude return to earth. Never mind, at least the kids would get a good laugh out of that!
Fred held up his arms, vertically. Fingers open, he bent his knees, then sprung upward. To his relief, he got hold of the branch first time, grabbing the broader end by the trunk. Grabbing its thinner point might have snapped it.
'Get my feet, and walk as far back as you can, to the left of the tree,' instructed Fred. 'Then let me go so I can swing forward to the right of the trunk. Then I can get a footing on that smaller branch below the one I'm holding.'. His three young companions did as they were told. As they let go of Fred, his feet swung forward and caught the branch. Pushing upwards, he obtained just enough reach to get hold of the branch just above the one he had held before. Bit by bit, he scrambled up the tree, till he was in a position to hold out his hands to the cat on the branch. To his relief, the cat was not to nervous to shy from him, and, responding to his soothing speech, came towards him.
Grabbing the cat, Fred half dropped, half placed it on the branch below. Climbing back down a little, he repeated the process, then was able to lower himself till one foot was back on the edge of the vertical side of the park bench. From this position, he was able to seize the cat under its belly with one hand.
'One of you, or two of you-stand up on the seat and catch him, or her, will you!?' called Fred. The two girls obliged, and the cat was soon released into their four outstretched arms. Placed on the ground, it ran quickly away, unnerved by its ordeal.
'No problem,' said Fred, dismissing the effusive gratitude of the siblings. He dragged the park bench back to its former situation and was on the point of walking on, when the memory of his bag sent him running quickly back to retrieve the zip-up container.
The kids had the same fair hair as his grown-up daughter, Fred reflected. The last exam of her final university year had taken place yesterday-Friday-afternoon. She'd promised to ring and say how it had gone, but he'd heard nothing. Hopefully just forgetfulness. He'd give her a call this afternoon. Still a few weeks wait for results, then she'd be back home, career hunting and the rest of his life ahead of her. 'Home' didn't mean back with him, though, but with her mother, his former wife....
For a moment, a close observer might have seen Fred's face cloud, As he carried on, any sign he was less than cheerful soon vanished, as it usually did. Over the park's far side, the houses and gardens were older, smaller and less smart than on his road. A turn to his right brought him near Methodist Church, a grey-fronted building dating from the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century, when the church of that faith had been relocated in that town-relatively modern, of course, as compared to the Anglican Norman Church in the town centre: but that befitted a faith that was itself, relatively modern. Fred recognised the man sweeping up in the forecourt of the building, a long, thin figure, a man in his late thirties. He was caretaker, handyman and general assistant for the church.
'Hello, Paul. Busy as usual?' said Fred, as the man saw him.
'Yep. No rest for the wicked!'. The pair laughed.
'We'll be seeing you tomorrow, as usual, Fred, I presume?' enquired the other.
'Unfortunately not,' came the answer. 'I'm looking after a house-and a cat-for the neighbour next door, until her daughter turns up, which will be late Sunday morning. I've enlisted for the thing, so in all conscience I have to see it through properly, stay on duty till my relief. Just thought I'd let you know. You can stop any thoughts that I'm ill when I don't show.'
'Righto, will do. Sorry you won't be there, but I guess that's that!'. There was a pause, then Paul spoke again.
'Retirement still suiting you? Not bored yet?'
'Oh no-no!' laughed Fred. 'I just keeping finding more and more to do. Since I stopped being a handyman for money, I seem to spend more and more times fixing people's problems for love.'
'Like when you helped set up the audio equipment last week. Good of you to do.'
'Not at all. The service will rely on recorded music till you get the church organ fixed.'
'What was that saying you have about doing favours-one of your "five a week?"'
'That's right. You see my late dad had a saying. "Five favours a week for man or beast keeps you sound with God and secure from Satan". I've always tried to live according that.'
'He was a Methodist lay-preacher, wasn't he, you said?'
'That's right.'. The men exchanged a few more pleasantries, then Fred bade him farewell.
As Fred carried on his way, he grew thoughtful. Mention of his late father stirred up memories....his parent had been a man of such deep-almost saintly goodness....How many favours a week had Dad done for friends, casual acquaintances, charity-even strangers? More-oh, so many more-than just the five in his coined saying. What virtue of spirit; what strength of purpose: indeed, how hard a thing to live up.....Such fierce religiosity-and fierce was the word, for, though a deeply caring and moral one, there was a steeliness in his father that came close to hardness. His faith had much of the old spirit of fire and brimstone. Fred felt his childhood self stir, squirm, and even cower, within him; recalling the disciplinarian's anger when he, his siblings, or his mother, fell short of the set puritanical standards...
Harry pushed the old thoughts back down as he drew near a turning from the road of the church-a turning down which could be found his current objective.
Last edited by Phoenix Lazarus; 02-10-2018 at 10:53 AM..