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The Man with the Pink Umbrella
Every afternoon, I would take the two kids I nanny down to Central Park so that they could have some room to run and play. There is a bench, right across from the ice cream stand where we buy our ice cream. In my one year of nannying these kids, I have never seen that bench occupied by anyone but the man with the pink umbrella.
Rain or shine, thirty degrees or eighty, he always had that pink umbrella. I wondered. Of course I wondered. I’m sure every person in that park wondered. What’s his story? Why the pink umbrella? What does he do when he sits there?
Then one day, I got the courage to sit down next to him. He turned and smiled. “Hello,” I said. “My name is Elona.” He just smiled.
It occurred to me that he might be deaf. So I signed Hello, my name is Elona. He signed back with “I’m called Noah.”
“Do you mind if I ask why you have that pink umbrella?” I asked Noah. He chuckled silently and began to tell me the story I have imagined for so long.
“It started when I was about seven or eight. I had a little sister by the name of Kimberly. We lived in Connecticut, in this tiny house surrounded by a vast wood. Every day, we would go out into the wood behind our little home and explore. No one else lived around us, so we had all this land for the two of us.
“It was majestic. A lot of seven or eight year olds with their little five year old sisters would probably be scared by the deepest part of this forest. But the deepest part is where we built our nation. A nation of what ever we wanted. Every day, something different. Once, it was a nation of spies. Another, a nation of chefs. Anything we wanted to do that day, we would bring out the supplies and just do it.
“For Kimberly’s sixth birthday, all she wanted was a trip to Central Park, and a pink umbrella. She was always a bit odd, so why she wanted an umbrella when she could have had anything, I won’t even pretend to know. But we gave her what she wanted. She was the little one in the family and we all wanted to give her everything we possibly could.
“So I went to the store with Mother and I picked out a pink umbrella. My mother took a day off work and called the school to tell them that I would not be going in the next day. We packed up and went for a day in Central Park.
“The first thing we did was set a meeting point in case either of us go lost. That was this here bench. With our meeting point in mind, Kimbo and I set off. We had brought a frisbee and played with that for a while. But what we really wanted to do was run around and see everyone and everything in the few hours we had. After about an hour, Kimberly wanted some ice cream. So we walked over the ice cream stand. I ordered a rainbow popsicle, and she just a plain chocolate ice cream. I dug in my pocket for the dollar to pay and when I looked up, Kimberly was gone.
“I didn’t panic. I calmly walked to the bench where Mother was sitting and told her that Kimberly and I had accidentally split up. I was holding her chocolate ice cream. We waited. And waited. And waited. An hour passed, I could see the worry in Mother’s face. Two hours passed, I could see the panic. Mum told a police officer that we couldn’t find our little six-year old, and I went off looking for her.
“I looked everywhere she might possibly be. I went back to every place we had gone that day, but she was no where. I reluctantly returned to the bench to wait for Mother. She arrived shortly, her eyes red from the tears. I put my hand in hers and she told me the police thinks Kimberly had been kidnapped. Two other kids had disappeared from the same general area in the last three weeks and they have not been found. They had no leads, so all we could do was wait.
“We went home without Kimberly. I got in the front seat of the car and looked back to the spot that was normally filled by my little sister. I could just make out the pink umbrella sticking up in the trunk. I had not given it to her. I was supposed to give it to her at dinner that night. Dread washed over me as I realized that she did not get her full birthday wish. Instead, she got stolen.
“Weeks passed and everyday, Mother and I would return to this spot for at least one hour, hoping she would return and say she it was all a stupid joke. But she never did.
“So here I am, about sixty years later, holding this wretched pink umbrella, hoping to find my long lost sister. I hope you enjoyed my story.”
The man got up and walked away. And that was the last time he went to the bench. For the weeks following, I looked for him. But his bench was empty. I wondered. Of course I wondered. I’m sure every person in the park wondered. What’s his story?