Just Sleeping

“Mikey, it’s been three hours since we got to the park, and that guy sittin’ on the bench ain’t moved an inch. I say he’s dead.” The two boys sat in the grass, looking at the white-haired man sitting slouched with his chin on his chest.

“Nah, people don’t just die on a park bench. They die in dignified places, like a fancy bed or something. He’s probably just sleeping,” Mikey replied. “Once my parents thought my grandpa died in his bathtub, turns out he’d just passed out from drinking too much. I knew the whole time he wasn’t dead though. He told me that when he went, he was gonna go out in style.”

“That don’t mean nothin’. You can’t know how you’re gonna die beforehand, you just die. Like that guy over there, he ain’t know he was gonna die when he sat down. He was probably just takin’ a quick rest and then bam, he’s dead,” Jeff said. “People just don’t expect that sorta thing, ya know?”

“No, I don’t know, because that guy’s not dead. He’s just sleeping,” Mikey said.

“All right then, go poke him,” Jeff said, and he poked Mikey in the shoulder. “If he don’t move, then he’s dead.”

“I’m not gonna poke him. What if he’s taking a nap and gets mad at me for waking him up? I don’t wanna be chased by an angry old guy, I’m not in the mood for it today.” Mikey said.

“I don’t know then, just go check to see if he’s dead, unless you’re chicken,” Jeff said.

“I’m not chicken, I just don’t wanna do it. It’s rude, and my mom said not to be rude, especially to strangers,” Mikey said.

“Then I dare ya,” Jeff stated, settling the matter.

“Fine. I’ll just... I’ll go see if he’s breathing or anything like that.” Mikey said. He got up from where they were sitting and started walking over to the man on the bench. He stopped short and turned back to Jeff, who had followed along behind him.“How close do I have to get?”

“Just close enough to see if he’s dead. However close you gotta be to know,” Jeff told him. He motioned Mikey on.

“Mom told me not to be rude to strangers, and here I am, about to ruin a stranger’s nap.” Mikey muttered. “If I wake him up, I’m blaming you, Jeff. Hope you know that.”

“No, you ain’t. If he gets mad at you, I’m bookin’ it. You can get in trouble all by yourself,” Jeff said. Mikey had reached the side of the bench and was finally close enough to the man to say something to him.

“Hey, mister, are you okay? You haven’t moved in a while,” Mikey said. He waited a few moments for a response. “He isn’t answering. What do I do now?”

“Poke him.”

“I don’t wanna touch him, he’s old,” Mikey said.

“Well, then grab a stick and poke him with it. He won’t mind, ‘cause he’s dead and all,” Jeff said.

“He’s not dead. But you’re right. Give me a stick,” Mikey said.

“All right, here’s a good one. Use this.” Jeff handed him a thick stick from the ground that was about as long as his arm.

“Here goes nothin’.” Mikey poked the man in the shoulder with his stick. The man didn’t seem to notice.

“Huh, maybe he really is dead,” Jeff said. “Try pokin’ him again.”

“I don’t like this, I don’t think he’s breathing.” Regardless, Mikey poked him a lot harder.

The man slid over on his side and laid limply on the bench.


Jeff tugged on Mikey’s sleeve. “Come on, man. Let's get out of here before someone sees us.”