Tuesday, July 19, 2011
The janitors called him Woody and cursed when they were assigned to clean him, this giant of a wooden man who lay prostrate on his back, ropes coiled up and over his body, hands tied to his side, face more ornately carved than the rest of him: lips pink, cheeks flushed, eyebrows intricately detailed, under which two blue eyes, the size of men’s heads, stared morosely into nothing, or the sky.
The sky could be as blue as Woody’s eyes or grey with the worry of an impending summer storm, and still Woody stared; even as the janitors’ soapy mops wiped clean his cornea, lens, pupil, and iris, even when years passed and his corner of the park was neglected by all but the janitors, and he and his friends, Captain Ahab and Pip, were passed over for newer installations with flashing light sabers and dramatic sound effects and costumes shiny and new.
When new guys started at the park, old timers would try and switch assignments, and that college kid, who had come for the summer, was no exception. He didn’t mind, though, preferring the quiet of the hill with its rudimentary rides and simple presentations and only a few visitors to interfere with a day’s work. Then one day, the kid fell off Woody’s nose.
He was back to work the following Monday, but the sanitation facilities manager was still angry that the guys let a summer worker clean anything that required climbing, even when they tried to explain that this college kid knew everything about Woody – or Gulliver, as he called him, a name the oldest janitor remembered from the days when visitors came this far up the hill. None of the janitors knew Gulliver’s story, or any of the stories, so the college kid would tell them on coffee breaks. A cursed man, the kid called Ahab; a lucky man, he said of Pip, but Gulliver, he told them, was an average man who became a king, of sorts, when he traveled to a world of men much smaller than he.
When September came and the college kid left, the old timers never cleaned Woody again without wondering what those eyes had seen.
This story appears in the latest issue of Sou'wester.