THE GARDEN BENCH
Despite the dreariness of yet another so commonplace a day, the old man's spirit soared above and beyond the cruel confines that his frail body imposed upon him. Sheer willpower and the delicate skeletal tracery of his once sturdy frame kept him as vertical as any old man should hope to remain. He ambled into his little garden daily and sat upon the bench he had inherited from his grandfather over a half-century earlier.
At such an advanced age, one expects - if even one thinks upon such a disheartening prospect at all - that many a fond memory will have faded into a sweet yet, nevertheless, certain forgetfulness. For Albert Le Beau, however, such a memory as helping Gran'pere build a bench for his grandmother was definitely a memory to remain in sharp focus, not a silly bagatelle consigned to oblivion.
Joseph Le Beau, Albert's grandfather, was a consummate worker in wood. While construction may seem rather too large and imposing a term to describe the putting-together of a little seat upon which one or two folk posit their derrieres, what grandfather and grandson collaborated upon was a minor masterpiece. Albert mustered a helpful and joyous enthusiasm to assist Gran'pere that certainly outstripped his actual level of skill. That, of course, was no true skill whatsoever. Joseph knew better. Many years ago he had been an unskilled laborer. Together the two workmen constructed a beautifully wrought bench that declared superb craftsmanship and, more importantly, love.
The odd couple worked long and hard in the little workshop adjacent the barn. Albert's grandmother, Marie, was ever so occupied with chores about the house, garden and chickens, laundry - and so forth - that she never had thought nor occasion to visit the pair at work on her bench. Yes, you see, the garden bench was to be a surprise for Gran'mere. And a surprise it surely would be. Though Mme. Le Beau had hinted widely at her desire for a little bench to place under the giant cottonwood, she was not actually of a mind to expect it anytime soon, or at all. It would simply become a very nice replacement for the old kitchen chair she was now using to shell peas of a morn. Or perhaps to knit some socks of an evening for poor old Mlle. Etienne down the lane a piece. Though she had learned in life not to place her hopes too high, Marie was not a complainer.
Joseph and little Albert knew this about Marie, which made the prospect of leading her blindfolded into the garden that evening all the sweeter.