Sun glared off all the cars parked in their driveways down the whole block. Squinting as he rounded the mower, he squared off another piece of the lawn. The rumble of the machine jarred at the dull ache in his knee and once he shaved off the last bit of the lawn square, he parked the mower and stretched his legs to settle the aching. Nonetheless it never did cease. Flipping the ignition off on the lawn equipment, he dusted the flakes of now dead grass off his clothing and arms.
Hobbling inside the mobile home, he breathed out with a content sigh as the cool air greeted him at the door; and soon did the owner of the property. The elderly lady, handed him a bottle of water.
“I really appreciate you coming over today and doing that for me. Twenty, right?”
After drinking a few gulps of ice water, he cleared his throat. “Yes ma’am.”
The lady then walked over to where her sofa and love seat joined together and reached down in-between the two furniture to pull out her handbag. As she made her way back to him, she rummaged through her bag and retrieved a crisp twenty-dollar-bill.
“Here you go now son,” she handed him the bill. “Take care of yourself now…what was your name…Stanley. Am I, right?”
Stanley folded the bill and pocketed it and then nodded at the lady’s inquiry.
“Yes ma’am, and again thank you Linda. If you ever need any help- “
Linda swatted at him. “Hush boy, you do enough around here. Now get before I ask you to do my laundry.”
With both saying their farewells, Stanley regained his walking cane from the doorway and exited with it gripped in his right. Once back outside, his sweat soaked shirt clung to his cool skin and made the muggy air seem thicker. He walked over to his Nissan parked on the curb and climbed inside. Reaching underneath, the seat he found his keys and turned over the starter. The small car hummed to life and lurched forward when shifted into drive. Stanley was quick to roll down as many as he could to let out all the pent-up heat; sighing with relief when the wind flowed freely in the vehicle. He needed to have the air-conditioning fixed soon if was going to beat this heat wave.
By his guess, it was on late in the evening as of now, which meant his daily stop at the local burger restaurant. His stomach was calling for nourishment and he wasn’t going to deny it for too much longer.
Driving through the light traffic, he was at the said dinner within ten minutes. He parked the car in his usual spot and walked to the dinner’s front with cane in hand. Upon opening the door, a bell “dinged” to announce his arrival. A few of the regulars voiced their greetings and continued with their food. Stanley call back to a few of the well-known customers and pulled a stool up at the front bar and sat down.
Soon after a blonde waitress came up to him ready to take his order but before he could say anything she was already jotting down his food request.
“Are you ever going to get tied of ordering the same thing?” she asked.
Stanley shrugged, “Only way I’ll do that is if you change your cooks.”
She gave a small laugh to that. “Yeah, you know that’ll never happen.” She then tore off the slip of paper that she wrote on and placed it on the counter behind her for the cooks to receive.
He waited for her to turn around before catching her attention, “Hey, are you doing anything after work?”
She raised a brow at this, “Are you seriously- “
Before she finished her sentence a manager walked over eyeing Stanley like a mother hen.
“I hope you aren’t giving Rachel here a hard time, now are you?”
Stanley started to answer back but Rachel beat him to it.
“No, no Janet he was just flirting that’s all.” She said with a wide grin.
His ears were burning at this point, and the few snickers around him didn’t help any. Janet then returned to her work leaving Rachel with Stanley’s question still in the air. She shifted from foot to foot in thought before answering.
“Well, my shift ends at eight-thirty. So, if you want to meet up later just meet me at the pier across the street and if I’m not there my nine then something came up. Sounds like a deal?”
As she finished she placed Stanley’s finished meal in front of him, with a shy expression. He contemplated this for a moment but knew he had nothing else to do for the rest of the evening.
“See you then…maybe.”
Rachel added the last part as she walked off to attend to some other customers. Stanley, thoughtfully bit into his food thinking of what to come of the next following hours. He glanced at the clock on the wall in front of him. It was six-twenty-five now, but sitting at the piers was something he found himself doing a lot of lately. If not working at the car shop or mowing old folks’ lawns, then he was down by the piers watching the waves. It seemed to help on most days and some not so much, but today he had something to look forward to.
He finished his sandwich and fries, also leaving a tip when he got up to pay and leave. The once muggy air had dropped in humidity as the sun lowered in the sky. Walking across the street towards the beach, he decided to leave his car in the dinner’s parking lot as seeing no sense in driving it.
Once on the other side, he quickly found a bench to sit while waiting. He didn’t have a wristwatch or a mobile phone so he had no way of telling how much time has passed. With his cane propped up beside him, he relaxed. He eased his aching knee into a comfortable position and prepared himself for a long peaceful wait.
A few seconds after finding a comforting spot, a large bus squealed to a halt at the bus stop behind him. With the pop and hiss of the brakes, a few passengers piled out of the large vehicle. One, quickly made their way over to the pier with a large luggage bag perched on their shoulder. The man perched his feet on the bottom bar of the railing that was blocking the sidewalk from the ocean. He seemed to be extremely focused on the water and after a few quietly strange moments, the stranger spoke.
“Where’s it at?”
At this, the stranger whirled around to see who was talking to him, seeming to not have noticed Stanley as he hastily walked by. He let his bag drop from his shoulder straight to the sidewalk like dead weight, letting his lanky figure jerk to the right. With his now free hand he gestured towards the ocean.
There was a moment or two of silence as what the man was suggesting. After it clicked, Stanley busted out laughing, holding his stomach as he did so. The stranger seemed bewildered by Stanley’s reaction.
“What’s so funny?” he paused for a moment after Stanley quietened down. “I’m being serious.”
Now, the man had Stanley’s full attention. He sat fully up on the bench, “Do you mean you’re looking for Atlanta?”
The stranger sighed heavily, “I said, Atlantis not Atlanta…do you know where it is man?” The man made sure to exaggerate on the pronunciation of both words, desperately trying to get his point across.
Stanley ran his hand down his face in a distressed manor after he assessed the boy in front of him. “Sorry to break it to ya kid, but Atlantis is just a myth. You know, something that people make up in stories.” He said as sincerely as he could.
It took a second for Stanley’s words to sink in, but when they did the other’s eyes grew wide at the realization.
“Wait, wait, wait…So you’re telling me that I came all this way for nothing?” He asked half disbelieving it as he said it. He sunk down beside his duffle bag and started to run his hands through his head of curls. Stanley contemplated rather or not to go console the guy or to see what’s taking Rachel so long.
He looked over his shoulder at the diner and saw that there were busy, he sighed. Stanley reached for his cane beside him and used it to stand up with a soft grunt. He made his way over to the young man that was sitting on the sidewalk, as he approached he noticed the man kept eyeing his walking cane. Stanley extended his free hand out for the boy to take, “Want to talk more about this ‘Atlantis’ over here on the bench? Maybe I can be of some help.”
The man slowly released his honey curls and took Stanley’s left hand and pulled himself off the ground. Stanley heaved the man up and once the other stood straight up, he towered over him a good six-inches taller than himself. Before the other released Stanley’s hand, he gave it an anxious shake. “Name’s Russell by the way, and um…sorry about freaking out on ya for a minute.”
Stanley shook Russell’s hand firmly to steady his nervous paroxysm, “I’m Stanley,” he motioned over his shoulder towards the diner, “want a bite to eat?”
Russell nodded thankfully with a big smile on his face.
“So, you’re telling me that your parents left to go to Atlantis without even a word?” Stanley asked perplexed while sipping on his beverage. Russell chewed thoughtfully on his sandwich, then began making complex hand gestures, which only confused Stanley even more. After picking up on the others confusion, he held up his finger for a moment to gather his thoughts.
“I meant to say, that all they left was a note. That they left to attend a ‘very’ important meeting at Atlantis. So, “Russell quickly takes a drink of his cola in front of him before continuing, “I looked on the map for this so-called place and this Atlantic Ocean was the closest thing to it, and…I kinda hoped for the best after that.” His voice dropped in strength towards the end, resulting in him picking at the remaining food on his plate.
Stanley looked at the younger man puzzled and yet stunned to hear how hopeful the man was on such little information. Russell glanced up to see Stanley’s expression, “What?”
He seemed shock to have been caught in his own thoughts and quickly replied, “Just amazed you got all the way to the east coast from Kansas on sheer luck and determination.”
“Amazed?” Russell quizzed with a pointed crinkle-fry, “the only thing I’m amazed by is this food you suggested to me. I mean, come on man. You must come here a lot, amiright?”
“What makes you say that, huh?” Stanley asked slightly self-conscious.
Russell rolled his eyes with a immense grin and tilted his head towards the kitchen area of the diner. “The waitress lady and you are a thing, right? Please tell me I’m right.”
Stanley flushed a bit at that, “Geez, who are you? Sherlock Holmes?”
The other started chuckling a bit, “Nah man, it’s just, you two having been eyeing each other the whole time we’ve been here.” After what Russell said hit him, he began laughing too and wasn’t too sure why either. Maybe it was because it came easy to him at that moment.
A moment later, Rachel rounded the bar with her purse in tow. “Come on you two, it’s closing time.” Then she turned to Stanley, “See you at home honey?” He nodded in agreement, “See you there.” She smiled before leaving through the front door.
“Alright, I think that’s our cue to leave.” Stanley stated as he stood up and located his walking cane.
Russell stopped Stanley short before heading out the door, “Hey man I just wanted to say thank you, for you know, helping me out. I really appreciate it.”
Stanley patted the man’s shoulder, “No worries, that’s what friends do.”
And that was when Russell had the biggest smile he had seen during the whole night.