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Bedroom Window

     I awoke to the sun. Its warm morning rays gently knocking on my bedroom window. I sat up, yawned and stretched, kicking back my hand quilted comforter.

     I looked out from my second story vantage point across Stevenson Lane to the day. To my left was Carpenter’s Hill, below which was the baseball field our neighborhood crew had carved out of Mrs. Gilpin’s vacant field lot. Our quiet little dead-end street curved up the hill past its famous namesake author’s cottage.

     Pine Street crossed downhill from the train’s long vacant tracks. Helen Hill was visible beyond and above the tracks. My mom’s modest Village Improvement Society “Triangle Park” project nestled framed between Pine Street, the tracks, and the Saranac River below it.

     It was early. The street rested empty and quiet. I got up, made my bed, brushed my teeth, combed my hair, threw on some clothes and went downstairs to down a quick bowl of cereal before heading off on my bike to deliver my assigned route of morning newspapers.

     Plattsburgh Press Republican in bold black letters on the side my big canvas bag. Fifty-five advertising insert heavy newspapers weighing heavily on my shoulder inside it. I balanced the bag against my right thigh as I mounted my bike and began pedaling.

     My route took me down past our house, across the Pine Street Bridge and the river.

A set of rapids gurgled and churned under the bridge at that point. A hundred yards to the left upriver from the bridge was “The Trestle”. It ran high above the river, overlooking the rapids. Its metal supports had all rusted, its wooden beams slowly splintering and deteriorating. Those who dared, walked across it. Sometimes, on a dare, some brave teen soul would peer over the edge and stare down at the water.  Crossing that trestle was one of my worst nightmares. It was treacherous.     

      Downstream past the rapids and a series of big protruding boulders, the river widened.  Our neighbors, the Riley’s, had an old wooden dock. Our “Pine Street Gang” went fishing and swam off of it. The river at that point had a mucky, marshy aroma that clung to the air and the skin of those who went in it. Fish caught there tasted muddy, but that stretch of river was our kingdom. We embraced it and it us, without judgement.  

     Once across the bridge and past Denny Park on my right, my route turned left, up past The Belvedere restaurant along Bloomingdale Avenue. I’d prop my bike on its kickstand along the sidewalk, deliver a series of papers on either side of the street, then remount my bike and move on.

     I turned left at Woodruff Street, crossed back under the tracks and over the river, turning left onto Church Street, delivering papers all the way up to the Dechantal’s high rise apartments. I didn’t have any subscription customers in that building, but I loved it on Wednesdays, when I delivered the Press Republican’s weekly “Advertisers”.  I could go into the lobby and stuff one into every apartment mail slot and be done with a big part of my route in ten minutes.

     My route took me back up Helen Hill, which was so steep I had to get off and walk my bike. It paid off once I crested it though, because by then my bag was near empty and I could fly down the back side of the hill, feeling the rush of the air on my cheeks as I jetted downhill full throttle, no hands.

     At the bottom of Helen Hill, I turned left back onto Pine Street, delivered my last few papers, and crossed the tracks back towards home. As I did, I glanced left, towards Triangle Park, which I could see once again needed mowing. Another odd job I did in the summer to finance my various teenage ventures.

     I noticed an old man in the park. He had not been there before. He was on the far side, along the tree line. He had his back towards me. His hair was less grey and more white. He was pacing back and forth slowly, with his head towards the ground, facing the river. He appeared to be looking for something. I did not know what.

       My mind quickly turned to more important matters as I whizzed right onto Stevenson Lane, left into our driveway, disembarked my bike in our garage, and headed into the house to make myself some scrambled eggs and syrup slathered French toast while I devoured the previous day’s major league baseball box scores.

     I finished breakfast and decided to go fishing. I walked out to the garage and grabbed my tackle box and my pole. I headed across our yard towards the river. For some reason, I glanced across the street towards the park. It appeared that the old man was gone. Whatever it was he was looking for, he must have found it.

     It was several days later. Once again, I awoke. I could see from the water droplets dotting my bedroom window that it had rained. I hoped not too much. I scanned the streets and Carpenter’s field for puddles. There did not appear to be any. It must have just sprinkled. I breathed a sigh of relief. It was Saturday. Youth league baseball game day in Saranac Lake.

     I downed a quick bowl of Cheerios with sliced bananas and sugar, grabbed my newspapers, filled my bag, and once again headed out. There were a few puddles in the road. I zig-zagged to splash through them, simultaneously swerving to miss crawling worms stranded in the road.  By the time I came back down Pine Street and finished my route, the sun had broken through the clouds. It was muggy and warm. A good day to play baseball.

     As I passed Triangle Park, there he was, once again. The old man had returned. This time he was sitting alone, on the park bench, motionless, staring. I followed his gaze. He seemed to be peering up at our house, towards my bedroom window.

     My dad was in the kitchen with his usual coffee, orange juice and toast when I came in.

“Hey Dad, there’s been an old man across the street in the park the last couple of days. He’s there again now. I’ve never seen him before. Do you know who he is?”

My dad got up from his chair, crossed over to the living room windows and glanced out at the park. I followed him.

“He was sitting right there on the park bench.”

“There’s no one there now, son.”

The old man was gone.

     Sunday came. I awoke to the sun. I glanced out my window. After the rain, Triangle Park really needed some mowing.

     I didn’t have a Sunday newspaper route. Thank God! That would have been awful. Those Sunday papers would have weighed seven tons.

     I got up, went downstairs, made myself some breakfast.  I read the back of the cereal box while I waited for the dew to burn off so I could go out and mow.

     My dad’s Briggs & Stratton push mower was in the garage. I gassed it up, checked the oil.

     As I pushed it across our driveway towards Triangle Park, there he was. The old man was back once again, sitting there on the bench, staring up at our house.

     I crossed the street.  He seemed not to notice me at first. I got a closer look at him. His clothes were disheveled. Something was wrong with his face. It appeared oddly misshapen.

     I bent over to pull the rip cord and start the mower’s engine. After two or three pulls, it sputtered to life. I looked up. The old man was gone.

     It did not take me long to finish mowing. Triangle Park was quite small.  I pushed the mower back to our garage, traded it for a rake and some hedge clippers, crossed Pine Street once more and finished the job.

     Once I was done, I went back upstairs to my room. I turned on my stereo, stacked some records on the turntable, and settled in on my bed to read for a bit.

     As the rumbles in my stomach told me lunch time had arrived, I bookmarked my novel and glanced once again out my bedroom window.

     The sun was high and warm through the glass. I could see Mrs. Gilpin out in her yard. Our neighbor’s dog was trotting up Stevenson Lane towards their house. He must have heard the same lunch bell that I did.

     I looked across the street. There he was again. That old man in his seat on the bench. He was staring up at me. Our eyes briefly met. He gave me a little wave and what appeared to be some sort of attempt at a smile. He seemed to be missing most of his teeth.  The silent encounter left me feeling queerly unsettled.  

     I went downstairs. Mom was in the kitchen making a bowl of tuna salad for sandwiches.

“Mom, there’s been a strange old man across the street. I think he’s watching me.”

“An old man?  Are you sure it’s not just Ernie, the town drunk? He sleeps under the trestle sometimes. He’s been hanging around Pine Street lately.  Yesterday he asked me if he could split some wood or do some chores for me. He smelled like the insides of an old whiskey bottle.”

“No Mom. I know Ernie. He stops by sometimes when us kids are fishing. He always asks if he can have our fish, if we catch any.”

     My mom wiped her hands on her apron and walked to the dining room window. She looked out across the street at the park.

“Well, there’s no one there now, dear.”

I looked out over her shoulder. The park bench was once again empty. The old man was gone.

   This went on for several weeks. Sometimes the old man was there. Sometimes he was not. I was the only one who seemed to see him or be aware of his presence. It was as if he was haunting me.

     July turned to August. Summer was halfway behind us.  I went out one day to walk the tracks to Hoffman’s Pharmacy to buy some comic books and baseball cards. I decided to brave the trestle.  As I crossed the Pine Street/Stevenson Lane intersection in front of my house into Triangle Park, I once again spotted him. The old man was there on the bench. He appeared to be sleeping. Curiosity got the better of me. I cautiously and quietly approach him.

     His head was slumped forward. As it appeared from across the street, he was indeed snoozing. His misshapen mouth hung slightly open. A small stream of drool dribbled down his chin onto his well-worn button down plaid patterned shirt. I stepped back. The stream of dribble was red.

     I turned and raced back into the house.

“Mom! Dad! The old man in the park! He’s back again! I think he’s bleeding! Is anybody home? Someone please come quick! I think he needs help!”

Mom’s head appeared out of the living room.

“What’s wrong dear? Your dad is out playing golf. I was just having a cup of tea and reading”

“Mom! He’s back! The old man! He’s sitting in the park right now. I think he’s bleeding.”

     My Mom looked out through the curtain. I was standing right there behind her. The Triangle Park bench was once again empty. The old man that had just been sitting there was nowhere to be found.

     Several more days passed without incident. Much to my relief, there was no further sign of the old man.  Then one day I was out riding my bike to baseball practice. He was there again, on the bench. He waved, smiled, and motioned to me. Hesitantly, I got off my bike and slowly walked over.

     The old man reached out his right hand to shake mine. We made eye contact. He opened his misshapen mouth as if to speak, dabbing a blood red dribble from his chin with the soiled handkerchief in his left hand in the process. No words came out. At least none that I heard. I turned and ran. Grabbed my bike and took off just as fast as I could away from the old man on the bench and towards baseball practice. I didn’t know who he was, but I wanted nothing more to do with him.  That disfigured old man scared me.     

      Several more weeks passed. Summer was coming fast to a close. I got ready for a new school year. Thoughts of my encounter with the old man in the park slowly faded from mind’s view.

Life moved on.


     I awoke to the sun. Its warm August afternoon rays gently caressed my shoulders. I looked out across the street. I could see a teenage boy’s eyes staring back at me. Suddenly, I realized.

     That disfigured old man sitting there on that Triangle Park bench staring up at my bedroom window was me.    


Until Our Trails Cross Again:


Author’s Note: The artists’ sketch used as a header for this story was commissioned by my parents. It was done by Jane B. Gillis in 1977. It is of the historic stone house I grew up in on the corner of Stevenson Lane in Saranac Lake. The house known as “The Murray House”.

(Author’s Endnote: This story appeared in the 8/16/23 online edition of The Adirondack Almanack.)