This week’s photo challenge is “Through your eyes.” Every person you meet has an endlessly long an complicated story. Sometimes we cant help but make assumptions or rush to conclusions about them. Guilty as anyone, I snapped this picture of an old man sitting on a park bench in the Nara Prefecture. One of my favorite shots from the trip, I often look at it and wonder about him, what was he doing or thinking. So in order to “see through his eyes” I wrote three potential flash fiction stories about him.A tired old man sits alone on a bench in the park. A small bag of feed summons the deer to his side while he sits and sighs and stays; a ritual repeated daily. Nobu’s wife passed years before and his son lives far away in another province, busy with work and a family of his own. The hooves shuffle on the ground and the greedy deer pushed and shove each other in order to snatch the old man’s treat the second it is tossed in the dirt. A long time ago he gave them names and would ask them to calm down; assuring them he had plenty for all. Now he sits and unthinkingly feeds them, forgetting their names and saving his breath when it comes to those lessons about manners. Years ago, he used to gain a sense of peace, but now he comes and visits the deer because he has nothing else to do.
Akio worked for 35 years at the same office in nearby Osaka, and another 12 at various other companies before that. His job was not illustrious yet he enjoyed rising early in the mornings in order to allow himself a leisurely breakfast. Do not confuse leisurely with elaborate, a small bowl of steamed rice topped with natto (soy beans). He became a vegetarian for no particular reason. “Why should I eat animals at all?” His wife’s conversion was slower and to this day she still eats fish, but in the end the then young couple enjoyed the change and the saving it brought at the market every week. They had always planned on staying in Osaka to be near the ocean, but when their daughter took the nursing job in Tokyo, the city made them too sad to stay. They spent another 8 years in Osaka before Aiko and his wife left their job and moved to Nara Prefecture. He still enjoys rising early and while his wife misses the smell of the sea, they have both found other small joys to replace the ones they have left behind.
Morning birds call from the yellow boughs overhead and a gentle spring breeze rises and falls. He rests his bones allowing the bench to carry his body’s weight. The deer swarm anyone out of habit. He detests them. “Voracious creatures, I cannot provide for myself why should I give to you” Its Sunday, tomorrow he will go to work. He is 73 years old. A miserly manager has him perform the tasks he deems beneath him. “I hate that place” he thinks as he physically must push the deer away that have come too close. “An old man like me, who has worked hard his whole life, should be at least afforded the opportunity to grow old with dignity.” Of course, one should be afforded ample chances, of course. Life though, has decided for whatever reason to not be kind to old Kaito, because life’s luck is blind. When one thinks life is discriminating against them, they are correct, but life discriminates at random. Some are unlucky, Kaito may truly be unlucky, but to curse blind luck is to poison the soul, the same poison that can make an old man bitter. You are dealt your lot in life and unless luck is on your side, you can only change it so much. Poor indignant Kaito needs only look at the deer before him to shed light on his predicament. They were born here, it was not there choice. Are they lucky because they live in a park and fed by people, or are they deprived of a life of freedom, reliant on others for their very existence? Is one better than the other, are some deer “luckier” than others, are the two paths even different? This is not a crisis for the deer, this is only a problem for man, who always thinks he deserves more than what he has. Hunched and sore, Kaito sits there, sulking on a bench bitterly passing the time ….until Monday morning.